Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rap and Reconciliation in Gaza: An Interview with the DARG Team

PNN

In one of the most crowded places on earth, four Palestinians are standing out. They call themselves Da Arabian Revolutionary Guys—or the DARG Team—and they are considered to be the premier rap group in the Gaza Strip. Together with fellow Palestinian hip hop crews DAM, Awlad al-Hara, and Ramallah Underground, the DARG Team comprises the most famous faces of rap music in the occupied territories.

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The Gazan rap crew the DARG Team (DARG Team Photographer QD).

PNN French Editor Alexis Thiry corresponded with the rappers, who are currently on tour in Switzerland, via email.

AT: I know Ramallah Underground as one of the pioneers of Palestinian rap. Where did you find inspiration when you started writing your songs?

DARG: Well, Ramallah Undergound is one of the best in the industry no doubt, but we don’t see ourselves in that position as the precursors of Palestinian hip hop. We just put our hearts into it, because music expresses our daily life in both Gaza and abroad in a describable way. We were inspired and still are from the pulse of the street, from what is around us and the ones who came before us: musicians, writers, producers, singers, and most of all people who give us the strength to go on doing what we believe we do best by telling their stories and ours, of living in the strip and facing all these obstacles, starting with the occupation and ending with society’s restrictions and oppressions.

We start writing 2002/03 and founded DARG Team late 2007 by combining two groups known back then as Da MCz and RG Band.

AT: How did you manage to impose your style in Gaza, a place one imagine in Europe as conservative and traditional? Do you feel you have initiated a new musical trend ?

DARG: Nothing comes that easy in Gaza, and you are right by saying Gaza is “conservative and traditional” but meanwhile it’s very creative and full of talents. Living in Gaza with all these limitation and restrictions is not easy for hip hop talents where the society believes that this kind of culture comes from the West and it’s not related to our culture and struggle in any way. Therefore we made sure that we reflect our traditions via music by [blending] traditional and oriental instruments into the music and mixing it with Western [styles]. Above all we rhymed in Arabic to ensure that we do represent this culture, where we come from, and make sure that our streets will back us up. We are the continuous evolution of those who initiated this musical trend and have left a remarkable imprint that no one can deny or overlook in Gaza.

AT: Do you think others with follow you, if that’s not already the case ?

DARG: I wouldn’t say they follow as much as I think they are inspired by us and the others. They have finally found out that they can use that kind of music to express themselves in nonviolent way, which we believe is the new way of resistance which we are part of. We’re proud to be the ones who helped in putting the foundation of it in the Gaza Strip.

AT: You have concerts planed in Lausanne and Zurich in December. Do you plan to stay in Europe after your Swiss tour ?

DARG: This is not our first time to tour in the EU and will not be the last.

AT: How is it to travel in Europe with a Palestinian ID? Is there any deadline when you have to go back to Gaza ?

DARG: It is always a great pleasure for us to travel with a Palestinian ID, but yes there is always deadline when we have to go back home.

AT: Do you know if you have an impact on the Palestinian youth society or is your audience is mainly European?

DARG: When we come across young men or women in the streets of Gaza, they sing our songs or show us respect or ask us what’s new or when’s the release of our latest album. We know that we have an impact on the streets of Gaza. First of all, it’s where we started, it’s where our inspiration comes from. We do have audiences all over, in the places we’ve been to and places we never been, thanks to the Internet, which helps us deliver our voices and messages to every single house around the world. And we feature and participate in mixtapes all over the world: Germany, France, Haiti, USA, Italy, etc.

AT: You seem to be a politically committed team and your lyrics seem to reveal your desire for Palestinian unity. How do you feel about a possible reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas?

DARG: We have politics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s why our music is all about politics, domestic and regional. We are always concerned and looking forward to the unity of the Palestinian people, especially since we have many common objectives, the most important being the liberation of Palestine. What the rest of the world is claiming, always waving the democracy card, is nothing but bullshit. When Palestinians show [them] the biggest example of democracy, they’re being fought, blockaded and isolated by the main forces of the world.

PNN - Palestine News Network