Draganov: and the Moroccan hip hop movement.
- The beginnings of Greatness.
- Levelling Up.
- Artistry and cultural relevance.
- Loaded tomorrows.
Draganov is a rising Hip Hop star from the Morroccan Maghreb. Here where the Mediterranean Sea overlooks to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, this region of North Africa falls sway heavily to its culture and heritage. They reach back 1000s of years and, like a pendulum, swings between the uncertainty of globalization, problematic human rights and conservatism.
That a hip-hop movement – with its internalized audacity and fearless anti-authoritarian frequency -would surge is no surprise. Although rap and hip hop are not new to Morocco, it is only in the last decade that new Moroccan audiences have been captured by the country’s rap movement. Since Moroccan rap artists and their lyrical narratives did not align with the pervasive conservative and traditional values, rap was considered new and unfamiliar. But zeitgeists blow powerfully, first sweeping up the youth culture, then igniting politics, fanning modernity in behaviour and challenging the status quo. Today rap is revolutionizing in Morocco and Draganov is an important catalysing figure. Fascinated, The WIRE investigates.
The beginnings of Greatness:
Adnan Mahyou, aka Draganov, was born in the Eastern region of Morocco, on the borders with Algeria, in Oujda. It is a place weighed down by history. Heritage and culture overlay the experience of those who grow up there. Its something you can’t escape, in its vastness, antiquity and influence. Oujda, a junction, a crossroads of civilizations and multiple sounds, would serve the young creative, Adnan, as both lodestone and guiding star to his career.
He created his first band, “The Kings 48”, with his friends and musicians Adil Boudebouz and DJ Adam in 2008 and released an EP called “System Dawla”. In 2010, Draganov decided to go solo and released his album “Zidou Lgoudam”. 2008 to 2012 proved a busy period of performances, notably the International Rai Festival (2012), the Festival for Children with Disabilities (2010) and the “No to Drugs” Festival (in 2009). 2013 would provide traction. His very first music video “7yat 9ssira” disrupted the Moroccan rap scene and scored more than 100,000 views on YouTube. In 2014 he won the title of Mawazine in the rap section, a culturally important competition that rewards and recognizes the best up-and-coming talents on the Moroccan scene.
2017 would be career-defining. A relocation to Casablanca provided a leveling up, creatively, and professionally. Here he could explore, experiment, and develop his own unique take on production. Morocco’s largest city would be fertile with connections and opportunity and Draganov would end up collaborating with several top artists including ElgrandeToto, Asmae Charifi, Manal Benchlikha, Spleux, 7liwa, Tagne, Jaylaan, Maria Nadim, and many others.
Dragovov’s creativity would continue to soar, and he subsequently released three albums, “SLLM”, “khissous v2” and “#DRAGAGALESSFDAR”, albums that were all successful, culture-shifting and galvanized a fandom for his art. His business acumen would also leverage success in the corporate world by signing contracts with the biggest brands and creating their soundtracks. This made him exceptionally popular in the advertising world and cemented his reputation digitally, indicating a savoir-faire for entrepreneurship and art. In 2022, he dropped the album “Colors”, a phenomenal success achieving more than 35M streams within the first weeks of the launch. It also solidified his place in the movement of Moroccan Hip Hop.
Artistry and cultural relevance:
Draganov is especially known for his innovative flow and sharp lyrics. He is confident in his prowess as a lyricist and narrates with deft syncopation. As a producer, his ear is tuned texturally to the soundscapes of his culture and heritage. He infuses elements of reggae and traditional Moroccan sounds such as Berber music, Arab, skah, and Gnoua music into an altogether unorthodox and innovative sound that lends the genre of Hip Hop a rich, earthy, and powerful African aesthetic. It serves as a bridge, boldly connecting the past to something new. This sonic contribution sees him being central to shifting culture in an almost anthropological fashion. It is not just spoken word, set to urban beats, but an excavation and retelling of stories pertinent to a region fraught with colonialism, religion and belief.
Draganov approaches the issue of inspiration like a sponge. Everything is instantly topical and worthy of discussion, debate, and analysis, from everything he has seen and experienced.
A fundamental memory and introduction to music, that still deeply affects to this day, is from when he used to live next to the markets in the old quarter of town. A man there used to sell cassette tapes, and who Draganov says was the one who inspired his sound today. “We had access to music for 12-hours straight,” recalled the rapper.
“He blew life into the neighbourhood by blasting tracks from Cheb Bilal, for example, all day long. We knew all of his inventory by heart. All of my inspiration, melodies, and vibes come from there. Music isn’t just about sounds put together, there’s an element that brings nostalgia and some memories back. They’re time capsules and that’s the power of it all. It’s innate,” he explains.
For 2023, the artist has not been resting on his laurels. His latest drop, in July, generated a hit single, “3Dabi”. With an accompanying cinematic video, it showcases his distinctive style, effortless delivery, and artistic tendency for beats. Committed to making sure his contribution to Moroccan music is of intrinsic value, both respecting and enlivening traditions, Draganov wants to actively promote the diversity and cultural richness of Morocco. He wants to ensure its cultural industry is relevant for the next 1000 years.
C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.
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