Posts Tagged ‘Shadia Mansour’

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.

Shahada x Shadia: bearing witness

October 18, 2010 2 comments

I’m often asked, “What value does Hip Hop have in the realm of cultural diplomacy?” A film review I read today in the New York Times about the new German film, “Shahada” (a thesis project by Burhan Qurbani that has been selected for next year’s Berlinale) struck a chord along that theme. Having not seen the film yet, I can’t comment on its merit as a work of art. However, the title and synopsis alone remind me that the word shahada, from the Arabic for ‘to bear witness/testify’, evokes not only the Muslim profession of faith, but an expression of personal knowledge and belief, which can also take the form of art. This brings me back to Hip Hop, a multi-faceted form of personal expression that serves to bear witness to one’s unique view of the world. It is also a profession of one’s belief that such expression can inspire others, and, in numbers, lead to change.

This explains how the same theme, shahada, can be used by both Hip Hop artists, such as American rap stars Mos Def and Freeway, who have openly discussed their conversion to Islam, and by jihadists, such as American-born Al Qaeda recruiter, Abu Mansour al-Amriki, who invokes shahada in his Youtube propaganda videos.

In response to those who ask me, “Why Hip Hop?”, I would offer that Hip Hop, in its true form, represents an artistic expression of shahada, not necessarily in a religious sense, but in a personal one, and, moreover, in a peaceful one. It is for that reason that I continue to advocate the support of Hip Hop-related programming by cultural diplomacy organizations, as well as others seeking to “engage the hearts and minds of Muslim youth”. One such organization that seems to get it is the British Council, who co-sponsored an event this past weekend at the Dash Arts center in London that featured Arab Hip Hop all-stars from Palestine (Tamer Nafar), Lebanon (Rayess Bek), Jordan (MC Samm), Algeria (Rabah Donquishoot), and London’s own Palestinian queen MC, Shadia Mansour, and US legend Talib Kweli. The event challenged the artists (many of whom had never met before) to take themes from the 6th century Arabian poems, the Mu’allaqat, and riff off of them to create new music in workshops, culminating in a tour throughout Europe. I’m excited to see and hear what these pioneers of the Arab Hip Hop movement came up with but I have no doubt that it will be an honest account of the world as they’ve seen it, just like the original Mu’allaqat, which described in great detail and poetry the world of pre-Islamic Bedouins. Shadia describes the feeling of reconnecting with that legacy in this quote from an article on Mondomix:

“The Mu’Allaqat poems… I thought I knew a lot about that era but after reading the poems, I learned a lot about my culture. The poems are about Bedouin life but the crazy thing is nothing much has changed… the traditions, the customs, our mannerisms… even the mentality, the conservative nature of that time is still alive in certain parts of the Arab world. To be honest, being Palestinian, being Arab and coming from a very cultural background I have taken my experience, my upbringing and what I feel and put that into all the songs we’re performing at the Roundhouse. Obviously we are all from different Arab regions and have different upbringings, but what I’ve learned from the poems is relative to how we are brought up and live as Arabs. I think it all made sense in the end.”

What other medium could so meaningfully connect young Arabs with their cultural heritage and at the same time allow them to connect with one another, and with other young people around the world, to bear witness, faithfully and creatively, to their lives at the turbulent dawn of the 21st century? Only Hip Hop, where followers make their own form of shahada, expressing belief in the power of music and poetry to affect change.


The Narcicyst x Shadia Mansour: “Hamdulillah”

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

After long last, and not a moment too soon or late, the much-anticipated music video for the first collaboration between Iraqi-Canadian MC The Narcicyst and Palestinian-British singer Shadia Mansour, “Hamdulillah”. Kudos to director Ridwan Adhami for a beautiful portrayal of contemporary Islam through the simplest montage of faces. It comes as a relief for one living in not one but two islamophobic societies, the Netherlands and the US. Nevertheless, al-hamduli’llah.

Lyrics and commentary coming soon..

Logic x Shadia Mansour: So Serious

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Brand new video from South London’s Logic (co-founder with Lowkey of the youth mobilization group, The People’s Army), and the great Shadia Mansour.

Read more…

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

Shadia Mansour wins back the Arab Kufiya

May 1, 2010 8 comments

Photo Credit: Ridz Design (via Illuminarcy Blog)

Last month, Palestinian Hip Hop star, Shadia Mansour, released the much-anticipated first single from her forthcoming debut album, “El Kofeye 3arabeye”/”The Kofeyye is Arabic”, featuring M-1 from the pro-Palestinian US rap group, Dead Prez. Prior to the release of the single, Shadia posted the following teaser video on Youtube, with this message about the song:

“In this song, I am claiming back its historical, political and revolutionary purpose. As you are aware, the ‘Kofeyye’ has been tastelessly commercialized and economically exploited worldwide. I feel that it is only right to give the people a thorough introduction and understanding of its symbolic existence.”

Already, the response has been remarkable, from impassioned messages of solidarity, to debates over the true origin of the so-called ‘Palestinian scarf’, to criticism of the attempt to reclaim as ‘Arab’ what has become an international symbol of resistance. Anthropologist and Hip Hop scholar Ted Swedenburg, in his recent lecture on the history of the kufiya at the Palestine Center, argues, “To try to reclaim the kufiya as simply Arab would be analogous to trying to reclaim rap music as African-American.”)

Closer examination of the lyrics, however, reveals a flaw in Dr. Swedenburg’s argument (which he, himself, admitted in a recent email). Shadia is not, in fact, trying to reclaim the kufiya from commercialization as a fashion accessory for hipsters and celebrities. Rather, she is trying to reclaim it from a more dangerous group of kufiya appropriators, the creators of the “Israeli Keffiyeh”, embroidered with blue Stars of David and the words “Long Live the People Israel” stitched across the top. The scarf was designed by a  Brooklyn-based Jewish Hip Hop promoter (I know, I know, it takes one to know one) who claims that his ancestors were wearing variations on the kufiya in ancient Yemen. In response to the “offense” taken by his “Arab friends”, Erez Safar offers this defense:

“I as a Jew am not offended by the Pope who wears a “kippah” and in the same respect, I don’t feel there is any reason for anyone taking offense to a Jewish person wearing a version of the Keffiyah which they identify with; especially considering the significance of this article of clothing in both of all of our histories.”

I, also as a Jew, am not buying this argument (nor the scarf) and feel compelled to call Mr. Safar and his supporters to task. First off, they have broken the first rule of Hip Hop: Be Original. Changing the color of the scarf and adding stars and a Zionist slogan does not make it a “remix”, just a shameless imitation. Furthermore, the claim of historical overlap does not supersede the fact that the kufiya has been recognized as a symbol of Arab/Palestinian pride for close to a century and appropriating it as a Zionist symbol is an inherently antagonistic act, especially given the present political context.

That said, I offer here a translation of Shadia’s lyrics, which win, hands down, this battle of symbols and language. Just ask the nearly 14,000 viewers who’ve watched & commented on her promo video (versus the 52 who’ve watched “Israeli Keffiyeh & DeScribe Live”), or the 500+ that showed up last night at Brooklyn’s Southpaw for an Arab Hip Hop showcase featuring DAM, The Narcicyst, Lowkey, and, of course, Shadia Mansour, with over 50 rockin the black and white checks, by my kufiya kount. As Jay-Z might put it to the creators of the Israeli kufiya, “We don’t believe you, you need more people.”

Translation by Ouassim Addoula (aka. Big Moor)

Verse 1

Good morning cousins, y’all welcome, come in

What would you like us to serve you, Arab blood or tears from our eyes?

I think that’s how they expected us to receive them

That’s why they got embarrassed when they realized their mistake

That’s why we rocked the kuffiyeh, the white and black

Now these dogs are startin to wear it as a trend

No matter how they design it, no matter how they change its color

The kuffiyeh is Arabic, and it will stay Arabic

The gear we rock, they want it; our culture, they want it

Our dignity, they want it; everything that’s ours, they want it

Half your country, half your home; why, why? No, I tell em

Stealin’ something that ain’t theirs, I can’t allow it

They imitatin us in what we wear, wear; from this land enough, what else do you want?

About Jerusalem, Jerusalem, would they be worried, how can you humans?

Before y’all ever rocked a kuffiyeh, we here to remind em who we are

And whether they like it or not, this is our clothing style


That’s why we rock the kuffiyeh, cuz it’s patriotic

The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic

That’s why we rock the kuffiyeh, our essential identity

The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic

Come on, throw up the kuffiyeh (throw that kuffiyeh up for me)

The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic

Throw it up, come on “Bilad Al Sham” (Greater Syria)

The kuffiyeh is Arabic, and it will stay Arabic

Verse 2

There’s none yet like the Arab people

Show me which other nation in the world was more influential

The picture is clear, we are the cradle of civilization

Our history and cultural heritage testify to our existence

That’s why I rocked the Palestinian gear

From Haifa, Jenin, Jabal al Nar to Ramallah

Let me see the kuffiyeh, the white and red

Let me throw it up in the sky; I’m

Arab, and my tongue creates earthquakes

I shake the words of war

Listen, I’m Shadia Mansour, and the gear I’m rockin is my identity

Since the day I was born raisin people’s awareness been my responsibility

But I was raised between fear and evil; between two areas

Between the grudging and the poor, I seen life from both sides

God bless the kuffiyeh; however you rock me, wherever you see me

I stay true to my origins, Palestinian