Hip-hop first rose from the streets of New York as the music of social protest and the disenfranchised, so the popularity of the first breakout Palestinian hip-hop act, DAM, should come as no surprise.
The trio of Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar and Mahmud Jrery hail from Ramleh, about 15 miles from Tel Aviv, and are proving a hit in Israel, where they recently performed for 2,000 fans in Haifa.
They’ve even managed the rare feat of gaining praise from both the left and right wings of Israeli society.
“People come up to us and tell us that even though they didn’t agree with what we’re saying, they liked what we were doing by being positive,” says Jrery.
The name “DAM” has multiple meanings — “blood” in both Hebrew and Arabic, as well as its connotation in English as a curse word — and the trio’s influences range from rappers Tupac and Mos Def to classical Arab singers like George Wasouf and Fairuz.
The group, which just completed its first tour of the U.K. and France, started some six years ago, but were not always overtly political.
That changed with the outbreak of the Intifada in 2000.
“We didn’t really write about being Arabs,” Nafar recalls. “We were just in to hip-hop.” But they became radicalized as they witnessed the increasing violence.
“Hip hop is the music of young people around the world,” Tamer explains. “There are more words you can use in rap than you can in a love song to say what you want to say.
“Music can be a good weapon.”