I’m finally a Winner: On Understanding Moroccan Music


As this summer draws to a close, I being to focus on the reason for coming here, bearing with the most awful iftars I have ever had in my life, 108 degree weather with the adjustments for wind and humidity making it feel like 135, being called random things at random times, being stolen from etc….

I came here to learn Moroccan Arabic (darija).  And to a certain extent I have accomplished that goal.  Moroccan Arabic was never complete jibberish to me… the way it is to millions of Arabs around the world… ha, ha…  but it was never fully understood.  Unfortunately it still isn’t.

But I have reached the point where I can listen to a song, and not just identify a few words in it, but rather get the gist of it, and whether the person is speaking relatively clearly or not, I can understand most of it!  Although there are some exceptions to this rule, as this remainder of this post will make plaine, that is nonetheless an accomplishment.  So here’s to giving myself a pat on the back.

As I prepare to leave, and take a small break from Moroccan Arabic, I have charged up my mp3 player with songs from this summer… I’ve discovered music artists that I love and some old ones that I now understand a little better.

The first person I want to talk about is Oum, a Moroccan R&b/neo soul singer.  This is a video of her song Whowa (and he)… it’s a song about a dude and how awesome he is… on a side note, she looks like one of my program mates from Egypt… ha, ha…

Here’s another song of hers, called “Shine” again, about some really awesome guy in her life…

Of course there are more traditional singers as well, well if you consider Moroccan pop to be traditional… the cutie of the week is this guy: Saad Lamjarred

the song is called “Salina” which in Moroccan Arabic means, “we’re finished” in the context of the song “we’re through” might be a more accurate translation.  The song might actually be in the Khaleeji (Gulf Arab) dialect, but I’m not sure.  The beat sound Khaleeji but the words are Moroccan, except for the use of a few words which I’m not sure if you can in Moroccan, either way, I really like this song, even though it’s about a break up… I’m there for you Saad… ha, ha…

Another song to give you a feel for his overall sound is called W3dini (promise me)… and it’s a googley eyed love song about how he will always love her …. the proverbial her not anyone in particular… Pretty song nonetheless.

Yes, it’s not you just imaging things, there is something about him that smacks of former boy band or something, maybe it’s because he’s blond and looks more like the American boy next door than the stereotypical Arab guy… At any rate, I like him a lot.

Of course he has some songs that I just don’t get or like, but hey,

لا واحد كامل غير الله (no one except for God is perfect)

I should probably end this post with a taste of some old faithfuls, thanks to a friend’s interest in the subject, I have known about Moroccan rap since way before i could understand it.  My favorite group is still Fnaire.  Naturally, I still don’t understand all their songs, but it’s been great to understand more besides the beat and a few words here and there.

my favorite song from their new album is called Basma (smile).

from what I can tell, this song is about people who are poor, depressed, people who for one reason or another can’t achieve their goals, smiling is supposedly the solution for their condition? either that or they wish they could put a smile on their faces.  Like I said, I still don’t understand everything… ha, ha… I hope I’m close.
At any rate, I liked this song from the moment I heard it, probably the first week or so this summer, funny now I understand it a little more, but I have yet to unlock all the mysteries… ha, ha.

Another thing that I really like about Fnaire is that they blend traditional Moroccan musical instruments and singing into their songs.  Take this song for instance: Amualam (oh teacher!) this song actually has some French in too Well there is a guest French Rapper on the track. but I don’t really understand what the song is about… I think it’s one of those songs that are like “hey our beats are awesome’ but not 100% sure

Anyway fnaire has been around for forever so they have tons of songs…they get played on MOroccan radio and everything (as do many other Moroccan rappers, although as said before I still think Fnaire is the best).

However, there is one song they have that I don’t know whether I love it or I hate it.  It’s called be winner, the beat is great, the Moroccan Arabic rhymes are fine, but the English ones are not so hot… eh, to each his own… if I remember correctly these guys learned English from the likes of 50 cent, Eminem and Jay Z…. At any rate, the song gives you good advice kids “If you wanna be a winner, you have to be so different, when you something, do it well, or don’t do it all”  🙂

They also get props for having Samira Sayeed a Moroccan legend, sing the hook.  Too Bad Said for the most part sings in Egyptian Arabic.

Oh wait, I have one more song… it’s an Islamic Nasheed that I used to hear all the time when I spent a semester in Morocco.  I liked it a lot even though I didn’t really know what it meant. It’s called Ana Mali fi ash or the Qasida alfiyashia.

And it was actually a sufi poem turned into a song.  This song has been one I have been focusing on the past few days. here is  a rap version, which might be more interesting than the traditional rendering to someone who doesn’t speak Arabic:

there’s a line in the song that goes

أنا عبد الربّي له قدرة يهون بها كل أمر عسير

فإن كنت عبدا ضعيف القوة، فربّي على كل شيء قدير

which means,

I am a servant of God, and He is able to make every difficult situation easy

So even if I were powerless, my God can do anything…

There is something about finding this song again after so many years, being able to listen to it and finally understand these verses … it all happened at the right time for me.. sometimes I literally just say these lines over and over to myself (ocd anyone… ha, ha..).

Well, that’s it for now on the Moroccan music front.

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