Words and Their Meanings: the Female and the object in Aatini Saki and W
The following was originally written as part of my Youth Culture class. Some changes have been made to the original text to make it suitable for blogging.
“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands — of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
It was 2015. A year had passed since my arrival for the first time to Rabat. I
was — and still am — struggling to make sense of Morocco. One barrier between me and the Kingdom was that of language. Moroccan music was my way out; lyrics as a linguistic aid. At the beginning of that year, a certain song rocked Moroccan streets. It was played over and over again; everywhere. One would hear it wherever they went. There was no escape from its rhythms. I tried to understand the lyrics, but my darija was not good enough yet. Nonetheless, as is often said of time, it changes things. Two years later, today, darija is less of the enigma it used to be to me. Now, I understand those mysterious lyrics. Finally, Zina Daoudia’s hit started to make sense to my foreign ears. As I sat replaying it for days, writing this paper, enjoying my small victory over language, I came to understand Morocco beyond its darija. Aatini Saki (“Hand me my Handbag”) turned out to be more than the simple linguistic challenge it was when I first heard it. It is now a window to a part of Morocco I failed to see in 2015. As “However banal lyrics might seem, . . . , they can reveal much about cultural discourses of a specific time alongside which an artist may want to align themselves.” (Machin 77)
Daoudia was born in 1979 in Casablanca, Morocco. She started her career as a professional football player before making a turn to popular music (Daoudia). She is sort of a pop idol to many Moroccans. Her Aatini Saki alone has more than 29,000,000 views on the video sharing website Youtube. On the surface, the song appears to be celebrating a woman’s freedom. However, digging deeper one begins to see Daoudia’s character as a modern Moroccan woman torn between ideas of liberation and empowerment, and a consumer culture that “ . . . permits more subtle modalities of gender reinscription and re-subordination to be pursued.” (McRobbie 533)
Daoudia tries to reflect an image of women contrary to the traditional Moroccan one. She sings not of the good domestic woman who knows she is a source of fitna (“temptation”) to men, and thus should stay at home unless necessary. She sings, rather, of a woman who enjoys being out in public and wants to live her life (line 42). A woman who wishes to “have fun, sit in a cafe / connect to the internet and chat”. Despite this apparent liberation, Daoudia’s woman remains someone who derives self-value from male attention. She is objectifying herself. She strives to look zwina (“beautiful”; 3) asking to be handed her bag and make-up. Her beauty comes from material, external factors and objects. The chorus of the song contains the words make-up and bag sang and repeated as if this handbag has some magical powers that makes a woman pretty. Daoudia also sings of a pair of jeans, red lipstick, and nail polish of matching colour to her bag. Beauty, to Daoudia, is achieved through consumerism. It is by owning pretty things that her character feels pretty. Moreover, she even sings that she wants to “start a commotion among men / everybody shout hey beautiful” at her. This type of attention to her is something positive; something that makes her happy. Although, it is true that she might be less concerned with traditional social conventions; she is still, however, incapable of seeing herself through a different lens from that of the male gaze. She fails to present herself as more than just a beauty who finds fulfilment in consuming.
Daoudia’s Aatini Saki is one powerful example of what Angela McRobbie calls commodity feminism (532); a song about a person who is “doing very little” (Machin 89) someone who is sitting to “‘wish’ and ‘hope’.” (Machin 89)
Another example of this relationship between consumer culture and messages of empowerment can be found in the work of Lamia Zaidi. Zaidi rose to fame following her participation in the Arabic version of the talent show The Voice. Today her 2016 hit W has over 17,000,000 views on Youtube. The song is about a young woman’s dreams of success. Although this young woman is depicted as modern and not concerned with traditional gender roles, her dreams reflect the classic capitalist dream; a dream of fetishizing objects. She starts by singing her desires to own a BMW car, a Samsung Galaxy phone, clothes and perfumes from French brands (Zaidi 1–4). Her wishes continue on the same note in the following lines. She wants to “live in a royal neighbourhood / everybody likes my look / have a VIP night out / sing I am happy”. She links happiness with the possession of goods and makes a point of naming brands in an almost advertisement-like manner. She does wish to be successful, but this success is the consumer culture form of success; of having and spending money. The end goal of her financial independence is to spend and collect goods. She sees the value of her achievements in the amount of things she can pay for using her credit card. Consumerism again, the same way it was in Daoudia’s song, is how these women find fulfilment.
As I sit typing these final lines, I look outside the window. Two young
Moroccan girls dressed fashionably, not warm enough for the weather, with red lipstick on, and hair miraculously done, stand in front of the building across the street. The first is trying to pose like a cover girl, while the other, her friend, holds her phone up trying to take the perfect photo. I think of Daoudia and Zaidi. These two girls might listen to Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, like most girls their age, but it is hard to look at them and not imagine Aatini Saki or W playing in my ears.
1. Daoudia, Zina. “Aatini Saki.” 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJEMen9Zk_4
2. Machin, David. Analysing Popular Music: Image, Sound, Text. Sage Publications, 2010. PDF.
3. McRobbie, Angela. “Young Women And Consumer Culture.” Cultural Studies, vol. 22, no. 5, 2008, pp. 531–550. PDF.
4.Zaidi, Lamia. “W.” Mogador Music Digital, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3IddhlCOgM.