Dialogue Through Music

While browsing the internet exploring the world of Middle Eastern music, I found this article called “The Arab League of Hip Hop”. This article discusses the “political potency” of Arab Hip Hop, and its transnational existence and unity throughout the Middle East, by comparing it to the Arab League and jokingly calling it the “Arab League of Hip Hop”. The author mentions U.S.A. backing of Arab Hip Hop and of Hip Hop in general for diplomacy use, but he focuses mainly on the lack of support by the U.S. for Palestinian Hip Hop. He even mentions that Hamas does not support Palestinian Hip Hop.

What particularly stood out to me in this article was how Arab hip hop, specifically Palestinian, engages in a dialogue with various events throughout the middle east and the world. The example they gave was Shadia Mansour’s, a British-Palestinian artist, song “Koffeye Arabeyye/The Kufiya is Arabic”. She wrote this song as a reaction to the creation of an Israeli Keffiyeh. Mansour immediately reacted to the Israeli appropriation of the Kufiya by writing and performing her song. This incited a dialogue within the mainstream media, critiquing the existence of the Israeli Keffiyeh and showing support for Palestinians. This seemed to me to be a really good example of how Arab Hip Hop is politically engaged in current events and how it encourages dialogue about these events amongst its fans.

Here is the the website for the Israeli Keffiyeh and here is a link to Mansour’s sung response.

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4 Responses to Dialogue Through Music

  1. Wow, I knew about controversies surrounding the appropriation of the kafiya, but I had no idea there was a website for the Israeli kafiya. More grist for the mill…

  2. Arab hip hop definitely seems to be more self aware than US hip hop. It’s very rare that an American artist would sing about a hot button topical issue and incite conversation. Arab artists definitely seem to take more inspiration from current events and are more willing to use their music as a way of bringing awareness to issues they feel are important.

  3. Hoai Le says:

    Is it US hip-hop that is less self-aware or US mainstream hip-hop? I wonder if there is a similar divide in Arab hip-hop or is hip-hop in general “underground” and political?

  4. I thought Mansour’s song was incredibly interesting because it touches on the conversation we had a while ago about the kuffeyah. The kuffeyah was originally worn to keep the sun off of one’s neck, and yet it turned into a symbol for the Palestinian resistance movement. Today, many wear it as a symbol of resistance in general, not just in solidarity for Palestine (i.e. the Occupy movement). In M.I.A.’s music video for “Born Free” (a music video reframing the issue of ethnic cleansing around red-heads) there are three red-headed kids throwing rocks at an envoy carrying other captured red-heads and they are all wearing red kuffeyahs (or shemagh). However, many have completely forgotten the meaning behind it and wear it as just a normal scarf. The lyric that could be translated to be something along the lines of “and now they wear it as a moda/fashion statement” was especially interesting in this respect because it shows how offensive it is for specifically Israelis to be wearing the kuffeyah because it shows a blatant disregard for the Palestinian struggle by the very individuals against whom they are struggling.

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