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Posts Tagged ‘DAM’

Arab Rappers in Solidarity

April 22, 2011 3 comments

Great new piece by raptivist and scholar Aisha Fukushima on New America Media:

Arab Rappers in Solidarity With Uprisings in Middle East & North Africa

 Arab Rappers in Solidarity With Uprisings in Middle East & North Africa

New America Media, News Report, Aisha Fukushima, Posted: Apr 16, 2011

Many prominent Arab hip-hop artists inspired by uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have released music in solidarity with protesters in the region. Though the messages of these new songs are not necessarily new to Arab hip-hop, the urgency and relevance of this new music has gained these artists increasing international attention.While Arab hip-hop started to gain its recognition in the ‘90s, tracing back the history can be difficult in light of the fact that it stems from such a complex fusion of diasporic communities, people, art and culture. In North America, for instance, artists such as Fredwreck and The Narcicyst are cited as pioneers of Arab hip-hop, while groups such as DAM are credited with jump-starting the movement in Palestine.In a conversation with Excentrik, an East Bay music producer, “actionist” (action activist and oud player), he explained, “Yeah, there’s an Arab hip-hop scene, but it’s a global scene, it’s not like a localized scene. Unfortunately, there’s not enough cats doing quality shit that have like a [single] place to go in any of these cities… It’s an esoteric scene, it’s random because it’s so big and so spread apart.” While there are certainly active indigenous Arab hip-hop scenes throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East, the majority of the most celebrated emcees in the global scene are based in North America and Europe, where hip-hop has had a longer history and faces less challenges in terms of censorship.
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DAM in Sheikh Jarrah II: The Remix

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

For those who caught my piece about DAM’s concert in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the site of weekly protests against the Israeli government’s eviction of Arab Israelis, here’s an amazing post-script: two Palestinian teenagers, male & female, sitting on a graffiti’d wall in Sheikh Jarrah, one wearing a kufiya, singing the DAM anthem, “Min Erhabi/Who’s the Terrorist?”

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Arab Hip Hop All-Stars assemble in Brooklyn

May 2, 2010 4 comments

This past Friday night will go down in the history of Hip Hop as the night that the leaders of the Arab Hip Hop movement, DAMThe NarcicystLowkey, and Shadia Mansour, first performed together on stage. And where else could an event like this take place? None other than Brooklyn’s own Southpaw. For anyone who was there, it was a truly remarkable evening, with each artist building on the excitement of the others to take their individual performances beyond where they might normally be at a solo show. And the energy from the crowd, over 500 strong, rockin their “Slingshot Hip Hop” t-shirts and, of course, their black and white kufiyas, was more than just people having a good time. They were giving their own energy back to the artists, with their bodies and voices, as if to make their own physical contribution to what, in this case, amounts to a musical rally. Truly a testament to the force of this supergroup, and the force of the Arab Hip Hop movement as a unified force, to garner support for the political causes that they address, including, perhaps most crucially, the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, as articulated in the anthem “Long Live Palestine”, which they performed together here (lyrics here):

Witnessing the massive crowd of young people in Brooklyn bumpin their heads and pumpin their fists in solidarity gave me one of those rare glimmers of hope that our generation may yet have a positive and lasting impact on relations between the Middle East and the West. By creating a transatlantic union of Hip Hop fans and artists who are willing to speak out for justice and freedom, at concerts, rallies, and on social media networks, Shadia, DAM, Narcy and Lowkey are multiplying the impact of their music, and their message, exponentially. I commend them for this unified effort and encourage them to continue on their mission. After all, this is the highest (and perhaps only true) goal of Hip Hop: to effect change through music, as opposed to violence.

On that idealistic note, let me join brother Narcy and sister Shadia in saying, Hamdu’llah.

Videos & photo via Joe Seago

DAM in Sheikh Jarrah: Protest re-Imagined

March 15, 2010 1 comment

For several months now, left-wing Israeli and Palestinian protesters have been holding weekly protests in the town of Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, to protest the evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in favor of Jewish settlers. Protesters, Arab and Israeli, have been met with police violence, rampant arrests, and regular visits from stone-throwing Orthodox Jews.

Nevertheless, hundreds continue to gather each Saturday in Sheikh Jarrah, among them foreign activists and Arab-Israeli lawmakers. Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, have been instrumental in raising international awareness about what’s going on in East Jerusalem and keeping supporters informed about the rallies. YouTube and Flickr have also played important roles, allowing for real-time photo/video archiving of the rallies, including aggressive police behavior, arrests, and counter-protests from Orthodox Jews. The video below shows a typical scene from such a rally, beginning with smiling Israeli demonstrators offering a bouquet of flowers to the chief of police, and ending with police getting aggressive with demonstrators at the end of the rally and Orthodox Jews approaching.

The day before, the Palestinian rap superstars, DAM (Da Arabian MCs) gave a free performance in Sheikh Jarrah (promoted by the International Solidarity Movement) that drew a large crowd as well, though no arrests or violence (though the concert did lead to the police declaring the next day’s rally unauthorized, citing a regulation that allows only 1 public assembly per week).

Their underlying message was the same as that of the protesters, though the words they used go beyond a simple chant to the complex rhyme scheme of their 2001 anthem, “Min Irhabi/Who’s the Terrorist?”, which frames the rhetorical conundrum of the powerless Palestinian being accused of terror by those who terrorize (the Israeli government) by evicting families from their homes:

Who’s a terrorist?
I’m a terrorist?!
How am I a terrorist when you’ve taken my land?
Who’s a terrorist?
You’re the terrorist!
You’ve taken everything I own while I’m living in my homeland
You’re killing us like you’ve killed our ancestors
You want me to go to the law?
What for?
You’re the Witness, the Lawyer, and the Judge!
If you are my Judge
I’ll be sentenced to death
You want us to be the minority?
To end up the majority in the cemetery?
In your dreams!

The question this raises for me is one of the effectiveness of public assembly and how, in the Imagination Age, we can understand political protest in the form of cultural performance. By drawing a crowd of young people to a live music event, where the focus was on the artists and their words, not on confrontation with the police or with Orthodox Jewish settlers, the organizers of the DAM show in Sheikh Jarrah achieved, in my opinion, a level of political statement as strong as any other. This type of event allows the call for justice to be sounded without inciting violence, and offers an alternative means of contextualizing the conflict within the minds of young audiences, wherein the arts are seen as a viable form of protest, and an alternative to physical conflict. It is yet another powerful example of music being used as a political tool in the Middle East, with Hip Hop leading the charge.

In comparing these two events in Sheikh Jarrah, neither of which received much attention in the press nor any official response from the Israeli government, how do we then measure their relative effectiveness? I would argue that the events were most effective in tandem,  expanding a traditional protest event into a multi-dimensional, cultural happening and linking cultural expression to an ongoing political struggle. With the dissemination of photos and videos via social media and crowd-sourcing platforms, both events succeeded at reaching local and international audiences in a way that they never would have been able to achieve through traditional news coverage. Furthermore, the coupling of diverse events around a single cause augments the dimensions of the overall campaign by offering multiple points of engagement for activists, supporters, and observers. In the case of Sheikh Jarrah, Hip Hop has added that dimension of cultural engagement and, in so doing, expanded the local base of support and the global impact of the movement. Whether this model of public protest will eventually eliminate the need for traditional physical confrontation is almost irrelevant. What is important here is that the legacy of young people rallying around political art is alive and well in the Imagination Age.

Photo credits: (above) Brady Ng (via Palestine Monitor), (top) Uruknet.info

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Hip Hop Diplomacy x Language Learning: DAM

February 9, 2010 1 comment

In a conversation yesterday with my Imagination Age colleagues, Rita J. King and Josh Fouts, the question came up of how to use Hip Hop Diplomacy to promote language learning and I immediately thought of this amazing video from the Palestinian rap pioneers DAM, in which group leader Tamer Nafar spits a series of rhymes off of each letter in the Arabic alphabet.

It’s a remarkable video, stylistically and lyrically, and it deserves a moment of appreciation. First of all, it uses a research-proven method of language acquisition, linking words to images, the audio to the visual. Going a step further, Nafar carefully selects words (and the director matches images) that signify certain cultural and political themes, including Muslim-American icon Muhammad Ali, Hip Hop bling, images of Palestine, snapshots of fellow Arab Hip Hop stars, such as Canadian-Iraqi MC Narcicyst, Egyptian supergroup the Arabian Knightz, and Palestinian R&B singer Shadia Mansour, not to mention political figures such as the Ayatollah Khomeini and Hosni Mubarak. But the best part is the simplest, when a buzzing bee flies across the screen as the sound “zz-zz” is repeated, to illustrate the sound of the letter ز (‘z’ equivalent). I wish I’d seen this video when I was first learning Arabic. Not to mention the fact that it’s set to some of the best American rap instrumentals of the past 2 decades (by Kanye West, Swizz Beats, Just Blaze, et al), which is only increasing my intrinsic motivation to absorb the sounds, letters, and images I’m seeing. That, my non-linguists, is the golden ticket for language learning. If you’re motivated (eg. to earn money, to make friends, to pick up chicks, etc.) and if you’re immersed in meaningful content, you’re gonna absorb more and more quickly than by just reading from a book, all by your lonesome. If you don’t believe me, just ask Noam Chomsky. But I doubt if Tamer needed to read Chomsky or Howard Gardner (Theory of Multiple Intelligences) or Stephen Krashen (Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis) to create a video that would entertain, educate, and inspire a global audience to learn his native tongue. He just did what he does naturally: crafted clever rhymes over dope beats and then portrayed them in a next-level video, mixing text and image and self-reference, like what DA Pennebaker did with Bob Dylan for the “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, though I can’t be certain that this was an influence either.

Either way, it’s one of the most creative and innovative language learning videos I’ve seen in my language learning life. Props to Tamer and the boys from DAM! Teachas, all a y’all.