Singer Lamjarred case reopens Morocco violence against women debate

Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred (C) is escorted by police officers at the courthouse in Aix-en-Provence on September 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Singer Lamjarred case reopens Morocco violence against women debate

  • Despite the string of allegations against him, the singer’s tunes have still been played on radio stations and Moroccan media have enthused over the release of his latest singles

RABAT: Still adored at home despite three separate rape charges in France, Moroccan pop star Saad Lamjarred’s latest arrest has reignited a debate on violence against women in the North African kingdom.
Following similar accusations in October 2016 and April 2017, Lamjarred was re-arrested last week in southern France on charges he had raped a woman in a Riviera hotel.
The superstar’s detention comes just days after Morocco was rocked by claims from a teenage girl, Khadija Okkarou, that she had been kidnapped and gang-raped by a group of men from her village.
Lamjarred’s detention has sparked a social media campaign seeking to ban his songs from Morocco’s airwaves using the hashtags #masaktach (“we will not be silenced“) and #LamjarredOut.
But the push has done little to dampen the popularity of the 33-year-old singer, whose hit “Lmaallem” has been viewed more than 660 million times on YouTube.
“The case of Saad Lamjarred is a symbol that brings together everything connected to rape culture and impunity,” said Laila Slassi, one of the campaign’s initiators.
Despite the string of allegations against him, the singer’s tunes have still been played on radio stations and Moroccan media have enthused over the release of his latest singles.
In August, he was prominently featured in a video of artists put out for the birthday of King Mohammed VI — who has helped cover the pop star’s legal fees.
Lamjarred’s fans remain convinced the singer, from a family of artists in the capital Rabat, is the target of a conspiracy and that his alleged victims seek to benefit from his fame.

“He’s famous, good looking, so we support him... it’s an emblematic case of sympathy for the aggressor in a society where we always find excuses for men,” psychologist Sanaa El Aji, a specialist in gender issues, told AFP.
Slassi said the media was “promoting a man accused of sexual violence” instead of role models.
Under pressure, Morocco’s Radio 2M has pulled Lamjarred from its airwaves, saying it “no longer promotes (the singer) since the case is in the hands of the judiciary.”
But Hit Radio, the kingdom’s most popular, was less clear about its stance.
The station’s head Younes Boumehdi initially said he would not broadcast the superstar’s hits, but quickly added the measure would only last until “things calm down.”
An on-air poll showed 68 percent of Hit Radio’s audience wanted to continue listening to the star, regardless of the charges.
Ultra-famous in the Arab world, Lamjarred “is still among the most popular on YouTube, and for many of his fans he will remain an icon, even if he is sentenced,” Boumehdi told AFP.
The case has sparked “a lot of emotion because Saad Lamjarred has the image of a modern man with a new message,” he said.
Radio Chada FM, which claims to be a leader in Morocco’s arts and music scenes, said it would not take Lamjarred off the air “until he has been tried, in the name of the presumption of innocence.”
But not everyone agrees.
“His song lyrics glorify male domination among couples... and the submission of the woman,” business leader Mehdi Alami wrote in a post shared widely on social media.

“It amounts to discrediting the word of women,” said rights activist Betty Lachgar.
Many like Lachgar have drawn comparisons between the #masaktach campaign and the global #metoo movement against sexual harassment.
But in Morocco, “most people don’t believe in this type of thinking, (for them), the harassers are the victims,” said El Aji.
Campaign organizer Slassi says the #masaktach movement gained momentum after the “Khadija affair.”
The 17-year-old was at the center of a storm last month after she accused a group of men from her village in central Morocco of having kidnapped, raped and tortured her over a two-month period.
Her 12 assailants have confessed to having imprisoned and raped her, and of threatening her with death, according to her lawyers.
“But for many, she remains the main culprit,” said Laila.


After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

Updated 16 June 2019
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After conquering Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ eyes global tour

  • Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George
  • The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market

NEW YORK: After triumphing on Broadway, the lower 48 states and London’s West End, “Hamilton” is eyeing its first non-English production as well as tours throughout Europe and Asia.
The much-decorated musical, currently being staged nightly in London and New York as well as four other US cities, last month announced plans to launch in Sydney in early 2021 in a production expected to tour Australia before going to Asia, its producer said in an interview.
The “Hamilton” team is also working with a German hip-hop artist and playwright to develop a German-language version of the work.
The show, which is performed by a mostly non-white cast and mixes pulsating rap numbers with ballads and traditional musical numbers, has been credited with invigorating Broadway, thrilling audiences of all ages and across the political spectrum.
Producer Jeffrey Seller told AFP he sees a lot of international interest in the show. Australians frequently stream its soundtrack, Germany has long been receptive to American musicals and a Mexico City show, perhaps in Spanish, is also a possibility.
“My hope is that our story is resonant to people all over the world as a story of revolution, as a story of ambition, as a story of self-realization,” said Seller, who has been called the “CEO of Hamilton Inc.”
“I think Alexander Hamilton’s journey is universal.”
The push for more overseas performances comes as “Hamilton” mania remains as strong as ever in its home market.
Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show charts Caribbean-born Hamilton — introduced as “a bastard, orphan son of a whore” — who rises through his smarts and determination to become a key military aide to George Washington during the American Revolution and later the architect of the US financial system in the republic’s early days.
Hamilton was killed in a duel in 1804 by Aaron Burr, a foil throughout the show and the character who sings “The Room Where It Happens,” a jazzy show-stopper about political horse-trading.
Nearly four years after its Broadway debut, the show completely sold out during the just-ended 2018-9 season, garnering almost $165 million, or nine percent of Broadway’s total in a record-setting season.
Business is also brisk for three national touring companies, which typically perform three- and four-week stints in American cities of varying size.
The “Angelica” touring company — named for Hamilton’s sister-in-law in the musical — made its Louisville premiere earlier this month at the Kentucky Center. The venue seats 2,400, about 1,100 more seats than the musical’s Broadway home at the Richard Rodgers Theater.
Anticipation for the show boosted subscriptions for touring Broadway shows in Louisville this season by nearly 20 percent, said Leslie Broecker, Midwest president for Broadway Across America, who calls the show a “catalyst” in attracting new audiences.
Shannon Steen, a University of California professor specializing in performance studies and race theory, attributes the show’s domestic success to Miranda’s skill at blending musical genres while appealing to diverse political constituencies.
The show “confirms this idea that America can serve as a city on a hill for global democracy,” a theme that resonates with conservatives, Steen said.
At the same time, signature lines such as “immigrants get the job done” have emerged as applause points for critics of US President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies, which parallel similar debates in other markets.
The show’s themes about immigration “will likely not resonate in the same way (as in the US), but it will be interesting to see how those things are taken up by audiences in other countries,” Steen said.
International investments will be tailored by market. Seller expects an English-language version of “Hamilton” to play in Paris perhaps for an eight- or 10-week run as part of a European tour around 2022-23.
He said the French have not shown much hunger for past American musicals, but that this show — which features a prominent French character in the Marquis de Lafayette — could spawn a French-language version if it sells well.
But Germany has for years been a robust market for US musicals, including “Wicked” and “Lion King,” and “they have the population to support it for a long run,” Seller said.
Stephan Jaekel, a spokesman for Stage Entertainment in Germany, which has been overseeing auditions for “Hamilton,” said the aim is to open in the fall of 2020 in Hamburg, but that a final deal has yet to be signed.
“We much look forward to presenting it to German audiences and hope to be able to start ticket sales soon,” Jaekel said in an email.
Seller hopes to announce the show in the coming months.