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ENTERTAINMENT/ ARTS/ LITERATURE => Arts & Music => Topic started by: Tracey on April 12, 2004, 06:25:54 AM



Title: Middle East Hip-Hop
Post by: Tracey on April 12, 2004, 06:25:54 AM
Israeli hip-hop takes on Mideast politics
By Joshua Mitnick, Special for USA TODAY

YEHUD, Israel Thousands of teenagers shrieking at the sight of Israel's hottest pop idol packed a soccer field in this Tel Aviv suburb late this summer, two days after twin suicide bombings killed 15 and wounded dozens.
Wearing baggy sweat pants, a baseball cap pushed off-center and a glittering, rhinestone-studded Star of David necklace, Kobi Shimoni (known by the stage name Subliminal) swaggered on stage as if he were the Israeli incarnation of Eminem. With a booming rhythm track and an Israeli flag draped from the DJ stand, the show turned out to be as much a patriotic pep rally as a rapper's delight.

"Who has an Israeli army dog tag, put your hands in the air!" Subliminal called out in a mix of Hebrew and English. Hundreds of hands shot up. "Who is proud to be a Zionist in the state of Israel, put your hands in the air! Hell yeah!"

The patriotic appeal at the concert won chants of support from the rocking crowd, mostly adolescents grappling with weekly terrorist attacks and a crippling economic recession.

With sidekick Yoav Eliasi (aka The Shadow), Subliminal has parlayed nationalist themes into a chart-topping album, transformed the Star of David into a fashion statement and helped integrate the music of urban America into the fold of Israeli pop.

A voice for teens

For Subliminal, the music has generated tens of thousands of record sales. For Israeli teens, it has given voice to their outrage at the state of affairs in their country. Hip-hop, a quintessentially American art form, is helping bolster national morale in a country bruised by three years of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

For most of the past decade, Israeli hip-hop artists operated on the margins of mainstream Israeli music, which has generally been a mix of Hebrew-language rock and Mediterranean crooning. But when hopes for Israeli-Arab peace disintegrated three years ago amid a violent Palestinian uprising, rappers such as Subliminal moved beyond schoolyard party lyrics to rail about the turbulence overwhelming their country.

"Before I started listening to him, I wanted to move to Canada," said Eden Yair, 12. The braces-wearing youngster leaned over a police barrier in hopes of getting a glimpse of the rap star before the show. "We need something that will encourage us. He sings that there's still hope," she said.

Subliminal is not the only Israeli rapper preaching politics. Mook E, whose rap is soaked in reggae phrasing, scored a breakthrough Israeli hit with a song called Talking About Peace. The song bemoans the difficulties of rapprochement while warning about the threat of "fingers on the trigger." A funk outfit whose nonsensical Hebrew name translates to "Snake Fish" predicts the inevitability of a Palestinian state.

Filling a void

Music critics say the hip-hop lyrics have filled a void left by Israel's top pop artists, who have shied away from mixing music and politics for fear of losing their audience.

Hip-hop "made a revolution because before them Israeli music wasn't honest. It was escapist music," says Sagi Bin-Nun, a music writer for the daily Ha'aretz newspaper. "The songs talked in clues, and people hid their honest feelings. People spoke in metaphors." With hip-hop, Israeli rappers get a chance to offer their own narrative of current events, which makes the music a kind of "CNN of the people," Bin-Nun says.

Of the top hip-hop acts, Subliminal's grim prognosis seems most in sync with the nationalistic shift in Israeli sentiment over the years. On the cover of his hit album The Light and the Shadow, an inferno engulfs Subliminal's head. In the song Divide and Conquer, Subliminal and The Shadow sneer at the 1990s peace accords that aspired to create a Palestinian state, and capture the outrage over the violence that erupted three years ago:

To think that an olive branch symbolizes peace.

Sorry, it doesn't live here anymore.

It's been kidnapped, or murdered.

There was peace, my friend.

Handshakes, fake smiles.

Treaties signed in blood.

Where is God?

The angry lyrics and Subliminal's right-wing political convictions have drawn fire from Israeli cultural critics, who call him a militarist and a fascist. Subliminal, whose fluent English is peppered with slang imported from the USA, rejects the labels. He says his songs reflect the daily realities and feelings of Israeli youth.

"In America, hip-hop is the fastest way to get rich, to talk about the 'bitches, cars and money,' " he says. "In Israel the words are very militant, like the situation we're living in. You open the newspaper in the morning in Israel, and this is what you get."

The appeal of hip-hop has crossed the country's ethnic boundaries. Young Israeli Arabs alienated by the Jewish majority glorify African-American rappers as kindred spirits in the struggle against discrimination. Tamer Nafer, an Israeli Arab from the Tel Aviv suburb of Lod, was one of the first to begin rhyming in Arabic after years of listening to Tupac Shakur.

"I said, 'Damn, if we removed the word n- - - and you put (in) the word Arab, it's like singing about us,' " says Nafer, whose hybrid Hebrew and Arabic lyrics challenge Jewish stereotypes of Arabs as terrorists. "It's delivering the message to a younger generation. Politicians don't talk to our generation. But politics is the way of our life, so I'm bringing the way of our life in their language."

With a trio of best-selling albums in the last year and hourly radio play on Israeli pop radio, hip hop has established a beachhead on the local music scene.

Record companies say they've been swamped with demos from artists hoping to become the next Subliminal. But because politics has become an inseparable ingredient of the genre, record executives say they judge new talent on the manifesto as much as the music.

"There's no reason to release an album of hip-hop unless it has something to say. If the artists don't establish an identity, I won't release it," says Gadi Gidor, an artists-and-repertoire executive at Helicon, the label that produced Subliminal's album. "Let's move the debate away from the parliament and onto the streets. If we're not going to say anything, let's go back to Mozart and Bach."





Title: Re: Middle East Hip-Hop
Post by: Tracey on April 12, 2004, 06:28:31 AM
Hip-hop breaks out in the Middle East
Rappers give edgy new voice to their pride and anguish
By Loolwa Khazzoom

TEL AVIV - "I want to tell people about the racism I experience," says Tarik Malko, 16, who aspires to be a rap star. "It's hard for me to talk about it, because people don't understand. But when I sing, I say what I love, what I hate. I even curse. I get everything out of myself, everything inside me. I love this music!"

Malko and her peers from Efsharut Aheret (A Different Option), an Ethiopian-Israeli youth group from Ashdod, Israel, were among the 700 concert-goers at the recent third annual Hip Hop in the Park in Tel Aviv, sponsored by Yaga Production House, a studio promoting up and coming Israeli hip-hop artists.

"Through hip-hop, we look at black people in America succeeding,"

Malko continues, "and we know that we can succeed, too." Ethiopian-Israeli rappers Bar and Jeremy assert that scores of community youth are drawn to hip-hop for this very reason.

Like their Ethiopian-Israeli peers, Arab-Israeli rappers such as MWR (Mahmoud, Waseem and Richard), Dam, and Tammer use hip-hop as a medium for discussing their struggles with discrimination and poverty,as well as the drug and crime problems arising from these struggles.

Arapiot (a hybrid Hebrew word for Arab female rappers), the only Arab female rappers in the world, additionally sing about their struggles as young women in the Arab community: "We have families that don't give us our freedom to determine our fate, to get an education, to go out with friends, to choose whom we will marry," says Arapiot's Safa. "In our songs we demand our freedom."

Shiri and Shorti, Israel's first female rappers - together a mix of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African Jewish), Sephardi
(Spanish-Portuguese/Latin Jewish) and Ashkenazi (Central/Eastern European Jewish) backgrounds -focus mostly on gender issues.

"I give my point of view as a 20-year-old girl in Israel, with her own problems," says Shorti.

Most men in Israeli hip-hop, she says, focus on general issues, such as politics and economics. "I'm talking about subjects I haven't heard here yet. I'm taking it in your face, really personal, really out there." Shorti's first single is about her experience having sex with another girl - not yet a subject of mainstream Israeli music.

The messages of Israeli hip-hop are "very individual," explains Chemi, a member of the now-defunct band Shabak Sameh, which pioneered hip-hop in Israel 10 years ago. "Hip-hop is a tool. Everyone uses it to say what he or she wants."

Chemi's new group, Haloutsei Halal (Space Pioneers), frequently works with Arab-Israeli rap artists in concerts and on recordings, promoting messages of tolerance. As the words of a recent single in Hebrew and Arabic state:

"Look into my eyes. We both have the same blood. In the end, they will bury
us both the same way. Come, let's be neighbors and not enemies. Because there is nothing more important than life."

In addition to the messages of hip-hop being diverse, hip-hop cultural norms -such as clothing and body language - also vary from artist to artist.

"Look at me, I'm dressed in a dress," says rap and soul artist Me2qa, who performed at Hip Hop in the Park. "I'm not trying to look like 'Yo, yo, whassup?' I'm being myself."

Subliminal, Israel's leading hip-hop group, strictly adheres to the bandana, baseball cap, sports jersey, and baggy pants get-up associated with mainstream rap in America. But whereas the Subliminal artists may look as if they jumped straight off the set of MTV, their message is unique:

"Are you wearing a Star of David proudly on your chest?" Subliminal bellows into the mike at the opening of a concert, as thousands shoot their hands skyward, screaming enthusiastically.

"Once it was a shame to walk around with a Star of David," says MC Hatsel, who like the other artists in the group comes from an Iranian-Jewish family.

"Jews have been ashamed of our symbol because of what we learned from generations of oppression. We, however, are not ashamed. In our CD,everyone gets a Star of David as a gift."

Whatever their message and style, young Israeli women and men of all ethnicities are finding a venue for self-expression in hip-hop.

"It's how the new generation communicates," asserts MC Remedy, who flew from New York to Israel for a tour in the early summer months.

"I think Israelis like rap music because a mike is a very powerful tool to say things," adds Momi Levi, who produces some of Israel's biggest hip-hop artists. "And here in Israel, we have a lot of things to say."








Title: Re: Middle East Hip-Hop
Post by: gman on April 13, 2004, 07:51:24 AM
Hmmm. Sounds like this Subliminal kid needs a beatdown, at least of the lyrical variety. Like KRS-ONE said H.I.P.H.O.P. means "Her Infinite Power Helps Oppressed People" not "Helps to Oppress Palestinians".
The other artists mentioned in the article sound interesting though.
There is a Palestinian rapper called the Iron Sheikh, he's a good MC with a strong revolutionary message. I caught a couple of his songs in Columbus Ohio when he performed there. I have no idea how to get ahold of any CDs he may have or if he has a website, but folks might want to do a search on him.
Nuff Respect to the freedom fighters of Palestine, and to those Israelis who have the guts to defy their racist government.


Title: Re: Middle East Hip-Hop
Post by: iyah360 on April 13, 2004, 08:28:03 AM
copping black American culture to justify colonialism, wow.

what is next? neo-nazi reggae? -  "jamming in the name of Fuehrer"?


Title: Re: Middle East Hip-Hop
Post by: gman on April 15, 2004, 03:45:30 PM
"Ve're German... and I hope zu are German too"
"African German, seize your stein..."
"Excuse me vile I sip my stein, ve're chillin down here by ze Rhine..."
"Der Fuerer rule inna Hungary, der Aryan ve a run Poland, der Gestapo ve are very tuff, and ven ve goosestep ve boots nuh scuff..."
"Burning ze juden tonIIIIIGHT..."
A million apologies to Bob Marley and the victims of the holocaust, but I just couldn't resist that one. I used to go out with a sista who's dad was German and sometimes we would get into a silly kind of mood, if that helps to explain the shameful distortion of Bob's legacy above.
*GULP* Hope people have a sense of humor around here...