There were 10 or 12 females at H-Kayne’s outdoor, Nile-side concert at El Sawy Cultural Wheel last Monday. I was one of those females and the bathroom attendant was another. The other 30 plus audience members were male – many of which worked with the band.
Nevertheless, the hip-hop group from Morocco came out strong and finished by dancing with the audience, rapping their party track “Issawa Style in their colloquial, French-infused Arabic. Genuinely talented performers, the four MCs and their DJ managed to start a party, albeit a small one.
I glimpsed at two girls nodding to the beat. At the concert’s end, I approached the girls assuming they were Moroccan or relatives. Wessam Abu Zeid told me otherwise.”I only came by chance! It’s my first time hearing them.
“I can’t understand everything, but they translated a lot . It’s respectful and they don’t use bad words, she said.
I was happy to hear H-Kayne had substance, because they sounded good.
After the show the guys re-explained their message and name. “H-Kayne or “What’s Up? is the question they are inspiring the youth to ask. Band member HB2 says they rap about “what’s going on in the street, with the police, with society. It’s political and positive.
“My mother listens to my music, he added.
Othman, another MC, believes that hip-hop in the Middle East today is akin to American hip-hop in the 80s. “It’s not commercial, he says. H-Kayne have an important story to tell about the region. And just like it was born in America, this hip-hop is rooted in the margins.
“The media only found out about [hip-hop in the Middle East] three or four years ago, Othman said. But H-Kayne’s members have been making music together for 10 years. No wonder their comfort is palpable and their demeanors confident.
So if hip-hop, born in the Bronx, was adopted and morphed by Arabs over 10 years ago, where are the fans in Cairo today?
A mature, silver-haired woman who was chatting in French with the group answered my question. “It’s a scandal, Frie Leysen who organized the event with El Sawy exclaimed. “Print that. [El Sawy] promised they’d promote them. She continued, “[H-Kayne] had a full house in Alexandria . I’m furious!
Although it was their first time to Cairo, I asked H-Kayne about hip-hop here. No one could name an Egyptian MC.
Elaborating on the seeming lack of rappers in Egypt, a place with a backdrop similar to Morocco, with similar issues to express, Othman said, “We work with Palestinians and Lebanese, never an Egyptian . maybe because they have had their music for so long – love songs and all that.
Back in Morocco it’s different. DJ Khalid runs a DJ school in Casablanca, charging LE 577 to LE 1,400 per hour, and the group performs regularly in clubs. Clearly there’s a movement in the Arab world.
“Hip-hop is still in its birth [in Egypt], HB2 says. Regardless of the turn out, he’s felt welcomed and would like to come back.
Luckily in today’s cyber-world, messages are not entirely lost. A Cairene who missed the show can still read about H-Kayne or listen to the music at www.H-Kayne.com and www.funkynoise.ma. With words like ‘Ay,’ ‘Yo’ and ‘Jump!’ being so internationally recognized, the medium of the message is even globalizing. There’s still hope.