Features »

This is… Richard Poplak

May 27, 2009 – 4:47 am

The Sheikh’s Batmobile is the product of pop-culturalist Richard Poplak’s two-year search for hallmarks of North American culture – “pop songs, sitcoms, Hollywood movies, shoot ‘em up video games, muscle cars and punk music” – in the least likely of …

Read the full story »
Features

In the first person - In your own words

Hearsay

We trawl the news media so you don’t have to

You Say

Media you make -stories you tell

Art &Culture

True insiight into the real direction of our collective purposes

Blog

Musings from the Worldtown cast.

Uncategorized »

Worldtown via Londontown Lyrical Alliance

February 26, 2016 – 2:33 am

Dash Arts

If you ask many young listeners about hip-hop’s history, you’d be scant to hear about its roots in African-American culture, as creative expression against oppression. Or about it’s foundation as a subculture taking root from East Coast to West Coast, a movement encompassing urban realities shaped into socially conscious rhymes. In effect, there’s little knowledge in our collective memory about the sampling, sharing, and truly underground mixtape revolution of hip-hop in the beginning… not exactly the reality shared by high-level artists today. As vagrant tales, deep bass and autotune eclipse real messages on the top-40 Rap and RnB rotations, Wikipedia might be the only thing to get in touch with hip-hop’s historical foundations, at least commercially. So the migration to a more “Eastern” message seems natural, especially when there are at least a dozen voices, speaking from a similar lens, towards a similar message.
There’s no coincidence that hip-hop is a natural expression for debate. This recognition has prompted a collaboration among prominent, yet still very “underground” hip-hop artists under the rubric of “Lyrical Alliance”. The Dash Arts series handpicked a group of young rappers performing primarily in Arabic from the Middle East and the diaspora. Ranging in style and variation, they engage in a “socially conscious” brand of hip-hop, however, they may be coming from different angles and lenses.
As Josephine Burton, one of the organizers of Lyrical Alliance details, on the trip to seek out some of the best in Arab hip-hop, they were met with an overwhelming gerth of raw talent and energy. The collaboration began through an organized encounter in the traditionally “bohemian” district Hamra in Beirut. There, Burton details encountering poignant Palestinian rappers spinning words on identity, but limited by circumstance and politics. “There were the fierce politics of Katibe Hamsa: 5 Palestinians from the camps south of Beirut whose rhymes were raw and powerful and their energy electric. Their lyrics spoke of the frustration and with dark dark humour at the tragedy of their situation. It was a privilege to meet them but it was a relationship that would go nowhere: their Palestinian identity cards prevented the group from leaving Lebanon. The encounter offered an intense window into their world. There was the more commercial RGB, whose beats were the most ‘Americanised’ of all we met on our journeys across the region, the more middle class Fareeq El Atrash, their discontent less political and more social, and Yasin from I-Voice, also Palestinian but Palestinian with a Lebanese identity, an identity which enables him more mobility but just as much history to contend with in his lyrics.
The night was a taste of the diversity and huge talent in the region.”
In the end, the Alliance is made up of 8 artists. Rayess Bek from Lebanon, Shadia Mansour who is Palestinian raised in the UK, Rabah Dakshe, Samma, Tamar Nadaf well known from the group DAM from the West Bank – famous for exporting the hip-hop voice of the Palestinian Cause globally. They are mentored by DJ MK and their artistry is given common ground through adapting the poems of the Mu’Aqqalla. Burton describes the “epic poems” as a collection “written centuries ago, by Oral Poets who travelled the Region – describing the desert, camps, camels and also war, love and drinking.” How these poems traverse generations and give a common message to the theme of this Lyrical Alliance will take shape at Camden’s Roundhouse venue tomorrow night. While the headlining act – no stranger to the world of collaboration and high-stakes hip-hop – Talib Kweli may be a crowd-drawer, it’s the sensual and rhythmically infused words of the Arabic hip hop artists that poises with sincerity in a new Eastern face of the movement. This is in practice, an East-West alliance, though lyrically the subjects of each rhyme might be distinct, cross-cutting themes help establish the commonality of hip-hop humanity, but here, perhaps it’s the West that can learn from the beatific advancement of these words. It’s not exactly a revival, but a refreshing shift building on old and new. Hip-hop’s structure is often about repetition, but with a new, international dimension, these artists are only involved in repeating the new.

More from Josephine Burton:
How did this collaboration begin?

As I started to explore and investigate music across the Arabic Region – I kept coming across fantastic rappers, socially conscious, poetically fine rappers, performing in Arabic – spread out geographically across the Arabic World including the diaspora. The project brings some of the best together to write and perform together. I was keen to explore common ground between the artists, and after some research came across the epic poems of the mu’allaqat. These poems written centuries ago, were written by Oral Poets who travelled the Region – describing the desert, camps, camels and also war, love and drinking. Beautiful fresh lyrics which were the common heritage of all the rappers across the region. We brought the poems and the ideas behind the poems into the rehearsal room and they became some of the inspiration for the new rhymes which Tamer Nafer, Shadia Mansour, Rabah Donquishoot, Rayess Bek and Samm have created.

How did these artists get involved?

With DJ MK, I travelled across the Region, meeting rappers, recording, running sessions. For example, in November 2009, over the course of an evening, in a pristine newly built studio, floors beneath the Hamra in downtown Beirut, I encountered group after group of hip hop artists. There were the fierce politics of Katibe Hamsa: 5 Palestinians from the camps south of Beirut whose rhymes were raw and powerful and their energy electric. Their lyrics spoke of the frustration and with dark dark humour at the tragedy of their situation. It was a privilege to meet them but it was a relationship that would go nowhere: their Palestinian identity cards prevented the group from leaving Lebanon. The encounter offered an intense window into their world. There was the more commercial RGB, whose beats were the most ‘Americanised’ of all we met on our journeys across the region, the more middle class Fareeq El Atrash, their discontent less political and more social, and Yasin from I-Voice, also Palestinian but Palestinian with a Lebanese identity, an identity which enables him more mobility but just as much history to contend with in his lyrics.
The night was a taste of the diversity and huge talent in the region.
The final selection included a mix of artists from countries, some of whom had collaborated before and others who hadn’t. All were some of the finest we met, and were excited by the challenge of the collaboration and of incorporating the poems into their work.

Any future collaborations for Dash Arts?

Lyrical Alliance is part of our current Arabic Series… this has included the fantastic dance commission Babel (words) by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet and Antony Gormley which opened at Sadler’s Wells to great reviews and packed houses and is now travelling internationally; a co-production with the Barbican with a Homage to the great Egyptian diva OUm Kalsoum including a classical show with the full orchestra from Cairo and a contemporary adaptation with a major UK artists; and finally a theatrical adaptation of the stories of the One Thousand and One Nights Commissioned by Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity, Dramatised and directed by Tim Supple | Stories adapted by Hanan al- Shaykh that opens at the Luminato Festival in Canada in June 2011.
And the we move on to a new Season of work for 2013 with artists from the former Soviet Union.

Authors Contemplate the Power of Prose

February 26, 2016 – 2:27 am

As the South Asian subcontinent changes at extraordinary speed, there’s no shortage of interest among writers inspired by the region’s fragile borders, captivating landscapes, and endless complexities. To formally recognize that interest and centre on the human story in an …

“Mammoth” review

February 26, 2016 – 1:19 am

“Mammoth” review
by: Seemi Choudry
Lukas Moodysson’s film “Mammoth” opens with a feel good scene: husband, wife, and daughter joyfully playing with one another in a spacious Soho gallery-style apartment. None of the characters want play time to end and audience members …

This is Inua Ellams

February 26, 2016 – 1:13 am

Inua Ellams is a poet, playwright, performer and graphic designer. Or rather, a wordsworth, peruser and interloper traversing different worlds with rhythm and slice. His writing and performance comes with ornate detail and structure that straddles his Nigerian roots and …

Rayya Haddad

February 26, 2016 – 1:10 am

UMAM Kan Lebnan

Upon walking in the city of Beirut one encounters a great number of old decrepit looking buildings. They have such a feel because they were abandoned long ago but still remain in the cityscape. They have become a …

I Am Nobody’s Nig***

March 25, 2012 – 11:44 am
I Am Nobody’s Nig***

In the aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence case verdict, London-based poet Dean Atta saw something that made him very angry. It was not so much an image than an idea that sparked him to pen the words “I Am Nobody’s …

Ghana ThinkTank

March 25, 2012 – 5:43 am
Ghana ThinkTank

In the aftermath of the Kony 2012 -White Saviourism-comes-undone period, this is the most ingenious counter-example that we’ve seen: Ghana Think Tank is purportedly “a worldwide network of think tanks creating strategies to resolve local problems in the ‘developed’ world.”
“Started in …

Axis of Light – A Portrait of Eight Artists from the Middle East and North Africa

March 12, 2012 – 6:12 am

Pia Getty’s Axis of Light presents an intimate retrospective of eight well-known Middle Eastern/North African Artists.
“The histories unfolding are marked by war and exile yet as Baalbaki serenely expresses it ‘ It is difficult to put into words but nonetheless …

This is…Omar Offendum

October 26, 2011 – 2:28 am

“Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s an Arab superhero and he came to bring change”.
This is a line from the track “Superhero” on Omar OFFENDUM’s (born Chakaki) debut album SyrianAmericana. With a moniker like …

Suheir Hammad’s “Into Egypt”

June 12, 2011 – 9:41 am

Watch Suheir Hammad’s highly stylised tribute/performance poem “Into Egypt”, directed/produced by Waleed Zaitar who directed and did the graphics for Slingshot hip hop.

Ethno-Sploitation Reality TV

May 22, 2011 – 9:48 am

As reality TV continues to prod the most perverse of human nature, one wonders – how much longer must we be subject to this?
This chart c/o of Vanity Fair draws out the latest trend in Reality Television – ethno-sploitation. That …