Sunday, May 24, 2009

Various & sundry 2.753. Tripoli Rap. Invincible. Kronos Quartet & Ramallah Underground. Palestine's First National Rap Talent Contest.

More in the ongoing series of miscellaneous items I've come across and want to record own future use.

1. A report on hip-hop in Tripoli, Lebanon, from Jackson Allers,, reposted on the World HipHop Market blog, and focusing on Kimo and Balsam, of the group Mic-Rob. The two talk about their neighborhoods and do an acapella rap.

At least 90 people have died this year in the Tripoli violence that has mainly been between the rival ghetto youth from Bab al Tabaneh and neighboring Jabal Mohsen, wioch is dominated by the Alawites, an offshoot of the Shia branch of Islam.

“The problem is that the majority of the people doing the fighting are poor street kids who are looking for any excuse for a fight. No money. Fucked up families. And here they have guns,” says Balsam, who lives in the neighboring area of Bab al Rmeil...

and from their rap:

"They – the politicians
and the corrupted
Made us live
In a nightmare
that we can’t wake up from
We got no money or prospects
So our pockets are starving”

More from Mic-Rob at myspace.

2. Playlist is a terrific series, focusing on "fusion" music, from Al Jazeera English. I've not even watched all the episodes dealing with Middle Eastern music from this rich and varied series. I hope to post on them in future. Interesting, isn't it, that no US cable news network has tried to do anything remotely approaching what Al Jazeera English has done. Thanks to the Detroit rapper Invincible, who clued me into this episode (series 2, episode 10, part 2), where Playlist goes back to some of the "fusion" artists they had interviewed and asked them what fusion artists they were paying attention to. The Palestinian rappers DAM say, check out Invincible, and so, we get to see clips from Invincible's video, "People Not Places," from her album Shapeshifters. (I've written about the song previously, but had not seen the vid.)

Be sure to watch the whole segment--the kuduro group Buraka Son Sistema are not to be missed!

3. Kronos Quartet's latest album, Floodplain, is out, and it is, well, all Middle Eastern/North Africa and Balkan and Central Asian. Spinner explains its genesis:

The seeds for the Kronos Quartet's new album, 'Floodplain,' an exploration of the rips and seams of Middle Eastern, North African, Balkan and Central Asian cultures through the distinct Kronos artistic lens, started to sprout a decade ago in a Beirut marketplace. The group was there to perform concerts, and founder-violinist David Harrington asked friend and sometime collaborator Ali Jihad Racy, who was joining Kronos for these shows, to take him music shopping.

"He took me to a record store," Harrington reminisces. "I just wanted to get a sense of Lebanese music and basically he helped me pick out 30 or 40 representative albums. And in going through these later, I heard this incredible son sung by Fairuz, when she was a very young woman. It blew me away."

The song, 'Wa Habibi,' (a video of a later Fairuz performance is here) tantalized and mystified Harrington with repeated listening.

"It sounded like it could have been Jewish music or Islamic or Christian," he says. "It turned out it was a song for Easter time. And I asked [composer-arranger] Steve Prutsman to make a version of it for us to play."

And that piece became a staple of Kronos concerts about eight years ago -- not long after the events of 9/11 charged perceptions of the Middle East with the air of suspicion and fear. It was a perfect statement: music that sounded, to Western ears, Islamic but intended to convey a Christian message of devotion, acceptance and sacrifice.

I love it: inspired by a trip to Beirut (where I lived for nearly 11 years) and an encounter--mediated by the esteemed UCLA ethnomusicologist and buzuq and saz player Ali Jihad Racy--with the divine Fairuz!

And even better, Floodplain has a contribution from the Palestinian hip-hop ensemble, Ramallah Underground (as advertised previously on Hawgblawg). Spinner continues:

It was an entirely different marketplace in which Harrington found the seeds of another one of the album's key pieces.

"Eventually I was casting about on MySpace several years ago and came upon this band from Palestine called Ramallah Underground and I loved their music," he says. "It was something I'd never heard before. So I got in touch with them and asked them to write for us. And they did the track for 'Tashweesh.' "

It's a striking collaboration, with Kronos playing over the electronics assemblage created by the Palestinian group, a perfect representation of the title, explained in the liner notes as meaning "interference or static, and by extension miscommunication and not hearing or understanding correctly"...

Read the rest of the article here. And to listen to segments from each of the tracks on Floodplain, go here.

4. Palestine's First National Rap Talent Contest, sponsored by the Sabreen Association and the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation, is taking place in May and June, 2009.

Here's the notice of the event, courtesy HipHopf. (I've edited it just a bit.)

“HipHopKom“ is Palestine’s first national rap contest and climax of the previous held training courses and Hip Hop promoting events as part of Project Hip Hop Palestine. Rappers and Hip Hop fans all over Palestine are now waiting to prove their talents to Palestine.

The contest is based on the concepts of ”Star Academy” and MTV’ Arabia’s “HipHopna” and is a national contest, which will take place as an open public show and be broadcast on TV.

A locally based film crew in the West Bank and Gaza will follow the event outline and document the development of the day. This will be broadcast live from the venue and projected in the Gaza and Ramallah venues. The event will be broadcast on PBC 36 local tv stations, the satellite channel Palestine TV and the local radio network.

14 Palestinian groups/artists selected by a jury in two prior auditions in the WB and Gaza will perform live on TV presenting their contribution to the rap contest.

Based on prior advertisement Palestinian rappers residing in ‘48 and the West Bank will be invited to participate in an audition for the contest. 10 participants will be selected by the jury from the WB audition out of an estimated number of 200 participants. A second audition might be arranged according to the number of registered rappers.

All of the rappers of the Gaza Strip will be invited to participate in a closed audition for the contest. It is assumed that rappers from 12 Hip Hop groups will join the audition. A jury of two persons will assess the performance of all artists and select a maximum of 4 persons to participate in the final contest.

In case no foreign artists can enter Gaza Sabreen organizes an audition in Gaza and transmits the audition to Ramallah where the whole jury resides. There would be no training program for the Gazans, only in Ramallah. The 4 selected talents form Gaza would perform in the Ramallah contest via a satellite transmission.

The jury, consisting of Shadia Mansour - British-Palestinian rapper, Zaki, the Danish-Egyptian rapper, and Mazzi, the Iranian-American rapper and breakdancer, will give their critique and assessment of the contributions together with the local rap pioneers Saz (Ramle) and Dam (Lid).

Between the auditions and the show the selected talents will be invited to undergo training with the jury preparing their performance for the show.

Voting and selection:

The show in Gaza will be held in al Hilal theatre in Gaza City and the West Bank show will be held in al Qasaba.

The winner will be chosen via SMS sent in by the television viewers. The show will see live performance by professional rappers.

The winners will be given the opportunity to travel to Denmark and meet and perform with the established Hip Hop scene in July 2009 + record the winning song on a single.

The program will be financed partly by the Danish Representative Office, the Roskilde Foundation and private Palestinian sponsors.

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