Israel/Palestine: Angry Islamists break up hip-hop concert with Kalashnikovs



Angry Islamists break up hip-hop concert with Kalashnikovs

Stone-hurling and stick-swinging teenage Hamas supporters chased the rap group P.R. (‘Palestinian Rappers’) off the stage. As pioneers of Palestinian hip-hop from the Gaza Strip, P.R. have learned the hard way that hip-hop is not popular among conservative muslims and Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) – regardless that their rap lyrics are in support of the Palestinian cause

Recently, at one of P.R.’s gigs, somebody threw a grenade at the concert hall. It mainly just made a loud bang, though. Nobody was hurt.
Then, on 14 September, 2005, as the official Palestinian rally for Gaza’s “liberation” from Israel was winding down, the group was performing at the former Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim, with the crowd swaying to the booming beat … until suddenly a few angry Islamists in the back fired their Kalashnikovs in the air.

According to a report by the French news agency AFP, a man screamed a Hamas-inspired chant about resistance, and a crowd roared back “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), people lunged toward the stage, police fired warning shots and shoved the rappers into a cab as stone-hurling and stick-swinging teenage Hamas supporters chased after them. Furious over their escape, the mob stoned police, yelling “the national security forces have sold our blood for the dollar” and the two sides skirmished for nearly 30 minutes across Neve Dekalim.

“They were singing disco. This goes against the holy book (the Koran),” said one 17-year-old teenager, Mohammad to the AFP-reporter.
As long as their compatriots are being shot dead, wounded and held in jail, many Palestinians feel that there should be no public manifestation of joy. Large wedding parties are again taking place in the Gaza Strip, but although dance music is played, none of the seated guests even claps along to it. It’s an attitude that links the generations: music and exuberance are targets of disapproval.

“The Hamas guys were mostly upset because a lot of girls were excited about us and they were waving their hands as we sang,” said Mohammed al Fara, one of the members of P.R.
“People here are backward. The Hamas crowd does not pay attention to our lyrics. People at first think we’re godless, outside of society,” says PR-member Mohammad al-Fara, commenting on the region’s conservatism.
P.R.’s lyrics deal mainly with their experiences with Israeli occupation troops. The Palestinian Rappers are striving to present a more differentiated picture of Palestinian society – and to communicate a Palestinian view of the conflict in the Middle East.

“We want to make it clear to people in other countries that not everyone in the Gaza Strip is running around with a gun in his hands. We’re fighting by means of our music”, explains Muhammad: “Some of our friends have already been shot dead. Everyone has his own way to get freedom. Some people fire guns. We have rap.”
P.R. do try not to hurt people’s feelings – and they censor themselves in quite a witty way. In one song, for example, they hide the word “ba-bus” (which might be translated as “up yours”) by superimposing a scream.

One of PR’s songs talks about Mohammad carrying the coffin of his friend Ibrahim who joined an armed group and died fighting the Israelis last year. Mohammad himself was shot in his left upper arm while throwing stones against Israeli soldiers in 2001. It proved a wake up call for him.
“There’s no point in going on like that. We don’t have a chance against the Israeli army. That was when I started to rap – and rap is now our weapon.”

Ever since then, Mohammad has spent most of his time sitting at his computer, developing new sounds. Together with his fellow rapper Moataz al-Hewihi, the boys from P.R. rap to homemade “phat” beats and samples of classical Arabic music. The result is a mixture of Western and oriental sounds.
The duo has now recorded nine songs in a studio in Gaza, but there’s been no CD so far. “We simply don’t have the money for that”, says Nadir. “And how would we distribute it? There are no record shops.”
This is why they send out their songs by email or cell phone. There is no such thing as the Palestinian pop charts, and rappers can only dream of appearing on the radio: in the whole Gaza Strip, and in large parts of the West Bank, loud music is looked down on, and dancing to it is out of the question.


The Daily Star / Agence France Presse AFP, 16 September, 2005:

‘The day rap music came to the Gaza Strip’ / NZZ, 30 August, 2005:

‘Palestinian Hip-Hop – Put down the Stone, Pick up the Mic’

Mercury News, October 06, 2005:

‘Homegrown hip-hop captivates Palestinian youth’

More information about Palestinian hip-hop:

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