Egyptian rapper Zap defends controversial new book ‘Habibaty’
Egyptian rapper Zap says no sexual innuendo in new book ‘Habibaty’
An unexpected flow of fans to a book signature-gathering for Egyptian underground rapper Zap Tharwat has grabbed the attention of many this month.
Zap, who rose to fame in 2011 during political turmoil in Egypt, unknowingly created a fuss at the Cairo International Book Fair this month at his book’s signing event.
Since its release, Zap’s new book “Habibaty,” the Arabic for my beloved, has drawn both positive and negative attention on social media platforms.
The Egyptian rapper, speaking to Al Arabiya News, says he never expected his 100-page book to be cause of such a debate.
“I wasn’t expecting the controversy that erupted upon the book’s release,” he says.
“The book discusses the value of the word Habibty and those who deserve it in our lives,” such as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, Zap explains.
“Even when we sing the Egyptian national anthem, we refer to Egypt as our beloved country,” he adds.
The book, Zap explains, is “interactive” in that it allows readers to put their experiences down in writing following every chapter.
“Every chapter has three empty pages [at the end] for readers to write their own stories.”
While the book has been praised by some, it has similarly been criticized as a “weak literary product,” a description the author regards as unwarranted.
found out the day i went to the book fair there was 1/4 million people there. no shizzle. aloom zap tharwat wala aloom meen?— Reem (@Reemelie) February 8, 2015
Just finished reading Zap Tharwat's new book. Amazing!!— Mr Brilliant (@TheOmarAshraf) February 8, 2015
I read 2 pages of Zap Tharwat's book and I think I almost had a heart attack.— Macyy (@MacyMaher) February 6, 2015
I used to like Zap tharwat, bas ba3d l ketab l 3'areb lli katabo da, I have kindda changed my opinion about how he thinks.— Sarah (@SarahNMSA) February 6, 2015
Refuting claims made by some of the book’s critics, Zap denies his work contains any offensive words or makes any sexual innuendos.
He says some of the pages were shared on social media and were attributed to his book. Zap says many of these posted pages were not from his book, while many others were taken out of context and as a result skewed the meaning.
Commercially, Zap says the book “is doing well” and that a fifth edition is on the way to be published.
“An estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 copies have been sold until now,” he says.
At the signing event, one notices the significant popularity of the book among women.
“The book targets an audience between the ages of 14 and 22 and maybe the romantic name has catered to women audiences more,” Zap admits.
Zap and the revolution
Born in Amman, Jordan, Ahmed Tharwat Zaki is an Egyptian rapper, songwriter and book writer. His nickname Zap was given to him by a friend, he told Al Arabiya News.
The 27-year-old has contributed to songs produced by independent singers whose songs focus on injustices and struggles seen as important by many Egyptian and Arab youth.
He began creating his own music four years ago during the start of the Egyptian revolution. He released his first song and music video, for “Kateb le bokra gawab” – aka Writing a Letter for Tomorrow – two days before the 2011 uprising against autocrat President Hosni Mubarak.
Among Zap’s top tracks is “Ethbat Makanak” – aka “Stay Where You Are” – an iconic revolution song in which he teamed up with Egyptian band Cairokee.
Rapping vs. writing
When Zap was asked if a balance between writing and rapping was possible, he said one career definitely took away from the other.
“My knowledge of rap is not at the same level of my writing but I can say that I pursued writing because there are messages that cannot be delivered through rap,” he explained.
The book is Zap’s fourth. He published a collection of his poems in his first book, “Agenda.” His second book is called “Salam” and the third is “7 Ayam,” Arabic for “Seven Days.”
In defense of his book, Zap said some intellectuals accused his book of being a “weak literary product” because of his simplistic writing style. He said he intentionally mixed colloquial Egyptian and formal Arabic to cater to his readers and encourage them to read.
“I’ve had so many fans telling me they are not casual readers but were encouraged to purchase my book. That’s why I used a simple and easy language that merges both.”
He also said he does not see himself as an author but as a rapper.
“Writing is not my profession, but rapping is,” he reiterates.
When asked if he would continue writing books despite the mixed reactions he has received, Zap says this depends on whether he feels motivated to write on a specific topic.
“I belong to the revolutionary generation that hardly quits on anything impossible, so I’m not giving up anytime soon.”