Thursday, June 21, 2007

More thoughts on a Palestine Benefit Album

For some reason, my post on a Palestine Benefit Album got a lot of comments, perhaps because Laurie cross-posted in on Zinjabeelah. I also sent queries out to a few friends, and so I've received several suggestions and ideas, which I want to comment on.

First, David reminded me of a song that must be included, and so this is #7 on the imaginary benefit album:

7. Freeman, "P-I (Palestine-Israel)" Mars Eyes (2001).


Freeman, a Frenchman of Algerian heritage, is a member of IAM, one of France's premier hip-hop groups. His role in IAM, where he goes by the name Malek Sultan, is that of dancer, but he is also a great rapper, as is evidenced in his solo album Mars Eyes. "P-I" in fact is not a "soliditary" song but a call for peace between the two sides. Here's the refrain:

Que cet air puisse tenir l’éternité
Que cette air t’parle l’Ange, j’parle de paix
Patries Immortelles, Palestine Israël
T’es l’nombril du monde que la paix s’fonde


There have been many more suggestions, which I discuss below, but I don't think there are any more real candidates. Remember, what I'm looking for are songs by major artists (whose names would "sell" the album) that explicitly deal with Palestine. What I've learned, however, is that there are more musicians who have "come out" for Palestine than I had suspected.

Islamoyankee suggests The Cure's "Killing An Arab" (Boys Don't Cry, 1980). This is an intriguing suggestion, especially since when the single first came out in 1978, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination made a semi-successful effort to keep it from being played on the radio (read Robert Christgau's account of the controversy here). The song in no way advocates "killing an Arab" but rather is drawn from Albert Camus's The Stranger, where the narrator Meursault kills an Algerian Arab for no good reason. I find the novel problematic, and the fact that the casual murder of an Arab is the centerpiece of what became a canonical existentialist text rather nauseating, but I still like the song, especially the "Oriental" surf guitar. Check out this live video on Youtube. Wikipedia reports that The Cure revived the song in 2005, performing at several European festivals but with the lyrics changed to "Kissing an Arab." At the Royal Albert on April 1, 2006, they changed the lyrics to "Killing Another," and added an additional new opening verse. If I were going to expand the imaginary benefit album to include Middle-East themed "peace" material, "Kissing an Arab" might do.

Others mentioned songs by prominent artists that give "shout outs" to Palestine. There's rap artists Mos Def & Talib Kweli's 12", "What's Beef," which includes the lines,
Beef is what George Bush would do in a fight...Beef is oil prices and geopolitics, Beef is Iraq, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.
Ani DiFranco, on her poem set to music, "Self Evident," inspired by 9/11 (So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter, 2002): "So here's a toast to all the folks who live in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq." djleftover suggests John Trudell, "Rich Man's War" (on AKA Grafitti Man, 1992) gives a shout out to Palestine (in the context of mentioning Harlem, Belfast, El Salvador, Pine Ridge). Thanks to commiecurmudgeon, who reminds us about MIA's PLO referencing on "Sunshowers" (Arular, 2005):
Quit bending all my fingo/Quit beating me like you're Ringo/You wanna go?/You wanna winna war?/Like P.L.O., I don't surrendo/I've got the bombs to make you blow.
(MIA's dad was/is a Tamil Tiger, reportedly trained by the PLO in Lebanon.) Commiecurmudgeon also suggests Natacha Atlas's song "Bastet," from Gedida (1999). I think her "Laysh Nata'rak (Why Are We Fighting)" (Diaspora, 1997) is a better choice, which calls for peace between Arabs and Jews:
Why are we fighting/When we're all together?.../Between me and you there is a long history...Let's return to peace/Let's make peace, we are brothers
(my translation from Arabic).

I just found out an album of the sort I am looking for has already been released, in France (thanks, Moustafa!), called Il y a un Pays... Palestine (Tactikollectif, 2005).
You can read about it here, if you read French). It's a double CD, with great European (mostly French) and Arab (mostly Palestinian) groups. Among the notable European acts: the great Manu Chao (who played at Bonnaroo this year), Fermin Muguruza, the Basque nationalist singer, the (mostly) Beur hip-hop band Zebda, the "raggasalsa" band Sergent Garcia, the French rock band Noir Désir. Notable Palestinian artists include rap groups DAM and MWR (both of whose members are Palestinian citizens of Israel), Palestinian-Israeli singer Rim Banna, and the fabulous Sabreen.

Although no comparable compilation has been issued in England, a number of prominent English bands have come out for Palestinians, doing benefit performances for the Hoping (Hope and Optimism for Palestinians In the Next Generation) Foundation, which funds proects for children in Palestinian refugee camps. Most active has been Massive Attack, but other participants include Basement Jaxx, Nick Cave, Steva Mason (Beta Band), Spiritualized, Primal Scream (read Primal Scream's account of their reasons for participating here), Lulu (!), Bryan Adams, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Mick Jones (ex-The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite), and Shane Magowan (ex-The Pogues). This is a true honor role of British bands.

Shame on us that there is nothing comparable going on in the US!

2 comments:

spencer said...

Excellent post!

First, are you aware of the "Free the P" hip-hop compilation? Granted, the artists aren't necessarily as "high profile" as you're looking for, but as a compilation for Palestine it's still highly notable in my opinion. It includes not only Palestinian hip-hop artists (DAM, Palestinian Rapperz, etc.), as well as many Palestinian-American artisits such as Iron Shekh, N.O.M.A.D.S., the Phillistines, etc., but also up-and-coming hip-hop artists in the underground hip-hop community more generally such as Immortal Technique and Invincible.

Secondly, might I also recommend a track by the prolific and seminal agit-prop punk band Propagandhi, hailing from Winnipeg. They are probably one of the most highly known and respected political/melodic punk bands around today in punk circles. Additionally, they've been highly active and vocal on Palestine since their inception as a band in the early 90s. Their song "Fixed Frequencies" from the newest album Potemkin City Limits is amazing and fitting. I would highly recommend listening to the song while reading the lyrics as the delivery is somewhat crucial.

I've posted an mp3 here.

Propagandhi - "Fixed Frequencies"

Here in the land that Abraham was promised to receive we listen to you catechize from your pulpit overseas. You mourn the proofs of our barbarity. Dry your eyes, oh Pharisee. We both speak a settler’s cant. We both read from the same old played out scripts and hum familiar tunes, broadcast on fixed frequencies, stuck in locking grooves. We both profess noble intent as we civilize human impediments. So if your hands are clean then noblesse oblige that you wipe that “who me?” look off of your face and concede our designs separated by nothing more than place and time. Different scenes, same crimes. Pray, let him who’s without sin cast the first statues of the former rogues turned folk heroes that your forefathers hung. Don’t lecture me about plundered soil while you loaf upon your father’s spoils. We want nothing more than what you already have: a comforting set of exculpatory “facts” like, say, the myth of an empty land and a conquest so complete we can pull these tanks from our streets and hand the loose ends over to bureaucrats and become just like you—lounging carefree in your cafes, absolved from sin and human grenades. Entre nous, how did your desert bloom?

Their song "Hallie Does Hebron" on an earlier album is also great - perhaps now a punk classic - with the refrain: "Take a look at your promised land / Your deed is that gun in your hand / Mt. Zion’s a minefield / The West Bank. The Gaza strip / Soon to be parking lots for American tourists and fascist cops."

More on them here:
Propagandhi
G7 Welcoming Committee Records

Robin said...

Hi!!
"Look Into My Eyes" by Outlandish is BEAUTIFUL
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKQqItZu4Is

Here are the lyrics
Look into my eyes

Look into my eyes
Tell me what you see
You don't see a damn thing
'cause you can't relate to me
You're blinded by our differences
My life makes no sense to you
I'm the persecuted one
You're the red, white and blue

Each day you wake in tranquility
No fears to cross your eyes
Each day I wake in gratitude
Thanking God He let me rise
You worry about your education
And the bills you have to pay
I worry about my vulnerable life
And if I'll survive another day
Your biggest fear is getting a ticket
As you cruise your Cadillac
My fear is that the tank that has just left
Will turn around and come back

Yet, do you know the truth of where your money goes?
Do you let your media deceive your mind?
Is this a truth nobody, nobody, nobody knows
Has our world gone all blind?

Do you know the truth of where your money goes?
Do you let your media deceive your mind?
Is this a truth nobody, nobody, nobody knows?
Someone tell me...

Ooohh, let's not cry tonight
I promise you one day it's through
Ohh my brothers, Ohh my sisters
Ooohh, shine a light for every soul that ain't with us no more
Ohh my brothers, Ohh my sisters

See I've known terror for quite some time
57 years so cruel
Terror breathes the air I breathe
It's the checkpoint on my way to school
Terror is the robbery of my land
And the torture of my mother
The imprisonment of my innocent father
The bullet in my baby brother
The bulldozers and the tanks
The gases and the guns
The bombs that fall outside my door
All due to your funds
You blame me for defending myself
Against the ways of my enemies
I'm terrorized in my own land
But am I the terrorist?

Yet, do you know the truth of where your money goes?
Do you let your media deceive your mind?
Is this a truth nobody, nobody, nobody knows
Has our world gone all blind?

Do you know the truth of where your money goes?
Do you let your media deceive your mind?
Is this a truth nobody, nobody, nobody knows?
Someone tell me...

Ooohh, let's not cry tonight, I promise you one day it's through
Ohh my brothers, Ohh my sisters,
Ooohh, shine a light for every soul that ain't with us no more
Ohh my brothers, Ohh my sisters,

America, do you realize that the taxes that you pay
Feed the forces that traumatize my every living day
So if I won't be here tomorrow
It's written in my fate
May the future bring a brighter day
The end of our wait

(pause)

Ooohh, let's not cry tonight, I promise you one day it's through
Ohh my brothers, Ohh my sisters,
Ooohh, shine a light for every soul that ain't with us no more
Ohh my brothers, Ohh my sisters,

Ohh let's not cry tonight I promise you one day is through
Ohh my brothers! Ohh my sisters!
Ooh shine a light for every Soul that ain't with us no more
Ohh my brothers! Ohh my sisters!

I found your blog through a friend who sent me the other article you did on this subject. GREAT blog you have here. Would you give me the pleasure and permission to link to you please?