24 June 2009

Hip Hop Comes to Gaza

I wish I could have been there for this as I'd have loved to see it. There are some brilliant Palestinian artists springing up all over the world, including inside Gaza and the West Bank.
On Thursday night, 50 groups and soloists from the West Bank and Gaza gathered to participate in HipHopKom, the first Palestinian hip-hop competition, aimed at selecting the best up and coming Palestinian rap group. The event was broadcast simultaneously in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah, with the participants in either city able to watch each other via video conferencing and projection.

The 16 finalists were selected by an international panel of judges, including Palestinian rapper, Shadia Mansour, from London, Zaki from Denmark, Mazzi from the New York group S.O.U.L. Purpose, and Suhel Nafar, one of the founders of Da Arabic MC (DAM), the pioneering and leading Palestinian rap group.

In the shadow of the Israeli security barrier, climbing over the rubble, Rashed Al-Remawi, a member of the group Pikafi ('Enough is Enough') from El Bireh, said rap gave him the perfect way to protest Israel's treatment of the Palestinians

"We sing about our personal situation or about the political situation. We want to send a message to the world and to anyone who thinks that we, the Palestinians, are terrorists, and to show that Palestine is exactly the opposite," Al-Remawi told The Media Line.

His cousin and fellow rapper Mohammed Abu Ghosh said the competition provided a welcome platform to communicate their feelings to a wide audience. "It's very important because I was frustrated and I needed to convey my message," said Abu Ghosh. "When I sing rap I can pass on my message and a lot of people hear me. I can talk about what I want not just to one or two people but to a lot of people."

"We're not trying to be, 'hey we're hip-hop; we're gonna free Palestine; we're gonna bring all the refugees back'. We're realistic: it's harder than that. So we're just sparking the kids' minds so the youth won't be going to drugs or leaving school or doing bad things that will kill our cause or kill our resistance to kill our fighting and get our liberty at the end," said Nafar.

"You've gotta understand that you can't change the world but you've gotta spark the minds of the people that will change the world," he said.

The star guest among the judges at Thursday's competition was Mansour, an acclaimed Palestinian rapper who grew up in London. She said she was impressed by the new generation of hip-hop talent in the West Bank and Gaza.

"I'm seeing a lot of enthusiastic kids, a lot of inspirational kids take part," Mansour told The Media Line.

HipHopKom was part of Project Hip-hop Palestine, created by the Sabreen Association for Artistic Development in association with the Danish government. Five of the finalists performed in Gaza City, hooking up to the audience in Ramallah via videoconference until local Hamas officials shut down the show. Darg, a group from Gaza, were voted overall winners. They win the chance to record a CD and tour Denmark.

This exposure is sure to be a launch pad for success: DAM's popularity and international acknowledgment have been inspirational to both young Palestinians in the Middle East and their supporters all over the world. DAM's album 'Stop Selling Drugs' was released locally in 1998 and the controversial title track of their 2001 follow up album, 'Min Irhabi' (Who's the Terrorist?) was released on the net and more than 1 million people downloaded it within the first month. The song was released free with Rolling Stone magazine in France, where it became a 'street anthem', and other top artists, such as Manu Chao and Noir Desir featured the song in a compilation album. source
Another great Hip Hop artist in England is Deir Yassin, you can listen to some of his music on Facebook here and you can also buy tracks as well.