Palestinian hip-hop doc premieres at Sundance

January 22nd, 2008 | Posted in Culture, Palestine, Politics, Resistance

    Agence France Presse (AFP). Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008


    Photo: Nigel Parry, DAM performing in New York City.

The Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, which has spawned a cult following and a small army of imitators, stars in a new film about the underground music scene in the Middle East, which premiered on Friday at the Sundance Film Festival. “Slingshot Hip Hop,” by director Jackie Salloum, offers a peek into contemporary life in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Middle East hip-hop culture inspired by the political positions of American rappers such as Chuck D, Tupac Shakur and Eminem.

Rapper Mahmoud Shalabi, from the village of Akka, is featured in the documentary, as is female hip-hop duo Arapeyat. The movie also highlights the work of the group Palestinian Rapperz (PR) among others.

In the film, Palestinian rap groups offer an alternative form of resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Some critics suggest that the new music simply reinforces longstanding cultural differences. But Salloum has a different take. “Palestinians are steadfast and a very proud people,” she says.

“When I visit my family in the West Bank, the situation just gets worse and worse. But these rappers gave me hope,” she says.

The filmmaker says the rap groups bring a positive message to young people, encouraging them to express their anger through rhymes rather than violence. And although they are not topping the charts in Israel, they have attracted a small, leftist Jewish fan base. “It’s still underground, but it’s getting through,” says Salloum.

Another star of the film is Abeer, known as “Palestine’s First Lady of R & B.”

She made a name for herself on the hip-hop scene by singing on the song “Born Here” with DAM. She recently collaborated with the Los Angeles-based Palestinian-American rap crew the Philistines, and is working on a solo album.

DAM, meanwhile, recently launched an independent record label to distribute Arab and Palestinian music.

Salloum first heard Palestinian hip-hop on the radio – the song “Meen Erhabi (Who’s the Terrorist?)” by DAM – which launched the group’s stardom in the region.

She first decided to make a music video for the song. Later she came up with the idea for a full-length documentary. “Slingshot Hip Hop” shows scenes of rappers Suhell Nafar and Mahmoud Shalabi in their early, awkward recording attempts and their politicization during the second intifada.

By embracing rap as “a form of music that is among the most popular around the world – the music of the oppressed and the marginalized – it’s easier to sell their message to young Palestinians,” Salloum explains.

“It’s having a huge effect on the new generation,” she adds.

Salloum admits, however, that some Palestinians might not agree with the music.

“There might be a tiny few who don’t like it. Some say: ‘Why are you dressed that way? You shouldn’t wear baggy clothes.’ At one show, some kids protested [on religious grounds].” At one point in the film, a female rapper’s family is threatened against appearing on stage again.

In the movie, the rap artists encounter crushing poverty, difficult cultural boundaries, daily border checkpoints and other obstacles. “They’re also always broke,” Salloum says. “It took them five years to make an album, they’re struggling financially and there is no music infrastructure available to them.

“Hopefully, that will change.”

The 10-day Sundance independent film festival opened Thursday and closes on January 27.

1 Comment »

Palestinian hip-hop doc premieres at Sundance just what our country needs and if thses guys ever suffer from mold damage to their homes or commercial buildings in New Jersy or New York then we till test their properties for free just because they are so cool.

Comment by Mold — July 8th, 2008 @ 12:05 AM

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