Morocco Cracks Down on Democracy Rappers
|October 4, 2012|
The North African country has locked up musicians deemed to be critical of the state. Now one jailed rapper’s entourage is fighting against time to get his message out and rally the country’s floundering democracy movement.
On Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death, the forthcoming album from dissident Moroccan rapper El Haqed "whose name means “the Enraged” "one track stands out amongst the ambient tones and deceptively lighthearted chimes. Called “El Habs,” or “Prison,” the song features lyrics that are particularly poignant now that El Haqed "otherwise known as Mouad Belghouat, a 25-year-old Casablanca kid "is serving a one-year jail sentence for a music video and song, “Dogs of the State,” that allegedly insulted Morocco’s infamously corrupt police.
The refrain is "like most of El Haqed’s lyrics "a challenge to the authorities.
You call this a prison?/I’ve been living in an outdoor prison my whole life!
El Haqed hails from a neighborhood referred to by its inhabitants as Oukacha "the name of a prison on the other side of town "a deeply religious district plagued by drugs and poverty, where few are able to obtain the money to escape apartments often crowded with entire families sharing a single room. “Many of the people there are in constant rotation between Oukacha the neighborhood and Oukacha the prison,” says Maria Karim, a 32-year-old Moroccan documentarian and democracy activist who helped El Haqed produce his album. Karim, who is facing her own legal battle for having allegedly insulted the authorities, is working on borrowed time to get El Haqed’s message out to Moroccans and, she hopes, to the wider world. “People ask El Haqed what his school of rap his is. He says it’s m’habsse (prisoner) rap, which I take to mean the rap of a people who are prisoners outdoors,” Karim says.
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