Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

How Moroccan women are breaking into a music industry dominated by men: 'Rap is my defence mechanism'

Houda Abouz, who goes by the name of Khtek, is one of the female musicians emerging on the country's rap scene

Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, known by her stage name Khtek, is breaking through in a male-dominated industry. Reuters
Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, known by her stage name Khtek, is breaking through in a male-dominated industry. Reuters

In a rap scene dominated by men, women's voices are starting to make waves in Morocco.

Houda Abouz, 24, who majors in film studies at a university in the northern city of Tetouan, has long been fascinated by hip-hop and, encouraged by friends, she picked up a mic and began to perform.

In January, she appeared on the track Hors Serie, performing alongside three of Morocco’s biggest male rap stars – ElGrande Toto, Don Bigg and Draganov.

The accompanying music video has been viewed more than 16 million times on YouTube – a reflection of the popularity the genre enjoys across the North African kingdom – and its success has encouraged Abouz to go it alone.

In February, she released her debut single KickOff, in which she rails against a society she says does not offer women equal opportunities.

Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz, 24, is known by her stage name Khtek. Reuters
Moroccan rapper Houda Abouz released her debut single earlier this year. Courtesy Reuters

"I am a self-made artist and I write my own lyrics, speaking my mind," she said, speaking from the capital Rabat.

"Rap is my passion and my defence mechanism in a patriarchal society," added Abouz, who goes by the name Khtek, meaning "your sister".

Her lyrics, delivered in Moroccan Arabic with phrases of French or English thrown in, often focus on societal themes.

Abouz is not alone. Fellow Moroccan female hip-hop star, Manal, has enjoyed success with hit song Slay, which has been viewed 44 million times on YouTube.

Abouz, who describes herself as a feminist, said she was influenced by the pro-democracy protests that shook Morocco in 2011 during the Arab uprisings.

However, she said her music did not serve a political agenda but gave "a taste of the street and of deep Morocco".

Men's prevalence in the world of rap reflected Morocco's society, she said, but her work tries to seize back the narrative for women.

As she sings in KickOff: "I write better than you, though you think I'm just a girl."

Updated: July 29, 2020 02:17 PM

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