'Palestinians' embracing hip-hop to push 'perspective of the victims'
This is NOT satire!
GAZA CITY -- The wanna-be gangsta boys arrive in baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts bearing the likeness of rapper Tupac Shakur, looking for a chance to freestyle with the night's star performers. The groupie girls in glittery tops throw their hands in the air, cheering on the breakdancers, when the hip-hop party is brought to a screeching halt:
Time for evening prayer.
Members of R.F.M. perform in Gaza City
Across the Gaza Strip, West Bank and even in Israel, young Arabic rappers are trying to juggle Middle East traditions with contemporary Western culture to create a political voice for their generation.
Just as Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Ice-T created furors with songs such as "911 Is a Joke," "F-k Tha Police" and "Cop Killer," Palestinian rappers such as Nafar take a provocative, controversial approach.
Palestinian rap first blossomed in Israel, where Arab citizens like Nafar generally have greater freedom and opportunity than Palestinians living in the Israeli-[won] West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But the conservative Gaza Strip - where alcohol is all but banned, movie theaters are nearly nonexistent and Islam is a foundation for many families - is proving to be fertile new ground for hip-hop.
In perhaps its most controversial song, "Watch Your Back, Arabs," R.F.M. lashes out at Jews and Arabs.
"Where are the Arab people?
Where is the Arab blood?
Where is the Arab anger?
Where, where and where ...
Driving the coupe car
Smoking the cigar
Voting for the super star "American Idol"
And forgetting about our martyrs, wounded, prisoners. ... Have you heard the last news!?"
While many young Palestinians are embracing hip-hop, not everyone in the Gaza Strip sees rap as a welcome addition.
A recent rally to celebrate the end of Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip, held amid the rubble of Israel's largest settlement, came to an abrupt end when supporters of the Islamic group Hamas stoned a young rap group on the stage.
"People got more religious during this uprising and they prefer to listen to Hamas songs," said Mohammed al Fara, one of the members of P.R. "They didn't like the music. Hamas guys were mostly upset because a lot of girls were excited about us and they were waving their hands as we sang."
It may take more time for hip-hop to gain broad acceptance in the conservative parts of the Gaza Strip. But it's gaining respectability and visibility around the world (Nissenbaum, Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2005).