Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shadia Mansour | Palestinian Hip-Hop

Listen to "Al Keffiyeh"

Listen to "As Salam 3alikum"

Listen to "Kollon 3endon Dababaat"

Get all 16 trax here.

I was sitting on the F train home one evening many years ago when a voice cut through the mild din of the sparsely crowded subway car: "There's a comic book about Palestine?" 

I looked up from what I was reading (issue #4 of Joe Sacco's Palestine) to see a young Arabic man in his 20s or perhaps early 30s carefully studying the cover with a look of what I immediately registered as excitement on his face.

"Uh, yeah," I said, holding the issue out for him. "Want to take a look?"

I don't remember much of the conversation that followed, other than that the young man seemed impressed and genuinely tickled as he thumbed through the Sacco. He might have asked me where I got it and, if so, I probably explained that he could pick it up in any comic book store. 

What surprises me now, more than a decade later, is not that someone said something to me about the comic, but that the conversation was positive, upbeat. This was, after all, the F train (I lived in Brooklyn at the time), which winds its way down through a couple of East European Jewish/Hasidic/Israeli neighborhoods on its way to Coney Island. While I don't pretend to know anyone's political leanings, least of all a whole group of people's, I admit that, the few times I read Palestine on that train, a part of me always worried that doing so might lead to an altercation of some kind -- or, at the very least, a disapproving look. So far as I know, however, It never did.

Shadia Mansour was born to Christian Palestinians in London in 1985. She began singing in Palestinian protest rallies as a child and, on trips to Palestine to visit relatives, became involved with musicians there, including D.A.M. Now sometimes referred to as The First Lady of Arabic Hip-Hop, Mansour has launched what she calls a "musical intifada against the occupation of Palestine, conservatism and the oppression of women."

She has occasionally sparked controversy; her lyrics can be angry and unapologetic, in the vein of Public Enemy (Chuck D is reportedly a fan): 
Now these dogs are starting to wear it as a trend
No matter how they design it, no matter how they change its color

The keffiyeh is Arab, and it will stay Arab

The scarf, they want it

Our intellect, they want it

Our dignity, they want it

Everything that’s ours, they want it

We won’t be silent, we won’t allow it

It suits them to steal something that ain’t theirs and claim that it is

I had never heard of her until a month ago or so, when my friend Carol alerted me to this upcoming concert at Brooklyn's BAM. Yes, we're going and, yes, there's a good chance I'll write up something about it for some venue somewhere. Until then, here's a selection of her songs (and guest appearances) I found on the web -- despite her growing fame over the last few years, she remains unsigned to any label.

1 comment:

jezc said...

Fantastic find. Thanks for sharing.