Mic Check: Hip-hop from North Africa and the Middle East
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is producing a hip-hop show with several prominent rappers from the North Africa and Middle East, including Amkoullel of Mali. The show, Mic Check: Hip-hop from North Africa and the Middle East is scheduled for March 9, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at BAM.
It isn’t often that you hear of Arab rappers, but there are some, and their message, for the most part, has influenced changes in government, and societal change. They challenge the culture, they ask the hard questions, and they inspire their generation to be a nation of doers.
During the Arab Spring, rappers in countries including Egypt and Tunisia responded to the protests in ways that made them symbols of generational and societal change, serving as torchbearers of the movement’s progressive energy and defiant spirit. Building on the trailblazing success of its Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas festival in June of 2009, BAM brings together a host of these intrepid anthem writers alongside traditional musicians and percussionists in Mic Check—an evening of contemporary music borne of radical social and political change.
Amkoullel – A Malian rapper, he started getting serious about rap when, in his first experience on the radio at the age of 13, he was banned by the authorities. A year later he organized his first rap concert with scholarship money. He went to France to study law but changed course when he realized that he would rather be the voice of the voiceless on stage. Amkoullel has released three albums and has been honored at the Mali Hip-Hop Awards three times.
El General – A Tunisian rapper whose song “Rais Lebled,” released in December 2010, has been described as the anthem of the Jasmine Revolution. On December 24, 2010, two days after his second protest song “Tunisia Our Country” was released on YouTube—and one week after the protests in Tunisia began—he was arrested by Tunisian police and imprisoned for three days. His forthcoming album “La Voix du Peuple (The Voice of the People)” is supported by the new Tunisian Ministry of Culture.
El Deeb – An Egyptian hip-hop artist, poet, and reporter who first appeared on the scene in 2005 with the Egyptian hip-hop group Asfalt. Born in Cairo in 1984, Deeb left Asfalt in 2007 to found Wighit Nazar (which means “point of view” or “perspective”), with Mohamed Yasser. Their style of Arab hip-hop music took audiences by surprise with its positive yet sarcastic wordplay. Deeb has been focused on his solo career since 2010. “Cairofornia”, his first solo album, is written in colloquial Arabic and addresses the social, personal, and cultural concerns of everyday life in Egypt.
Brahim Fribgane – A Moroccan oud player and percussionist based in New York City, has performed with Majid Bekkas, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Sami Yusuf, Hassan Hakmoun, Zakir Hussein, Steve Gorn, and Reggie Workman, and has recorded with Harry Belafonte, Paula Cole, Club d’Elf, Jamsheid Sharifi, Leni Stern, DJ Logic, Malika Zarra, and Morphine, among others.
Shadia Mansour – A Palestinian singer and MC, is often called “the first lady of Arabic hip-hop,”. Her language of choice is Arabic and much of her music focuses on Middle East politics. Mansour has recorded music with producer Johnny Juice of Public Enemy. Her first single, “Kofeyye Arabeyye” (The Arabian Kufiya), featured rapper M-1 of Dead Prez.