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Palestinian hip hop

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Title: Palestinian hip hop  
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Subject: Middle Eastern music, Middle Eastern hip hop, Palestinian hip hop, Yemeni hip hop, Samri
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Palestinian hip hop

Palestinian hip hop reportedly started in 1998 with Arabic melodies and hip hop beats. Lyrics are often sung in Arabic, Hebrew, English, and sometimes French. Since then, the new Palestinian musical subgenre has grown to include artists in occupied Palestine, Israel, Great Britain, the United States and Canada.

Borrowing from traditional rap music that first emerged in New York in the 1970s, "young Palestinian musicians have tailored the style to express their own grievances with the social and political climate in which they live and work." Palestinian hip hop works to challenge stereotypes and instigate dialogue about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[2] Palestinian hip hop artists have been strongly influenced by the messages of American rappers. Tamar Nafar says “when I heard Tupac sing “It’s a White Man’s World” I decided to take hip hop seriously”.[3] In addition to the influences from American hip hop, it also includes musical elements from Palestinian and Arabic music including “zajal, mawwal, and saj” which can be likened to Arabic spoken word, as well as including the percussiveness and lyricism of Arabic music.

Historically, music has served as an integral accompaniment to various social and religious rituals and ceremonies in Palestinian society (Al-Taee 47). Much of the Middle-Eastern and Arabic string instruments utilized in classical Palestinian music are sampled over Hip-hop beats in both Israeli and Palestinian hip-hop as part of a joint process of localization. Just as the percussiveness of the Hebrew language is emphasized in Israeli Hip-hop, Palestinian music has always revolved around the rhythmic specificity and smooth melodic tone of Arabic. “Musically speaking, Palestinian songs are usually pure melody performed monophonically with complex vocal ornamentations and strong percussive rhythm beats”.[4] The presence of a hand-drum in classical Palestinian music indicates a cultural esthetic conducive to the vocal, verbal and instrumental percussion which serve as the foundational elements of Hip-hop. This hip hop is joining a “longer tradition of revolutionary, underground, Arabic music and political songs that have supported Palestinian Resistance”.[5] This sub genre has served as a way to politicize the Palestinian issue through music.


Many Palestinian hip hop artists address themes that directly affect Palestinians in the occupied territories, living in Israel and those in exile. These artists use hip hop to address issues including patriarchy, drugs, violence, corruption and police brutality. Unlike the ideals of American rap, Palestinian rappers focus on exposing the lived conditions of the Palestinian people, especially the denial of Palestinian self-determination in their homeland. Palestinian nationalism is at the center of all Palestinian hip hop, regardless of the artists.[6] The current living conditions of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestine and within Israel is addressed in the songs 'Who is the Terrorist' by DAM and "Free Palestine" by the Hammer Brothers. Rather than succumbing to the violence that surrounds them, Palestinian hip hop artists instead, attempt to spread their politically conscious messages to the world.[7] Palestinian hip hop artists have chosen to address many issues within the local, national and global community.

Israel/Palestinian Conflict

Palestinian rappers have been explicit in their criticism of the current situation between Israel and Palestine. The song "Who is the Terrorist" by DAM is the most explicit criticism of the relationship between Israel and Palestine. These rappers want to address the "paradox inherent in the notion of a state that claims to be both democratic and Jewish".[8]

Living conditions

All Palestinian artists, regardless if they are within Palestine or abroad, have addressed their lived experience as Palestinians. For rapper Mahmoud who lives in Israel, he describes his experience as "whenever I walk the streets, my enemy steps to me in ignorance, he demands my ID, sees I’m an Arab. It drives him crazy. He begins to interrogate me, tells me I’m a suspected terrorist".[9] Similarly, in the song, "Who Is The Terrorist", DAM describes the physical conditions, rapping: "Crawling on the ground, smelling the rotting bodies? Demolished homes, lost families, orphans, freedoms with handcuffs?". The Palestinian female rap duo from Akko (Acre, Israel), Arapeyat, address challenges among the Palestinian community by rapping "what’s happening to our society, we’re imprisoning ourselves, with crimes and drugs, we need to make change now".[10]

Establishment of an independent state

Palestinian rappers have addressed the need and right to establish an independent Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories. For these rappers, "Palestinian liberation is obviously a key touchstone topic of identity...their music deals not just with issues of cultural identity but also of global politics".[11]

Palestinian unity and pride

For many Palestinian rappers, especially those in exile, their aim is to raise consciousness. In their song "Prisoner," DAM raps, "our future is in our hands, there is still good in the world my brothers, the sky is wide open, take flight my brothers".[12] The song "Born Here" delivers a similar message by saying "when we said hand in hand we should stand, we didn’t mean just a finger, cuz in order to achieve power we shall all be together". Despite location or overall theme, Palestinian rappers all support and wish to give hope to Palestinians. In her song "Kofeyye Arabeyye," British-born Palestinian female rapper Shadia Mansour raps, "no matter how much you oppress me, where you take me off to, my origins stay Arabic".[13]

Palestinian hip hop artists

Palestinian hip hop is not limited to the Palestinian Territories. Rappers and hip hop groups that consider themselves Palestinian hip hop artists have emerged around the world. These "Arab and Palestinian American hip hop artists are part of a transnational hip hop movement that includes young artists in Palestine/Israel".[14] In Gaza, Palestinian Rapperz and MWR rap about the conditions of living in the occupied territories. Similarly, rappers Arapyat, Saz and The Happiness Kids discuss the experience of Palestinian youth in the West Bank. In Israel, DAM rap the experience of the Arabs who live in Israel. Internationally, Palestinian American rappers Excentrik, the Philistines, Iron Sheik, Ragtop and the Hammer Brothers all touch on themes of alleged racial profiling and discrimination against Arabs in the United States while expressing solidarity with Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories and in the diaspora. Shadia Mansour, a British-born female rapper, has brought attention to Palestinian hip hop in Europe along with others.[15]


American filmmaker Jackie Salloum's 2008 feature length documentary Slingshot Hip Hop traces the history and development of Palestinian hip hop in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip from the time DAM pioneered the art form in the late 1990s. DAM, Palestinian Rapperz, Mahmoud Shalabi, and female artists Arapeyat and Abeer Zinaty are all featured in the documentary. The film was screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Nissenbaum, Dion (September 29, 2005). "‘Palestinians’ embracing hip-hop to push ‘perspective of the victims’". Jewish World Review. Retrieved April 25, 2007. 
  2. ^ El-Sabawi, Taleed (2005). "Palestinian Conflict Bounces to a New Beat". Angelingo. Archived from the original on April 19, 2007. Retrieved April 25, 2007. 
  3. ^ Maira, Sunaina (2008). "We Ain't Missing: Palestinian Hip Hop - A Transnational Youth Movement". CR: The New Centennial Review 8 (2): 161–192.  
  4. ^ Al-Taee, Nasser. "Voices of Peace and the Legacy of Reconciliation: Popular Music, Nationalism, and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East." Popular Music 21 (2002): 41–61. JSTOR. EBSCO. Brandeis University, Waltham. Apr 1. 2008.
  5. ^ Maira, Sunaina (2008). "We Ain't Missing: Palestinian Hip Hop - A Transnational Youth Movement". CR: The New Centennial Review 8 (2): 161–192.  
  6. ^ Maira, Sunaina (2008). "We Ain't Missing: Palestinian Hip Hop - A Transnational Youth Movement". CR: The New Centennial Review 8 (2): 161–192.  
  7. ^ Palestinian political rap attracts growing crowds by Rachel Shabi – Common Ground News Service
  8. ^ Maira, Sunaina (2008). "We Ain't Missing: Palestinian Hip Hop - A Transnational Youth Movement". CR: The New Centennial Review 8 (2): 161–192.  
  9. ^ Slingshot Hip Hop
  10. ^ Slingshot Hip Hop
  11. ^ Massad, S. (2005). "Liberating Songs: Palestine Put to Music". In R. L. Stein & T. Swedenburg (eds.) Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture. Duke University Press. 175–201.
  12. ^ Slingshot Hip Hop
  13. ^ Mansour, S. (2010). Kofeyye Arabeyye. El Kofeyye Arabeyye [CD]
  14. ^ Maira, Sunaina (2008). "We Ain't Missing: Palestinian Hip Hop - A Transnational Youth Movement". CR: The New Centennial Review 8 (2): 161–192.  
  15. ^ "'"British Palestinian rapper conducts a 'musical intifada. BBC News. September 7, 2010. 
  16. ^ Slingshot Hip Hop

External links

  • [1] (Hebrew)—An article by Sagi Bin Nun about Palestinian rappers from Gaza strip, from the weekend entertainment supplement "7 Nights" of the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth
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