Moroccan Rap Duo "Tigresse Flow"

Spicy as Tequila

The young rap duo "Tigresse Flow" from Casablanca have caught the mood of Morocco's younger generation with their direct, anarchic, hedonistic protest songs. And they've done it without imitating Western hip-hop idols. By Thilo Guschas

Moroccan rap duo Tigresse Flow: Maria and Sofia (photo: Thilo Guschas)
"We are as spicy as tequila...!": The texts of the rap duo Tigresse Flow have something hedonistic and anarchist about them. But they also take socially critical positions

​​Maria and Sofia stand there in wide-open amazement: so many young Moroccans are streaming towards the Hassan II sports complex! It must already be four hundred, most of them boys. Not all of them are wearing the obligatory low-slung jeans which even in Morocco identify a rap fan. Maybe they're personal fans of Maria or Sofia.

The two make up the rap duo "Tigresse Flow," and today they are appearing for the first time in public. Just the fact that they exist is quite a sensation, since women are not usually in demand as performers. Tigresse Flow is one of the first girl rap bands in the country.

Arabic, French and English

Maria, who goes under the name of MC Flow, snorts into the microphone. Sofia, who calls herself Desastra, yells the band's name: "Tigresse Flow!" and releases a flood of rap sounds in the kind of "Don't mess with us" manner which is a part of rap music. "We're as spicy as tequila," she sings. A computer drum kit thumps out a wild rhythm.

Tigresse Flow's texts build up a persona in the typical rap manner – in this case it's anarchist and hedonist. But there are also passages which are socially critical – for example, dealing with the poverty which is widespread in Morocco. Tigresse Flow’s models are American: the female rapper Da Brat or the hip-hop artist Mack 10. The duo sings in Moroccan Arabic and French, and throws in the odd bit of English.

So far they're not that well-known. That's no surprise: Tigresse Flow has only been around for just over a year. They're still miles away from the success of other Moroccan rap bands, such as Casa Crew, which even appears on state television. But Maria says, "It's all the same to us, who thinks we're good and who doesn't. The main thing is that we can put over our message."

The strengthening of women's rights under Muhammad VI.

That they certainly do. In their rap songs, they let out a lot of anger. "The rights of a Moroccan lady," is the title of one of the songs from their repertoire. The song screams to the world, full of hope, all about the development of women's rights under the young king, Muhammad VI. It was Maria's idea. She is just writing her final dissertation for a law degree on how women's rights have developed in Morocco.

By far the most significant change took place four years ago when Muhammad VI reformed the "Moudawwana," the family law. The obligation of a woman to obey her husband was abolished. Polygamy was made more difficult. Women got the right to initiate divorce proceedings. The minimum age for marriage was raised from fifteen to eighteen.

Maria herself seems to be a thoroughly European woman – at least, at first sight. She wants to get her doctorate and become a judge. "With my speciality I would be the second in Morocco," she says, and she uses the same words as she uses when she talks about the band: "I want to give a signal."

It's almost as if her ambitious career objective was secondary. But will she really be able to fight her way through in this man's world? At the moment she's already hesitating in front of a much lower hurdle: she hasn't yet confessed to her parents that she sings rap music. So far nobody knows about it in her family.

Being single in Morocco

The latest edition of the liberal opposition paper "TelQuel" has just appeared when we meet for the interview. Its front page story is "a new phenomenon which is becoming more important every day: singles."

The article deals with self-determination, sex outside marriage, having to decide between career and family – which means it's also about a self-confident and independent image for women, which is just what Tigresse Flow is all about too.

Being single is a taboo topic in Morocco. Life is lived in extended families and neighbourhoods. Some 60 percent of Moroccans are farmers, fishermen or construction workers. The government wants to change this structure and turn Morocco into a modern service society. That will unavoidably mean more mobility – and a relaxation of social controls.

The dream of that kind of city existence is part of what "TelQuel" is talking about when it writes: "If you're single, you have to do without a partner. Instead, you can have more than one!"

Naturally, Maria and Sofia have read the article about singles. They're talking with passion: "We don't want to abuse the trust of our parents," says Maria. "A woman has her honour!" She's talking about something which she prefers not to refer to directly: sex before marriage. For both of them it's something unthinkable.

Dubious emancipation

Both of them grew up here in Morocco and that's where they've learnt their attitudes to life. I ask Sofia why it's only wrong for women to have affairs. "Some prohibitions are certainly positive," she replies, "like the ban on smoking. What do we lose by it? Smoking only makes you ill."

Dancing, smoking, sex: these are truly not reliable measures of "freedom," and they scarcely count as cultural achievements. They are often symbols of a western "ideology." Do Maria and Sofia have to reach for such symbols if they are to become emancipated?

There are now around six hundred young people who have been waiting for an hour to get in to the hip hop concert. There's a tumult when the director of the sport complex holds up one of the tickets and says, "These have been scanned, they're not genuine. I expected three hundred people and I can't take responsibility for more. The concert is cancelled. That's it!"

Some of the people in the crowd start cat-calling. "Typical Morocco," says Maria. "It's always lousy organisation!" You can feel the suppressed anger but she doesn't let it out. Security officers in brown uniforms push the crowd away from the entrance gate, slowly. They've got experience in this sort of thing. The young people do as they're told, strangely silent, as if they were choreographed extras.

Thilo Guschas

© 2007

Translated from the German by Michael Lawton

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