You Need to Listen to the All-Girl Arab Collective "Sawtuha"

“Sawtuha” is the voice of the women you didn’t see in the glossy photos of the Arab Spring that flooded the pages of magazines.

VICE Staff

VICE Staff

Berlin/Cologne-based Jakarta Records has been putting out an eclectic mix of artists since 2005, but their latest release puts together an unconventional group of female Arab artists in a compilation called Sawtuha. Translating roughly to “her voice,” Sawtuha brings together nine singers and MC’s on an album with varying styles- from a mixture of French and Arabic rap to lyrical pop- on a single album with one main theme: freedom.

The album art depicts a pile of women and men on a motorcycle driving towards a sign that reads “Hooriya” (freedom). But the only men that touched this album were Sudanese/American producer Oddisee and Olof Dreijer of The Knife. This album’s all-female lineup is a stark contrast to popular images consumed by Western media of the Arab Spring: young men screaming in the streets.

The revolutions of the Arab Spring in the countries these artists are from made it difficult for women to participate in open protest. In Tahrir Square, gang rapes threatened the female protesters that came to the streets in an attempt to unseat the dictatorship and corruption of Hosni Mubarak, and in Tunisia, a woman raped by the police as charged with indecency. One of the most shocking and iconic images of the revolution came from the epicenter of the Arab Spring. The woman in the blue bra, a veiled protester dragged and kicked by Egyptian police through Tahrir Square, has became the rallying cry of female protesters in Cairo, Benghazi, Tunis, and beyond, where brutal dictatorship doesn’t just mean oppression on the basis of class or race but of gender.

Sawtuha is the voice of the women you didn’t see in the glossy photos of the Arab Spring that flooded the pages of magazines and newspapers at the height of the protests. Their revolution, like the countless revolutions of the Arab Spring, doesn’t begin and end with the unseating of single a dictator or a government. Sawtuha gives a glimpse into the revolutionary Arab woman’s world. They’re fiercely patriotic, proud, and can sing and rap like it's nothing.

“Sawtuha” drops today, and you can stream it here. Listen to the premiere of two songs below: