Hip hop has long been a platform for political messages. Starting out in the Bronx in New York City, MCs would use powerful rhythmic vocals to express the social, political and economic struggles of their times. While most contemporary mainstream hip hop has strayed from these political roots, this is not the case for the group DAM (Da Arabian MCs).
The three members of DAM; Tamar and Suhell Nafar and Mahmoud Jreri were all born and raised in Lod, Israel, where Arabs and Jews live together. They use their music as a way to speak out about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Winnipeggers will get a chance to hear their message first-hand on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at the Park Theatre as part of the event Slingshot Hip Hop. Organized by The Canada-Palestine Support Network this event will begin with a screening of the film Slingshot Hip Hop. Directed by Jackie Reem Salloum, the film was screened at the 2008 Sundance film festival and illustrates the impact hip hop music has had on Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
Event coordinator Jonah Corne believes that these young artists use hip hop as a means of protest due to its adaptable form. He explains that “These Palestinians see a direct connection, almost a mirror effect between their situation and the situation of African Americans living in slums, whether in projects in New York or in Los Angeles. The music as a form really resonates. [ . . . ] It is a very effective way to literally put your voice out there.”
DAM is the first Palestinian hip hop group and are featured in the documentary Slingshot Hip Hop alongside Palestinian Rapperz and Mahmoud Shalabi. Female performers, Arapeyat and Abeer are documented as well, and through their stories, complex issues of gender are raised. Corne believes that the movie shows that Abeer “loves hip hop and to perform,” yet there are “expectations of her from her parents and older people telling her that it is not proper for a woman to be out there like this. She goes through this struggle, and that is represented.”
DAM also addresses gender issues with their song, “Freedom For My Sisters,” where they discuss the struggles Arabic women face. Their style mixes traditional Middle Eastern music layered with Arabic rapping to create a fusion of the ancient and modern. So far it looks as if their message is reaching an audience. Indeed, their first single, the controversial and inflammatory “Meen Erhabe” — which translates to “Who’s the Terrorist?” — has been downloaded over a million times from their website.
SlingShot Hip Hop is an all age’s show and tickets are available for $8 at the University of Winnipeg Info Booth, the University of Manitoba Answers Kiosk, Music Trader and Urban Bakery. Doors open on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. and the film starts at 7:30. Following the film, there will be a question and answer period and performance by DAM.