Hip Hop Sulha urges Arab-Israeli dialogue !! 

Samekh Zakout and Chen Rotem couldn’t have had more dissimilar backgrounds. Zakout, an Israeli Arab, grew up in the rough and tumble working class Tel Aviv suburb of Ramle. Rotem, an Israeli Jew, was raised on a kibbutz - Ein Hahoresh - considered an ideal setting for children.

But today, Zakout, now known as SAZ, and Rotem, who goes by the moniker Sagol 59, have found common ground between them. They use the modern sounds, rhymes and rhythms of hip hop to espouse their frustrations with society and their hopes for future peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Recently, the Tel Aviv basement nightclub, Levontin 7, was packed with fans bouncing to the beats of SAZ, Sagol 59 and other rappers who gathered for what was advertised as a Hip Hop Sulha.

The event was part of a series of Sulha performances that were launched last year at the S.O.B. club in New York City to urge Arab-Israeli dialogue and reconciliation. In trying to create a musical platform for coexistence and understanding, the performance was named after the Arabic term for a conciliatory agreement between two parties facing a dispute.

The crowd consisted of Arabs and Jews; hipsters and techno-junkies; dread-locked hippies and intellectual types peering through thick black-rimmed emo glasses, creating an atmosphere far from homogeneous but almost unanimously liberal and conducive to dialogue.

But as idyllic as the initiative was, conversations with the rappers reveal restrained realism about the problems facing the region.

“I’m not here to do ‘Kumbaya, Kumbaya’ with Sagol,” SAZ said. “But I write music as a minority in Israel with hope. Sulha is just another way to spread the message out. My music is not just for Arabs, my music is for the world. I participate in the Hip Hop Sulha because besides being a Palestinian or a Muslim, I am human.”

Sagol 59, whose 2000 release Blue Period, was the first album by a solo hip-hop artist in Israel, subscribes to a similar understanding about the goals of the sulha.

“We’re trying to have a simple dialogue. We’re not delusional. We’re not trying to solve all the problems in the world. Everyone should do something within their capacity to initiate progress,” he said.

The rappers believe their endeavors should be seen as a microcosm for Palestinian-Israeli coexistence. If Muslims and Jews can abandon exaggerated ethnocentrism and focus on shared universal values, good things are bound to happen. It is imperative, the artists argue, to find the common ground, and music is just one example.

SAZ has been rhyming about his struggle since the age of 16. Through his music, he hopes to give the Palestinian people inspiration to turn away from drugs and violence and pursue an education. He says he encourages Palestinian pride both within Israel and in the territories while disdaining violence as a means for Palestinian statehood. Through his contact with Israeli Jews like Sagol, he’s come to support a two-state solution while calling for equal treatment of Palestinians living in Israel.

SAZ’s performance radiates tremendous energy onto the crowd. He races through nifty lyrics poking satire at his neighborhood and at the state’s policies then pauses, tells the DJ, “slow down the tempo,” and swaggers sinuously on the dance floor at ease with the microphone and the crowd at his feet.

He is not afraid to be introspective and to assign criticism onto his people. One of his songs Meen Yoom (Since that Day), bemoans what he detects as apathy for inner social change: “We’re standing-still, close mouthed and ignoring what’s around us, Instead of blaming ourselves, We blame everybody else.”

But in the same breath, he also spells his grievances at the Israeli government: “The sound of a lifetime struggle of a nation struggling, Against the occupation, For corruption has eaten our bones; what is left of our heart, From hunger we eat ourselves.”

SAGOL 59 takes a more reconciliatory approach. Through Corner Prophets, a cultural initiative he co founded, Sagol seeks to inspire Israeli and Palestinian children to use music as a channel for finding a common ground. Corner Prophets organizes several hip hop and art-related events in Jerusalem to provide an outlet for the engagement of the city’s diverse youth within the realm of performing arts. Sagol and SAZ have performed numerous times together as vocal supporters of coexistence.

Added by: Menace, 15/Mar/09 | Comments: 0

Democracy in Dakar’ Film Shows Power of Hip-Hop Among Senegalese Youth !! 

A film on the role of hip-hop in shaping the political discourse in Senegal is getting rave reviews. The documentary Democracy in Dakar is the brainchild of filmmaker and producer Ben Herson, who visited Senegal’s capital, Dakar, in 2003.

Herson first got interested in Senegalese music a couple of years ago, when he was working on his university thesis about Senegalese music. He was amazed at the vibrant music scene in Dakar, given the small resources and financial rewards available to young musicians there. He says he was intrigued by their passion and devotion to music and decided to expand his project into a full-length movie. Herson’s next visit came during Senegal’s presidential election campaign held earlier this year. He witnessed the power of young, politically conscious rappers – and the enthusiasm of their fans.

Democracy in Dakar shows the influence that hip-hop music has among young Senegalese. Herson says it’s a tool that has been used by the youth to voice their frustration with the political establishment. The documentary features rising stars in the Senegalese entertainment industry and plenty of unknown MCs, whose storytelling abilities are much like those of the traditional Senegalese griots.

“The young rappers perform traditional Senegalese rap songs “that tell stories about society, much like ancient griots narrated the lives of ancient societies,” he said.

Young Senegalese musicians, like those in other parts of Africa, have fused traditional music and messages with western styles popular among their fans. Young film director McGee Mcilvan says he saw more than a than a dozen Senegalese rap groups in Dakar which have created unique and distinct sounds.

Many tracks on the video feature what the Senegalese call “ego tripping,” a mode of hip-hop that includes bragging. The movie also sheds light on the personalities of the rappers and their inspirations.

Added by: Menace, 15/Mar/09 | Comments: 0

DOOM (Formerly MF DOOM) Set For A March Release! 


DOOM, who recently dropped the MF prefix, is set to release his new album "Born Like This" on March 24, 2009. It will be his first release since his 2006 Danger Mouse collaboration as the group Danger Doom.

For more information on this album, follow this link.

Added by: eboyd, 15/Mar/09 | Comments: 1

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