Friday, June 17, 2011

Feminist Rapper Friday: Shadia Mansour

Shadia Mansour is known as "the First Lady of Arab Hip-Hop," although it's been noted, she doesn't have a lot of competition.

Cultures of Resistance: A Day with Lowkey & Shadia Mansour from Cultures of Resistance on Vimeo.

I've done some research about Arab and Muslim artists (like... for a paper, which might become my thesis, not just for funsies research) and what is really interesting for me is that musical movements in the U.S. often get repeated worldwide. What I mean is, hip-hop especially is primed and ready to be a musical global tool. Unlike genres of music that require expensive instruments (and expensive lessons on how to play them), hip-hop appeals to many people in developing countries and from urban and poor backgrounds because it is economically simple to emulate.

This is only one of the reasons why hip-hop has become extremely popular across the world. But obviously, it takes talent to be a good MC. Shadia Mansour is not only using a genre of music that appeals to many Palestinians, but a genre that is going to appeal to a diverse population. (However, she only raps in Arabic, although she was born in England and English is her first language. That limits the audience to Arabic-speakers and those who use google-translate on the lyrics. But, I appreciate the point she is making by rapping in Arabic: she's prioritizing her Arabic-speaking listeners and celebrating what she calls the inherit poetry of Arabic. Language is powerful. Arabic is on my list of languages to learn...)

I think Shadia Mansour demonstrates what a lot of up-and-coming hip hop artists from Africa, South America, and the Middle East are harnessing, which is hip hop's power to provoke. Early hip hop in the US was really centered on pointing out racism and classism (see last video and the Public Enemy connection) and the virulent social problems that affected people's lives. Rapping about it gave their causes agency and a platform to engage people in dialogue. A lot of really interesting and great music is coming out of the Middle East and from the Middle Eastern diaspora, and a lot of it (hip hop especially, punk as well) is making really great statements about the social issues that most concern the artists. Which ALSO means that we should be on the lookout for more female artists, because as Shadia shows, there are some great voices out there!

1 comment:

  1. I love this girl. Free Palestine!