Meet Tagne: The rapper and singer taking Moroccan music to the world 

Meet Tagne: The rapper and singer taking Moroccan music to the world 
Tagne released his debut album “LMAKTOUB” in June. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 August 2023
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Meet Tagne: The rapper and singer taking Moroccan music to the world 

Meet Tagne: The rapper and singer taking Moroccan music to the world 

DUBAI: At long last, the world has finally lent its ears to Morocco. After decades as an underground scene, the country’s hip-hop community is currently thriving, with star rapper Tagne — along with his contemporary and collaborator ElGrandeToto — dominating both the regional charts and finding a footing across Europe, earning a dedicated following in France, the Netherlands, and Germany.  

For Tagne, who released his debut album “LMAKTOUB” in June (he classifies 2020’s “Moroccan Dream” as a mixtape), the rise of Moroccan rap is not a matter of luck, it’s the culmination of his shared vision for what it could become once it consciously emerged from the shadows.   

“Previously, Moroccan rappers didn’t really take risks. They didn’t understand how to move forward,” Tagne tells Arab News. “But now, it’s truly changed, and rappers here have gotten truly inventive with their flow, melodies, and production.  

“Before, Moroccan music was very insular, and not a lot of them would collaborate with international artists. Now, it’s transformed, and international artists and labels are chasing us to do features. It’s the start of something huge.” 

It’s fitting that Tagne, who was just chosen to be the first artist from the MENA region to participate in the global Spotify Singles program, has emerged as a leader for the now-internationally minded Moroccan rap scene. After all, he’s the product of two vastly different cultures, with a Cameroonian father and Moroccan mother, both of whom had a strong influence on his upbringing and subsequent musical output.  

“This mix taught me at a young age not to be closed off to the cultures and religions of others, to be open-minded and not to judge people's mentalities,” he says. “Everyone comes from a different background. My paternal family is quite different from my maternal family, but I adapt to both, just as I've listened to both musically. I've been exposed to all the well-known classic Arabic songs since my childhood, as well as African music, which has also influenced me. So, for me, it's a rich blend.” 

Born in Casablanca in 1997, Tagne first developed his ever-expanding musical palate at home, with favorites such as Moroccan singer Latifa Raafat and Congolese legend Koffi Olomide. His emerging eclectic taste then led him to look outward to see what his hometown had to offer. 

“Casablanca is a huge city; it teaches you to be resourceful from a young age, not to let yourself be walked over, to challenge the unknown. I believe it's thanks to this city that I took my first steps in this field,” Tagne says. 

At 13, he snuck onto a local bus — without enough money for the fare — trying to reach the city’s Yasmina Park, where he could show off the freestyle skills he’d been developing in his bedroom. It was there that he found the support he craved, pushing him to improve and giving him an outlet for the mental anguish he hadn’t yet learned how to deal with. 

“I experienced a challenging adolescence, facing issues both at school and on the streets. Family life was no easy task and, socially, things became increasingly difficult. Rap provided me with a means to express myself and voice what was in my heart in my own way. Writing lyrics unconsciously turned into a form of therapy for me, and gradually my passion for making music paved the path to my career,” says Tagne.  

Though he quickly earned respect in the local community, the rapper did not immediately pursue a solo career. First, he founded the group XACTO with fellow rhymesmith Madd before joining the popular collective known as Wa Drari Squad. While the latter group brought him fame and national attention, plugging him into the upper echelon of the country’s evolving scene, it eventually became clear that the experience was holding him back, forcing him to make the difficult choice to break out on his own. 

“We had a great time with Wa Drari Squad, sharing good and tough moments. This experience brought me to the real music industry for the first time, and helped me understand its workings. I even discovered my musical abilities beyond rapping, realizing I could sing. But I felt the urge to assume control of myself. At a certain point, I realized that I needed to forge my own musical freedom,” Tagne explains. 

The move was thrilling, but also terrifying — a fear he quickly learned was justified. While initially hopeful about all the possibilities that breaking out on his own opened up for him, there was a stark reality before him: He was broke, no longer had a crew to support him, and, in many ways, he was starting from scratch. He realized he would not only have to forge new connections, he would have to mature as a person. 

“I honestly was very stressed back then — not to mention dirt poor,” Tagne says with a laugh. “I’ve really grown from who I was in that moment, and the process of making my music has changed drastically. In a lot of ways, it’s become easier. It’s still a lot of work, but the actual flow now comes so much more naturally.” 

He kept telling himself that better things were written in the stars for him. It’s what pushed him to become the man he is today — and inspired the name of his new album. 

“‘L’Mektoub’ is an Arabic saying, something that we all say, basically meaning ‘God has written this for you.’ I was really going through a tough time three years ago, but I was always focused in following my path. God paves my road, so I just keep driving. If it works, it works. But if it doesn’t work, I’ll try again, and I’ll try even harder,” says Tagne.  

After “Moroccan Dream” — released at the height of his struggles — lifted his spirits as well as his profile on the world stage, his intentions with “LMAKTOUB” were to crystalize all that he believed Moroccan hip-hop could be. To complete the project, he successfully recruited collaborators not only from his own country, such as ElGrandeToto, but those from the countries in which his music had begun to catch on, including popular French artists Kaaris, Niro, and NEJ. 

“On my own, I've learned the value of discipline and self-motivation during challenging times. This experience has helped me shape my own way of doing things and put together my own structure. I've even taken the step of setting up my own company. But, all along, I've never overlooked the strength of being part of a team. I've always grasped how crucial a team can be in reaching our goals. That's why I've got my own crew around me, kind of like how it was when I was part of a group,” says Tagne. 

“The underlying goal hasn't changed: to tap into diverse viewpoints. Just like in group dynamics, these outside opinions bring me a broader understanding, fresh ideas, and a valuable sense of perspective. Next, I want to collaborate with Egyptian rappers, Nigerian rappers, and German rappers — Albanians too. I’ve been focused on making the best stuff from Morocco with Moroccan artists, but I want to take another step forward in becoming more international and amplifying the conversation across the world,” he continues. “For me, and for Morocco, this is only the beginning.” 


Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Two women leading the conversation on culture in Saudi Arabia took to the stage on two separate panels at the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi on Monday to talk about their respective institutions.

Aya Al-Bakree, the CEO at Diriyah Biennale Foundation, and Nada Alhelabi, the strategy and XP Music Futures director at MDLBEAST, were both in the spotlight at the event.

Al-Bakree was speaking as part of the panel “Cultural Leadership in Our Complex World.” She was joined by Francesca Colombo, managing and cultural director at Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano; DooEun Choi, vice president of Artlab at Hyundai Motor Company; and Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture and creative industries in London.

Al-Bakree said: “The purpose of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation is to craft perspectives. It does that by staging ... the Contemporary Art Biennale at Jax District and the Islamic Arts Biennale, which takes place at Jeddah Airport. This is a very special location, an Aga Khan Award-winning location, because it used to be the Hajj terminal, used by the Hajj travelers, which we basically repurposed to have art programs. And we are also developing a creative district called Jax.

“The foundation is meant to support artists full circle. I’m happy to say that the success is very much there because the art was always there. The creation of the Diriyah Foundation is a culmination rather than an overhaul. It just created a framework and an ecosystem for everything to shine.”

Al-Bakree spoke of the inaugural edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023 attracting more than 600,000 visitors, adding: “That’s a large number of people for such a young event.”

Alhelabi spoke at a later panel called “The Time to Pursue a Career in the MENA Music Industry.”

Moderated by Mayssa Karaa, a singer-songwriter and artistic director at Berklee Abu Dhabi, the panel also featured Karima Damir, A&R director for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region at Warner Music Group.

Alhelabi said: “We are at the right time for creatives. We have a lot of opportunities.

“For us at XP, collaboration is key. And passion. For all of us in Saudi, we did not have any music education. I remember I was 7 years old and wanted to learn the piano, but there were no stores and there was no one teaching piano at the time. And look at us now.

“So, the key point is definitely passion. And if someone is starting to get into the music industry, every skill and every experience you had in your life matters.”

She stressed that there are many avenues within the music industry to explore. She also pointed to XP Music Futures’ two-week Artist Management Bootcamp as an example of the kind of exposure that individuals in the region are being exposed to when it comes to new careers in the field of music and entertainment.

She added: “Whether you want to work on your own brand and design the events; whether you want to work in production, or you want to do programming, or even artist booking, there are so many fields in the music industry you can contribute to.

“In addition to working as artists, the artists themselves need a village, a surrounding team, for them to be successful.”


Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe

Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe
Updated 04 March 2024
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Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe

Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe
  • Astrolabe is believed to have been produced in 11th-century Al-Andalus
  • Historian discovers hidden Arabic, Hebrew, Western etchings after chance online encounter

London: A reappraisal of an ancient astronomical device in Italy has sparked new interest in the medieval interaction between Muslim and Jewish scientists, The Times reported on Monday.

The astrolabe, an instrument once used by astronomers to measure time and distance based on the position of stars, has been on display at a museum in Verona for decades.

But a historian’s chance online encounter with the device, long thought to be a fake, has opened new theories about social and scientific interactions between the Islamic and Jewish faiths in medieval Europe.

Federica Gigante from Cambridge University came across an image of the astrolabe in an online post, and traveled to the museum to investigate the object.

The device is believed to have been produced in Al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula that encompassed much of modern-day Spain and Portugal.

At the museum, Gigante held the astrolabe in the sunlight and discovered a series of hidden Arabic, Hebrew and modern Western etchings.

She said: “The museum didn’t know what it was and thought it might be fake. It’s now the single most important object in their collection.”

The device is said to be from 11th-century Toledo, during a period known as the Convivencia, or Coexistence, when members of all three Abrahamic faiths lived in relative harmony.

The first markings on the astrolabe are in Arabic and denote the times of Muslim prayers in Toledo and Cordoba.

A brass plate later added to the device allowed the user of the astrolabe to determine prayer times in North Africa.

Further Arabic etchings contain two Jewish names, suggesting that the device was later used by Sephardic Arabic-speaking communities in Al-Andalus.

Hebrew text is also inscribed on the astrolabe, implying that “at a certain point the object left Spain or North Africa and circulated among the Jewish diaspora in Italy,” Gigante said.

Further Hebrew etchings translate the Arabic terms for the astrological signs Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries.

Gigante believes that the astrolabe may have reached Italy in the 12th century. Once in medieval Verona, Western numerals are believed to have been added to the device by a Latin or Italian speaker.

A 17th-century Veronese nobleman, Ludovico Moscardo, is thought to have obtained the astrolabe, before it was passed to the prominent aristocratic Miniscalschi family which, in 1990, founded the museum where the device remains today.

Gigante said: “The Verona astrolabe stands out, attesting to the contacts and exchanges between Arabs, Jews and Europeans in the medieval and early modern periods.”


Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine
Updated 04 March 2024
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Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine
  • A miniature sculpture of Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” fetched the highest bid of £16,000

LONDON: A prestigious art auction in London has raised £165,000 ($208,800) for nonprofit organizations providing medical aid in Gaza and advocating for Palestinian human rights, its organizers said on Sunday. 

Voices of Palestine, which took place on Feb. 25 at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel, featured 15 pieces of Arab artwork, including a Banksy-designed miniature sculpture of his “Flower Thrower,” painted by local Palestinian artists. This piece, originally sold at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, fetched the highest bid of £16,000.

The proceeds from the auction are earmarked for two primary causes: supporting Fajr Scientific’s comprehensive healthcare initiative in Gaza, and the efforts of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians.

The event hosted a panel discussion featuring a high-profile list of speakers. (AN Photo/Tamara Turki)

Egyptian activist and Editor-in-Chief of Scoop Empire Rahma Zein told Arab News: “These kinds of events are important to reiterate the message that we need to empower ourselves to have the right kinds of discussions as to how to do that, be it economically or politically.”

The 30-year-old went viral in a video confronting CNN’s Clarissa Ward for her reporting at the Rafah border. She was then invited to appear on Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show to discuss Palestinians’ suffering.

She added: “Right now there is a void; there is an empty space because the veil has fallen.

“We’ve seen that these institutions that we deemed as prestigious, these news outlets that we deemed as prestigious, are no longer the case; they’re duds.

“Now is the time to look inwards, and look regionally and see so that we’re not looking at token politicians that look like us but speak in the name of Zionism or appease the colonizers.

“We need to empower ourselves. We need to own back our narrative and these are the events to do so.”

Fajr Scientific CEO Dr. Mosab Nasser has detailed a $55 million post-war plan aiming to enhance Gaza's medical infrastructure by adding 120 hospital beds, numerous operating rooms, and intensive care units over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the ICJP focuses on strategic legal actions and advocacy to align foreign policy with the realities Palestinians face, guided by international law.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot and South African High Commissioner to the UK Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo. (AN Photo/Tamara Turki)

The event hosted a panel discussion featuring a high-profile list of speakers including Rahma Zein and Nasser alongside Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot, award-winning journalist Ahmed Eldin, surgeon Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, and Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim.

The panelists tackled a wide range of issues on Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed over 30,000 people. Eldin spoke on the democratization of the media and its role in challenging Western narratives about Palestine, while Abu-Sitta shared harrowing experiences of treating patients under siege in Gaza, including Israel’s bombing of hospitals.

The event drew 450 attendees, with tickets sold at between £150 to £250.
 


Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’
Updated 03 March 2024
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Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’
  • World-renowned Syrian poet Adonis gave the first keynote speech of the summit
  • Mohamed Al-Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, stressed his desire to ‘create a world of understanding’

ABU DHABI: Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicked off its sixth edition in the UAE capital with a diverse program of keynote speeches, creative talks, panel discussions and cultural performances.

On the first day of the three-day event, held under the theme of “A Matter of Time,” the summit explored the role of culture in creating collective memories while looking at alternatives to the linear concept of time.

Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2024. (Supplied)

In his opening remarks, Mohamed Al-Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), said, “‘A Matter of Time’ is the theme for this year's Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which serves as an invitation for us all to reflect and pause. Culture Summit is more than just words — issues will be discussed and tangible solutions will be found for global communities. Culture will allow us to understand each other, respect each other, accept and preserve each other’s culture. Once we attain this level of harmony, we will create a world of understanding.”

Al-Mubarak also made a call to attendees to make connections at the conference. “These are not just words in summits like this. Our job is to make sure we find platforms and other solutions to be a positive voice for our youth,” he said. “They will be the catalyst to make sure all of our actions and all of our fruits bear.”

Al-Mubarak then introduced world-renowned Syrian poet and philosopher Adonis, who gave the summit’s first keynote speech where he framed the relationship between people and time, exploring both in the context of technological advancements.

“Time is a creation and we are living in an era of technological advancements and modernism, enslaving us where it should have set us free. At the culture summit, we share one common goal with distinct yet similar views on culture, poetry and art. We are living in an era where nature and creativity are the need of the hour. Technology cannot be creative, cannot think, breathe or feel — technology is not the problem but relying too much on it is,” said Adonis.

"When man lives according to his creative nature, they will be a source of continuous innovation," he continued. "Understanding that is the key to a person's relationship with himself, to others and the world."

Emirati celebrity singer and Goodwill Ambassador at Large Hussain Al-Jassmi also took part in a conversation with Egyptian talk show host Mona Al-Shazly. “The UAE is a strong enabler for creative talents, including emerging artists. I personally received great support from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, who I believe was the first supporter of creative talents in the UAE. In addition, the UAE is the best example of coexistence and harmony, embracing residents of more than 200 nationalities — you can walk across any walkway in the UAE and come across five different dialects and languages.”

Nobel Prize in Literature winner, playwright, and professor of theater at NYU Abu Dhabi Wole Soyinka sat in conversation with Manthia Diawara, professor in the department of cinema studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to discuss the intricacies of African culture as well as issues around identity, as well as his thoughts on restitution.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which runs until March 5, is organised by DCT Abu Dhabi.


Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week
Updated 03 March 2024
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Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

DUBAI/PARIS: Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveiled his Fall/Winter ready-to-wear 2024-25 collection at Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, with a showcase of darker colors in a suitably wintery palette.

Figure-hugging olive green gowns were shown off on the runway, with deep purple and a muted dark blue also punctuating the new offering.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

“The Elie Saab ready-to-wear Fall/ Winter 2024-25 collection is a never-ending song where the melodies of Graceland resound beyond Elvis (Presley),” the fashion house declared on Instagram.

Besides gowns, the designer also offered a variety of chic tailored separates, with a glittering coat with razor-sharp lapels contrasting well against the soft curves and floral elements of another all-white overcoat.

Guests included influencers such as Olivia Palermo, Nathalie Fanj and Tamara Kalinic.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Elsewhere at a rainy Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, luxury label Hermes explored the meaning of “quiet luxury.” This season the narrative took a darker, more introspective turn as creative head Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski offered brooding black leathers that evoked the deep, reflective tones of the late French painter Soulages.

Nipped buckles and gentle ribbing on skin-tight pants demonstrated Vanhee-Cybulski’s adeptness at blending Hermes’ storied craftsmanship with innovative design. Amidst this darker palette, muted flashes emerged, weaving poetically through the collection, The Associated Press reported.

Braving the persistent Parisian drizzle, K-Pop star Sandara Park led the pack at Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, captivating the audience in a punk-tinged corset adorned with pearls. The opening ensembles transported the audience back in time amid contemporary fusions, channeling the essence of a serf, the medieval agricultural laborer. The designs incorporated leggings, jockstraps resembling codpieces, mystical talismanic pendants, and tear-shaped cutouts on thick knit sweaters.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Meanwhile, elegant sophistication, minimalism, and a hint of nonchalance continued to define Carven. The storied house, originally founded by Marie Louise Carven in 1945, evolved under the guidance of various male creative directors since its reboot 2009 and 2018. Stepping into this lineage as the first female leader since its reboot, Louise Trotter presented her second collection Saturday, skillfully weaving together the brand’s 1950s origins with a minimalist aesthetic reminiscent of the 1990s.

The show opened with a statement piece: A brown round-shouldered coat that was both loose and indicative of the new direction Trotter is steering Carven towards.

This piece set the stage for a collection with dimensions and perceptions — for example, a striking dress featured a trompe l’oeil effect, cleverly designed to appear two-dimensional.