The BlogMy name is Sean O'Keefe (formerly known here as "Ulysses") and I would like to welcome you to Revolutionary Arab Rap. This blog aims to explore what Arabic hip hop can tell us about the current Arab uprisings and the changing relationship between Arab citizens and their governments. My objectives are:
1. To help new audiences enjoy, understand, and celebrate Arabic hip hop.
2. To help people improve their Arabic and find resources for studying the language.
3. To provide a useful resource for people interested in good journalism, social media, and academic work on the Middle East.
4. To show solidarity with Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and everywhere else where people are fighting for their freedom.
What I call "my blog" is actually two blogs:
1. Revolutionary Arab Rap (my main site). My posts about the key players, themes, contexts, and local scenes in the Arabic hip hop game go here.
2. Revolutionary Arab Rap: The Index (a companion site). In each post here, I provide a song's Arabic lyrics and their English translation in an Amara (a.k.a. Universal Subtitles) video above the jump and in a full written text below the jump.
I have posted the Arabic lyrics and English translation for about 90 songs and counting (please take a look at them here). I'm not a native speaker of Arabic, so I welcome your corrections and help. If you have have any questions, translation requests, or new topics you'd like me to examine, please drop me a line at [dot] rap [at] gmail.com or on Twitter @ArabRevRap.
Much like "re-tweets do not equal endorsements" on Twitter, translating a song here does not necessarily mean I endorse its content or message. Similarly, what I publish on my blogs does not represents the views of my employer.
I want to tank everyone who has helped me with this project, especially @TasnimQ of Majjal, @DZCalling of DZ Calling, @Oranaise of orainase.tumbler.com, Chris at Arabic Music Songs and Translation, the folks at OpenDemocracy, the members of the Arabic forum at allthelyrics.com, and Dr. Sophie Richter-Devroe and her colleagues at the University of Exeter.
The Author:My name is Sean O'Keefe (formerly "Ulysses"). I grew up in Seattle, Washington and studied Arabic and history at the University of Chicago. Among other things, I’ve done work with youth programs in Jordan and Morocco and taught Arabic to underserved students in Seattle Public Schools with OneWorld Now!. I also am a member of the Class of 2014 of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, where my studies focused on humanitarian relief and international development. Recently, I’ve done field service in Amman with CARE International’s Syria Emergency Response Team and Identity Center's programming for Jordanian youth.
This summer, I will move to Tunis, Tunisia to become the Program Manager of the Munathara Initiative at its new headquarters there.
The Munathara InitiativeWhy Munathara? Most Arabs are under the age of 35, but the voices and perspectives of Arab youth are only rarely broadcast on mainstream Arabic news channels. Munathara, an independent, nonprofit, pan-Arab NGO, seeks to change that. The organization brings Arab youth together to debate important social and political issues and broadcasts these debates to audiences on the internet and satellite television. The vision is to create “an open, fair and representative Arab debating forum in which anyone can take part and voice their opinions, regardless of their social status, education or location” and to build a new Arab public sphere where young people have a full say in their societies. I’m excited about Munathara’s work because I believe that the solutions to the challenges facing the Arab world (and the rest of the world, for that matter) can only be discovered by young people.
If you would like to support Munathara, you can DONATE, spread the word, watch the debates, become participants and supporters, and help us find new ways to make young people’s voices heard.
Why Arabic Hip Hop?
Why should you care about Arabic hip hop? Well, for starters, hip hop has become a universal medium of social and political expression for young, dissident, and marginalized peoples. It's helping the people of Arab world, most of whom are younger than 30, find new ways to raise their voices. It's important, though, not to overstate the influence of Arabic hip hop on the Arab uprisings. Arabic-langauge hip hop is an underground phenomenon, not a mainstream one like Al Jazeera is. Outside of Morocco, there's really isn't a hip hop "industry" to speak of in the Arab world. Arabic-language rap artists must promote their work online or sign with Western record labels. Despite all this, the genre's popularity and influence are growing remarkably fast. Rappers in Libya and Tunisia have shaken the most nightmarish of regimes to their cores. Arab hip hop is blowing up because it speaks so powerfully to Arabs' desire for dignity, human rights, and a brighter future.