Rap, language, culture, politics: It’s not just a Scarf!

Rap mirrors the modes of language and displays one’s mastery of it, the words are carefully chosen to create a flow, both phonetic and semantic, out of which meanings emerge and are aligned to position one’s identity in the vast landscape of cultural wastelands. Rap as an art form could be said to be one of the most political of art forms, alongside to literature, depending on the engagement of the artist. They could be rapping about whose ‘car is bigger’, and thus bring social classes into the conversation, which is arguably also political, but with a stretch. So, what’s so different in rapping about whose scarf it is anyway, which is partly what Shadia Mansour raps about?

To start off with – the Koufieh isn’t just a scarf, it’s part of a movement. When Shadia Mansour chants: “...these dogs are startin’ to wear it as a trend…”, and “...they imitatin’ us in what we wear...”, she appoints to the fact that most people don’t even know where the Koufieh comes from, and what big role it plays in the construct of the Palestinian identity. Rightfully so, she chooses her stance, defines it clearly and delivers a message to fellow thinkers of the resistance movement, and the rest. Palestinian identity is something no one takes lightly.

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Shadia Mansour raps in Arabic, her choice of weapon, about an actual topic, which makes a statement in itself, as well as effortlessly reveals the beauty and musicality of the Arabic language. She also uses rhythms that stem from the voluminous cultural heritage of Arabian beats. These beats are ornamented with a score of soul-reaching strings written in the Arabian tone system. That’s what tapping into cultural heritage means, and that’s how a fusion of traditional and contemporary sounds like if done right. There is a traditional genre of vocal music in Arabic culture that is very similar to rap in essence, Mawwal, meaning that it uses colloquial terms, and it stems from poetry, but it does not sound like rap at all. Rap as a form is a foreign concept in the Arabic culture, but the instruments and beats are very Palestinian, thus this song exists in an intersection of the local and the foreign, the traditional and the modern. Check the dance moves too, and see how well they fit. The combining of cultures while clearly defining one’s viewpoint takes creative courage and skill.

Shadia Mansour, a proud leader of the Arabic hiphop, reminds rappers all over what rapping is all about. Is there a sense to what lyrics are about? Are your lyrics “Chinese Food” of rap or something that has a wee bit more substance to it? A food for thought. Here’s another food for thought: State of Palestine is currently, as of September 27th, 2013, recognized by 193 member states of the UN.




Video shot and edited by: Nana Dankwa



2 Replies to “Rap, language, culture, politics: It’s not just a Scarf!”

  1. So, how can she appropriate or blend a foreign cultural concept (rap) into her culture and that’s okay. But, it’s not okay for someone of a different culture to do the same with an element (koufieh) of her culture?

  2. Hi Matt,

    as an author of this text, and not the song, I’d like to thank you for posting this question, I’ll gladly clarify what my thoughts were.
    I was merely commenting on the fact that she is making music that comes across as a successful blend of global and local, old and new, and traditional and contemporary and that by doing that, she makes a statement about her identity. I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that it would be not okay for someone else to proclaim their identity, and/or state what constitutes it, nor would I say that it’s ever okay to limit another one’s right to posit oneself politically.
    So far so good,

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