Rap in the Veins

Af Rasmus Hage Dalland

The 14th of January 2009 four Israeli missiles stroke the place where Ayman lived with his family in Gaza. Ayman was in his room and did not get injured, but the attack killed his father and left his brother seriously wounded. Two days after the attack, on Ayman’s birthday, his father was buried.

The first thing that came to my mind was writing,” Ayman explains. He wrote about the terrible accident to get the anger out of his body and to share the agony with others. As Ayman puts it, rap flows in his veins instead of blood. Rap is a way of dealing with problems, a medium through which it is possible to bring into focus the situation of the Palestinian people without turning to physical confrontations. “It is much more powerful than bullets and tanks and all these military forces.”

A culture on the rise

In 2002 during the difficult days of the second intifada, Ayman and four friends formed PR – Palestinian Rapperz, the first hip hop group in the Gaza Strip. Having witnessed friends getting killed and children crying in the streets after having lost their relatives, the newly-formed group decided to show the “brutality of the Israeli occupation”, which Ayman personally experienced to this extent for the first time in his life. Feeling useless in the insecure atmosphere, Ayman started to put words to his frustration, encouraging change in the community and promoting hopes for a better future.

“We started writing lyrics and making music in order to express the agony of our people and share them online.”

Soon the group attracted a lot of attention inside and outside Gaza, and the youth in Gaza became inspired by their work. Over the years a genuine hip hop culture developed in the area, where more rap groups, breakdancers and graffiti painters came about. The blooming hip hop culture in Gaza was interesting stuff for the international media, which increased the possibility of sharing thoughts and feelings with the outside world. The attention has, in Ayman’s opinion, increased the solidarity with and understanding for the Palestinian people, and he believes in rap as a mean of making changes. “It can make a change even if it’s a slow one. When you believe in something, you keep going and never stop.”

Pens don’t stop writing

In 2013 Ayman is still working with lyrics and beats in order to articulate his reflections, and so is his old friend from the neighborhood, Khaled. He is a member of the rap group Black Unit, but has also become a part of the new group Ayman formed in 2009: Palestinian Unit. The messages of Palestinian Unit are not necessarily political, but they often touch on the delicate political situation between Palestine and Israel.

Even though the hip hop culture keeps developing in the Gaza Strip, life as a rapper is not easy. The lack of support from Hamas, who is not always willing to grant permission to perform publicly, is another obstacle that obstructs the opportunities for expression for rappers and other artists. However, this hurdle will not shut the rappers up.

“We believe in music. This is why we are doing hip hop regardless of the internal or external obstacles we face in our daily life,” Ayman says and continues: “They can stop or deny our performances, but they can’t stop our pens from writing.”

The hip hop culture in general and the art of rapping specifically is able to “reach people’s hearts and minds”, and according to Ayman, the dream for the future is clear.

“Our dream is to taste peace in our country, to feel freedom and live a normal life. Rap is in our veins, so we will keep doing it till we reach the unreachable goals and are the voice of the voiceless.”

It will soon be Denmark’s turn to listen to their stories. Ayman and Khaled, representing respectively Palestinian Unit and Black Unit, will visit Denmark from February 21st. Read more about the project, Raptivists from Gaza

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About the blogger: Rasmus Hage Dalland is a communication volunteer in RAPOLITICS. He studies Journalism and Social Science at Roskilde University and is a part of the network SPRAEK.