Turkish Hip Hop: Cartel

A friend recently talked to me about a Turkish Hip Hop group called Cartel. She told me they wanted to be the voice of the minority, the underdog. I looked into them and they turned out to be a very interesting group. Cartel is made up of three groups of rappers: Erci E., Karakan, and Da Crime Posse. They gained popularity in 1995, specifically in Germany (although they’re very well known in Turkey). Their music can be described as having a mixture of hip-hop, Arabesk, and Turkish folk dance music. Interestingly enough, the group has Turkish and German members, as well as a Cuban member. They include Spanish, German, and English into their songs, influenced by Reggaeton and reaching out to their Western audiences.

Their lyrics are inspired by social and political issues around the world to encourage the empowerment of minorities and of oppressed peoples. Cultural pride is a common theme in their songs as well. I’m curious to see what others think of them!

These are two links to their songs, one more upbeat than the other.

The mellow one: “Sen” (meaning “you”)- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMbjpgND0gs

The lyrics/translation of the song (with the exception of the Spanish verse!): http://lyricstranslate.com/en/sen-you.html


And “Bir Oluruz” (meaning something along the lines of “equality”): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS2D9l_zmxw&feature=relmfu

I couldn’t find an english translation to it, but everyone should listen to it and hear the American music references. Enjoy!

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Women in Arab Hip Hop – Shadia Mansour

After watching both “I love Hip Hop in Morocco” and “Slingshot Hip Hop”, I was inspired to learn more about Arab Hip-hop. Naturally the first thing I did was to enter “Arab Hip Hop” into a Google search. Though this is my natural response when I want to learn more about something, searching on Google also had the intended benefit of leading me to the most relevant and popular content (though it is very important to note this relates to only to its view in our country). I was fascinated by the result. After Wikipedia articles on “Arab hip hop” and “DAM”, there were two video suggestions. I want to focus on the second, a song by Shadia Mansour found here,  as it really surprised me. Shadia, a Palestinian singer and MC, is known as the “first lady of Arabic hip hop and raps entirely in Arabic.

After watching the two documentaries I was shocked that one of the first songs I came across was created by a women. The documentaries really explored how tough it is for women who want to participate in Arab hip hop and the way in which they face severe societal pressures. For example, instances in which they cannot appear on stage for fear of their own safety.

What really fascinates me  is the discrepancy between the difficulties and lower standing of women in Arab Hip hop that the films depict, and the inclusion and popularity that Google search results imply. I am not suggesting that the search results suggest anything about the actual popularity in the Middle East, but rather that we should consider how the way we  are presented information may  prevent us from seeing complex aspects of middle eastern media forms.

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Music Videos

Our discussion of Israeli and Palestinian hip hop motivated me to do some research on Israeli and Palestinian hip hop music videos. My initial interest was inspired by the question of how the two groups differed in their style of music video, and how these also differed from contemporary western music videos. The obvious difference between Israeli/Palestinian music videos and western videos is the innate political nature of both the lyrics and the content. The following video from Palestinian hip hop group DAM, addresses issues of nationality and ownership of disputed land. The video itself utilizes shots of large crowds and exudes a community/unified aura

Israeli hip hop is very similar in nature, focusing largely on political themes. Even more contemporary rap groups like SHI 360, who moved to Canada at a young age, feature much more politicized themes in their videos than traditional western music videos.

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Bahlam Beek – Abd Al-Halim

After reading Stokes’ paper on Abd Al-Halim, I decided to search for some of his videos on YouTube (I’ll admit it — he’s a stud muffin). I had seen Abd Al-Halim in a film before but, as far as I remember, nothing mentioned in the Stokes’ paper seemed to
apply to that particular film — and then I found this. This scene is from Hikyat Hob (A Love Story) and before he even begins to sing, all I can see is the microphone in the scene.

There were two things I thought of as I listened to him sing ever so beautifully. One: Even though he is in a setting with people closely huddled around him, he still uses a microphone. You might think that in such a situation, one might simply sing to the crowd, but no — not Abd-Al Halim. Two: As he begins to sing, an invisible orchestra suddenly plays along with him. This reminds me of what Stokes’ mentioned about the power of the microphone; When Abd Al-Halim sings with a microphone, he is the sole focus and we lose sight of the orchestra. While no orchestra was present in this scene to begin with, I definitely think that it indicates their presence as the “background” that is heard by not seen.

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Shirat HaSticker (The Sticker Song): the multiple voices within the Israeli community

Shirat HaSticker (“The Sticker Song”) is a song by the Israeli Hip-Hop band, Hadag Nachash. The songs title is a reference to the source of the song lyrics; all the lyrics are taken from bumper stickers or popular slogans (with some slight altercations at times).  Consequently, the lyrics juxtapose a diverse number of opinions. The music video features a diverse group of people representing different sectors of Israeli society: an IDF soldier, policeman, an ultra-orthodox Jew, a religious Jew, an Arab, a mother, an Ethiopian Jew, and several other less identifiable characters, mirroring the diversity of viewpoints expressed in the song. The music video  concludes with all the characters stickering a mirror with a large number of bumper stickers, some quotes in the song lyrics and others not.

This song and music video deal with several themes we addressed in class. First off, the song lyrics deal with appropriation:  the lyrics are all derived from popular slogans or bumper stickers. By juxtaposing contrasting opinions, the song successfully conveys that the Israeli population is not as monolithic as the media and American politics at times express it to be. When one calls an American politician pro-Israel the implication is usually that the politician holds what are considered in Israel to be right-wing views. This song, however, through its appropriation of bumper sticker slogans, breaks down this generalization of the Israeli society.


Furthermore, the song deals with the politics of representation. Often the characters in the music video sing lines that one would not attribute to their character: the Arab sings that “There’s no peace with the Arabs,” a mother holding a baby states that “combat is the greatest,” an orthodox Rabbi calls for “drafting everyone”, and so on.  There is obviously a lot of ironic overtones to this representation, but it also further stresses the earlier theme, illustrating that even within specific communities in the Israeli population, there is room for a variety of opinions. Overall, the music video accomplishes the goal of illustrating that Israel is a nation of a lot of different, often conflicting issues, ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the media’s representation of Israel.


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Dana International, Born This Way

 Dana International image can be a poster child for Lady Gaga’s Foundation Born this Way .  The foundation’s mission consist of create an open space in which individuality can be accepted.  Although Dana International predates Lady Gaga’s foundation she excepts who she is and has no problem educating the world on who she is.

I used the world educate because due to censorship in mass media some people are ignorant to the fact that people like Dana International exist. Completely ignoring her talent the media focused on who she was as a person, and what signals that sent to young males.  But it did not take long before people recognized her for her true talent.

I appreciate the fact that in the late 90’s Israel was able to get rid of the bias view they had of Dana International.  Everyone needs a role model in life, and if the media is censoring everything and holding pure talent back because of ones sexuality many people are left in the dark.  Not only would they have been restricting her talent, but her fans would have lost their voice as well.

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“Diva”–Dana International

Album Cover of Dana International's "Diva"

The first time I learned about Dana International was on the short lived UK television series Beautiful People. In the episode entitled “How I Got My Plumes,” main characters Simon and Kylie, played by Luke Ward-Wilkerson and Layton Williams respectively, sneak into the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest and get locked into a handicap bathroom with Dana International herself (this was suppose to explain why Dana International was so late for her reprise in the actual Eurovision Song Contest). In this episode, Dana International sing her well-known song “Diva,” which won the contest that year with a score of 172 points.

Since in the episode, they only play a small snippet of “Diva,” I decided to find the original Eurovision performance on Youtube. Since the song is Hebrew, I had to look up what the song was all about. The song “Diva” is apparently an ode to power women in history, both real and mythical. Some of the examples being Cleopatra, Victoria, goddess of Victory (surprise, surprise), and Aphrodite, goddess of Love. As I listened to “Diva,” I noticed that this song is very poppy song, which means that there are solely elements of the Western world. It was very hard for me to discover any elements of the Eastern world like we would find in the songs of Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, and other famous Middle Eastern singers. I think one reason behind this transition to a very Western approach to music is due to the exposure of new technologies that have been made readily available for many musician. These technologies allow these artist to stray from traditional styles of music and try new things (i.e. electric guitar, synthesizer, etc.).

Another thing I noticed when watching the performance of “Diva” is Dana International’s use of the microphone. Unlike Umm Kulthum who would sing far away from the microphone, Dana International sings with the microphone very closer to mouth until she sings really powerful notes. The microphone, in a sense, becomes a part of her as well as her performance. This furthers the idea that technology becomes a significant part of music and performance.

Click here to listen to Dana International sing “Diva” at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest

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I recently came across a song called “#Syria” by Omar Offendum. Omar Offendum is a Syrian American who was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Washington D.C. He is a very popular Arab Hip-Hop artist and activist, who has become known for producing music with strong political implications. His song “#Syria” is no different—the repetitive chant that acts as the chorus in this song says, “The People Want The Downfall Of The Regime” obviously referring to Al-Assad’s regime in Syria today. Offendum describes how he hopes his music will promote continued peaceful protest and keep the spirits of these protesters up.

It is extremely interesting to me to see how political and motivating Arab Hip-Hop can be in situations like this. We see American artists make political statements in their music all of the time, but it is not to this extent. Offendum uses a very interesting tactic of placing a hash-tag (#) in the title of the song, because he knows the power of twitter and other social media outlets can play in the spreading information. The song also has English verses along with Arabic verses in order to reach a larger audience in hopes to unite a massive following towards this cause. It is amazing to see the power that something like music can have on a nation, just as it was amazing to see the impact of political cartoons a few weeks ago.

Below is a link to the song and video that goes along with it. The combination of the song and powerful images that go with it makes for an extremely strong message.  I can only imagine the feelings a song like this can instill in someone who’s life is engulfed in this conflict.


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Saida Sultana

As we discussed in class, Dana International is a transgendered Israeli pop star of Yemeni descent who is considered among the most popular musicians in Israel. In particular, I would like to focus on her song “Saida Sultana”.  This track was produced early in International’s career, a period in which she gained fame by satirizing famous female stars. “Saida Sultana” was a satire of Whitney Houston’s “My Name is Not Susan” and gained considerable fame allowing International to begin a successful career that lasts until this day.

Saida Sultana contains a number of important elements that warrant discussion and comment.  Stylistically, the song successfully blends elements of Western pop music, as well as traditional eastern forms such as the tabla drums and opening piano riffs.  International’s choice to recreate her own version of “My name is not Susan” is perhaps also a personal identification not of a man, but as a woman. Many of the listeners of this song at the time were unaware of her transgender status.  Furthermore, it is likely that many listeners would have never heard the Whitney Houston version.  With her blending of eastern and western styles, I find myself curious: would a listener from the Middle East find the Houston or International version more pleasing? Would this song be pleasing to a listener in the West? IE- Does International create a product that successfully blends a number of musical styles thereby removing her song from “time and place”?

Saida Sultana



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Jordanian Music: Tareq Al Nasser’s RUM

Tareq Al Nasser is one of the most prominent composers and arrangers in the Arab World. He became famous during the  early nineties when he composed the soundtrack for the drama  series, “Nihayat Rajul Shujaa” (End of a Brave Man,) and Al Jawareh (Birds of Prey). He is known for breaking out of conventional, inflexible Arabic styles. Since the nineties, Al Nasser has composed for many other drama series, won awards at the 2007 Cairo Musical Festival and has worked with companies like the Travel Channel and Syria for Art Production.

In 1998, Al Nasser created Rum Group, a band composed of over 25 musicians from different backgrounds. The group performs Al-Nasser’s compositions, specializing in modern presentations of Jordanian folklore specifically in their 2008 album, Yabu Rdayyen. For Al Nasser, Rum has been an experiment, a way for him to test out the limits of his untraditional arrangements of music that combines western and traditional instruments.

Here Rum performs the introduction of the folklore song “Yabn il Alam” as rearranged by Al Nasser at Al-Modaraj Al-Romani in Amman in August of 2008. I think the performance shows how the band’s music has been asymmetrically appropriated to function as a symbol of the past folklore genre while also bringing forth the genre into more modern styles. At the same time, Rum is an example of pan-ethnic appropriation as it affiliates Al Nasser’s fascinations with  multiple genres and musical arrangements.

Check out their website for more information about Tareq Al Nasser and Rum.

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