Friday, March 20, 2009
"Slingshot HipHop": Finally, I See It
I've been putting up posts about Slingshot HipHop, Jackie Salloum's documentary about Palestinian rap, for three years, and finally, last night, I got to view it myself. (Thanks, Alannah!) It has been showing on the Sundance network, if you've got that one (alas, I don't).
I can now highly recommend it. I think the best thing about it (Alannah mentioned this to me first, so I give her credit), is that it shows the contexts out of which Palestinian rap emerges. In particular, you get to see DAM in their hometown of Lyd and get a sense of all its problems, Mahmoud Shalabi in Akka (I love that city), PR in Gaza, and so on. That is, you get a real sense of the specificity of those communities, of what daily life is like for young people there, and why it is that they can identify so much with African-American hip-hop. (Tupac, in particular, has been a major influence.)
Another issue is that the divisions between Palestinian communities are starkly demonstrated. DAM (Lyd, in Israel) and PR in Gaza feel a strong kinship with each other, but due to the restrictions imposed upon them, they cannot meet up in person, but must communicate by phone and over the internet. PR in particular are simply incarcerated in the big ghetto that is Gaza. They have never seen the rest of Palestine, never been to Lyd, Akka, or the West Bank. The film is very effective at showing the human costs of the barriers to commerce and life that the state of Israel imposes on Palestinians, whether they are citizens or living under in occupied/imprisoned Gaza and the West Bank.
What also struck me is how supportive the parents of these rappers are, and in particular, how supportive the parents of the female rappers (Abeer, Arapiyat) are. No "generation gap" here. You also may be struck by how the Palestinian rappers and their fans don't look like the stereotypical Palestinians you are used to seeing on the media. They look like hip-hop kids everywhere. And although you will see the odd female wearing a headscarf, bopping to the music, most of the young women are less "modestly" attired, in t-shirts (and some in sleeveless) and jeans.
And Chuck D (Public Enemy) makes an appearance! Interviewing DAM during one of their NYC visits, for his radio show. Harry Allen, PE's "media assassin," wrote a good piece on Slingshot HipHop that was published in Vibe last March. You can download it at the Slingshot HipHop homepage.
The film is still on the festival circuit, but I look forward to when it goes on sale so that I can show it to my classes. Meanwhile you can now purchase the soundtrack of Slingshot HipHop. (Do it, it's excellent, and you will be supporting the artists who perform in the film.)
P.S. I recently found this article on the rap scene in Gaza, from 2005, published in Qantara. Check it out.
P.P.S. (Sat., March 21): I meant to mention this yesterday. One shortcoming of the film is the absence of rappers from the West Bank. We see the Ramallah Underground for a second, in the scene at the end of the concert in Ramallah, but that's it. We need another film, dealing with the likes of Ramallah Underground and G-Town, who I met last summer.