Demure, sweet and soft-spoken are not usually words one would choose to describe a rapper, but Afghanistan’s first female rap artist gives a disarming first impression.
“Rap does not have to be angry,” Soosan Firooz said. She uses it to express painful childhood memories of being a civil war refugee and sees rap as a medium through which she can defy the repression of women.
In her first music video recently released on YouTube, Firooz appeared in Western style clothing and jewelry — headscarf notably absent.
But pushing the envelope and breaking from Afghanistan’s conservative cultural norms does not come without a price. Some members of her family have disowned her and she has faced numerous death threats. Her father quit his job so that he can protect her around the clock.
But in the safety of her living room wearing stonewashed jeans and a sweatshirt, she smiled and seemed relaxed as she talked about how she loves Shakira.
“I am worried about it but refuse to just stay inside my house,” she said. “I receive threats on phone…but I don’t surrender to those risks.”
Firooz explained that her creative expressions are not just for personal gratification because she bears the heavy burden of being the family’s primary breadwinner. Firooz also works as a soap opera actress to bring in more income, but she hopes to make it big with her music.
“I am not only the oldest daughter of the family but also a son of the family and my family needs me. I need to do this job,” she said.
Although she dreams of performing in other countries, Firooz takes pride in being an Afghan.
“Afghanistan is not a jungle where there are lions everywhere that scare people, there are human beings living in this country,” she said.
“The people of Afghanistan are braver than the rest of the world.”