Thursday, 29 July 2010

Da Arabian MCs

If any place on earth has earned a politically motivated rap act it's Palestine. And in DAM, Palestine have one of the finest examples on the planet. They've been going since 1998, when Tamer Nafer and his younger brother Suhell used to rap around the slums of Lod - a mixed town of Arabs and Jews around 15 miles outside of Jerusalem. The heard that a fella called Mahmoud Jreri had been writing rhymes, so they banded together and DAM was born.

Their tunes are a genius blend of classic western hip hop and Arabic melodies and percussion. But as laid back as that can sometimes sound their words are an entirely different matter. Steeped in the daily difficulties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for once this really is music from the frontline, and their songs reflect their daily experiences. But they don't just rap about issues surrounding Palestinian freedom, but many of the other knock-on effects, like terrorism, drugs and women's rights.

Their debut collection of songs, the apt and emotive Stop Selling Drugs, was an instant local hit in 1998, but they first came to wider attention when the title song of their next collection, Min Irhabi? (Who's The Terrorist?) was downloaded over a million times globally from their website. the song's lyric dealt with the after effects of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, and Israel's heavy-handed response in dealing with it.

This opened the international doors for them, and since then they have toured extensively in America and right across Europe, principally on the back of their stunning album Dedication, a laid-back, low-slung selection of songs with biting rhymes, dark, intelligent humour and a brutally positive outlook, despite the privations them and their people might be suffering. 

This month has seen them blow away the staid world music event WOMAD festival, and with any luck it's their breakthrough performance to garnering a wider audience in the UK. Dedication isn't an easy album to get a hold of, but it's certainly worth the effort of tracking it down. Here is a rap band who aren't bragging about girls and guns and ostentatious wealth, they're keeping it real in a way that most of the hip hop world could never even begin to understand. In their world the sinple act of speaking out or filming a video could get them into the kind of trouble that us in the regular West don't even have the capacity to understand. And for that alone they're one of the greatest bands on the planet.

What a stroke of luck that they sound fantastic too!

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