Society

A Female Voice Busts Into 'Man's World' Of Moroccan Rap

With edgy lyrics and an attitude that's too legit to quit, rapper Houda Abouz — aka Khtek — is pushing against the grain and gaining a substantial following.

Houda Abouz goes by the name Khtek, meaning 'your sister'
Houda Abouz goes by the name Khtek, meaning "your sister"
Ahmed Eljechtimi

RABAT — In a rap scene dominated my men, women's voices are starting to make waves in Morocco.

Houda Abouz, a 24-year-old who majors in film studies at a university in the northern city of Tetouan, has long been fascinated by hip-hop. Encouraged by friends, she finally decided to picked up a mic, and from there began to perform.

In January she appeared in Hors Série, a song in which she performed alongside three big male rap stars in Morocco: Elgrande Toto, Don Bigg and Draganov. The video has been viewed around 16 million times on YouTube — a reflection of the popularity the genre enjoys across the north African kingdom — and its success encouraged Abouz to go it alone.

She followed up in February with her debut single KickOff, in which she rails against a society she says does not offer women equal opportunities.

"I am a self-made artist and I write my own lyrics, speaking my mind," she told Reuters in an interview in the capital Rabat.

"Rap is my passion and my defense mechanism in a patriarchal society," added Abouz, who goes by the name Khtek, meaning "your sister."

Her lyrics, delivered in Moroccan Arabic dialect with French or English phrases thrown in, are sometimes explicit. "Badass, I survived war, drugs, craziness and love," she sings in KickOff. "Many things did not work out because we are ladies in the country of the dick."

In recent months, the country's rap scene has become embroiled in politics after an artist named Gnawi was sentenced to a year in prison for insulting the police in a video.

Abouz is not the only woman making a mark in the male-dominated Moroccan rap world. Another female hip-hop star, Manal, had a hit song Slay that was viewed 44 million times on YouTube. Abouz, who describes herself as a feminist and supporter of LGBT rights, said she was influenced by the pro-democracy protests that shook Morocco in 2011 during the Arab spring.

However, she said her music did not serve a political agenda but gave "a taste of the street and of deep Morocco." Men's prevalence in the world of rap reflected Morocco's conservative society, she said, but her work tries to seize back the narrative for women.

"I write better than you, though you think I'm just a girl," she sings in KickOff.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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