It’s evening, and a few friends and I have gone to a quiet café, a grassy enclave with much shrubbery, open air, no music. It’s simple, tranquil, a comparatively lush environment (compared to dry or sandy city streets), and it’s a place which many of Gaza’s more artistic residents frequent.
Khaled Harara and Ayman Mughames sit down to discuss rap in Gaza.
They list off their reasons for choosing rap as their medium: it reaches the young people, it conveys a message clear, it is a tool that can fight the Israeli occupation and siege effectively.
They are energetic and youthful, in their mid-twenties.
Enough talking, they break out the words, showing off their political lyrics but also playfully rapping about a friend of their’s whose name happens to rhyme with a traditional Palestinian sweet, Kanafe (“kannafee”).
We chat a bit more about the difficulties they face in Gaza (rap is still a novelty here, not easily accepted by a conservative society that doesn’t hear the message in the words. But moreover, the majority of problems relate to the siege, the absence of proper equipment, their inability to professionally produce albums, being cut off from like-minded groups outside of Palestine…).
Despite it all, they continue to rap and train others in the art. We are invited to a recording session next week: to be sure it will be simple, in someone’s room with a laptop beat-mixer. But they do what they can under siege.
Walking back at 2am, we come across the singing and drumming of the Ramadan Musaher: men who undertake to awaken Muslims for the pre-dawn meal and prayer (Suhoor).
It is a Ramadan tradition that extends to Muslims around the world and still lives today.
On the near empty streets of Gaza, where Ramadans in the last few years have held little happiness and celebration, this sound is somehow encouraging…that culture and tradition live on, in the worst of times and circumstances.
For some, this month and the work of the Ramadan drummer is a source of income otherwise absent in Gaza under complete and strangling siege.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCATD) published a September 2009 report stating that the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza have been forced into “unprecedented poverty levels” due to the Israeli war and siege on Gaza. Other news sources quote the report as specifying that 90% of Gaza’s Palestinians live under the poverty line.
see also: Gaza Resistance in Rapid Fire Rhyme