Moroccans Until Death!
Rap isn’t my favorite genre of music, but yesterday I discovered the Moroccan rapper Bigg, also known as “Al Khasser” (“Rude Boy”) for his blunt lyrical style. His first album “Mgharba ‘Tal Moute” (“Moroccans Until Death”) was released last year, and won an award as the best Moroccan rap album of 2006. He sings in pure derija (Moroccan dialect or slang) in order to reach a popular audience, tell things as they are, and preserve a valuable cultural heritage. Even for those like me who don’t understand what he’s saying, I think Bigg’s artistry shines through, and his motivation couldn’t be clearer as this interview shows.
- Who do you sing for?
- My public is made up primarily of young people aged 12 to 25. I also sing for those who won’t accept that we continue to subject their ears to love songs and songs of good times…. I use the language of young people so I can speak truly. In that way, I express the roots of my thought and theirs. On stage I shout out loud what Moroccans think secretly.
- What do you say to those young people through your songs?
- Above all, I tell them not to be afraid of anything or anyone: “Baraka men al khouf!” [“Enough fear!”] I ask them to be citizens who fulfill their obligations and who dare to demand their rights. Real Moroccans who want to change their country, not those who want to leave at the first possible moment. In singing, I ask young people to interest themselves in what’s happening around them, to tell the political Pinocchios to fuck off, not to obscure our past in order to better construct our future…and I shout out their rejection of anyone who uses his beard for demagogic purposes and who takes us for idiots.
- But because of your words which are considered too daring, some of your young fans are forced to hide themselves in order to receive your messages.
- What I find reassuring is that those who are hiding themselves today to listen to my songs, won’t force their children to hide themselves tomorrow to hear the same thing. I insist on the fact that I’m 100% for total respect within the family. But that musn’t prevent us from calling things by their real names in our derija which permits us to go straight to the point.
To explain the message of Bigg’s song “Al Khouf” which won him an award for best rap single of 2006, here is an appreciation by fan writer “tupacgirl.”
- Moroccans, no matter what their sex, age or social status, have all (or almost all) received an education based on fear, “Al Khouf.” Beginning with everyday examples like the fear that a child can feel for his father, or a student for his teacher—and ending with the blow to the face that demonstrates in a real way the servility of the Moroccan citizen, and his huge fear of anyone who holds a certain power, his fear of the policeman, the public official, the rich man—even though quite often he’s in the right.
- The worst is that we’re constantly complaining because our rights are trampled, our liberty restricted and our lives surveilled, but what do we do to change this? Quite the opposite of what should be done, instead of insisting on our rights we help those who trample them. Things never change on their own, and if we wait for those in power to give us our rights without making them our own, we’re sticking a thumb in our own eye.
- In “Al Khouf” Bigg wants to give an example to show that we can indeed love our country, without in any way allowing this pointless fear to live in our stomachs. Why fear the policeman when he’s supposed to be there for our security, why fear the municipal bureaucrat when his job is to serve us—Bigg cites many other representative examples. He also calls on young people to wake up and change their conduct a little, by putting respect in the place of fear, because it isn’t a question of breaking the law or becoming rebels, but simply of knowing our rights, understanding how to insist on them, and avoiding boot-licking which won’t get us anywhere!
Another popular song from the album is “Bladi Blad.” Below is a video version that illustrates the Moroccan reality that Bigg is trying to bring into the open with his music, in the hope that it will change.
Finally, here are the songs “Bladi Blad” and “Al Khouf” as they appear on the album. I found the lyrics to both songs on a fan site in the original derija, so if anyone gifted in both derija and English thinks it would be worthwhile to help me translate these songs, e-mail me here and I’ll send you what I have. Then I’ll post the results here. Thanks in advance!