Gaza’s last rap artist says Hamas ban will force him to leave

Many of Ibrahim Ghoneim’s fellow rappers have given up or left to escape the restrictions in Gaza.
Updated 17 April 2018
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Gaza’s last rap artist says Hamas ban will force him to leave

  • Gaza has been likened to an open-air prison because of a decade-long blockade
  • Most artistic expression in Gaza takes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its subject

GAZA CITY: Ibrahim Ghoneim might be the only rap artist left in Gaza, but a ban on his concerts by the ruling Hamas party means the rapper’s sole arena is his bedroom.
Hamas, which seized control in 2007, deems Ghoneim’s performances incompatible with traditional Arab culture, so the 26-year-old makes music in his bedroom-turned-studio. Meanwhile, many of his fellow rappers have given up or left to escape the restrictions.
“Rap is a way of life through which I express my opinions and dreams,” Ghoneim told Arab News. “But it is not considered a popular art in Arab societies generally. I challenged this and continue to do so. I feel free when I sing rap.”
The rapper’s recent attempts to perform in public led to his arrest.
Gaza has been likened to an open-air prison because of a decade-long blockade. The jobless rate is more than 40 percent amid a power struggle between Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has cut funds to the radical party.
Ghoneim tackles sensitive social issues in his music, including religious extremism, as well as romance and Palestinian national songs. Most artistic expression in Gaza takes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its subject.
Mohammed Assaf, who won first place in the television show “Arab Idol,” is one of the best-known Palestinian pop singers. Other make their own efforts to create music in the absence of official institutions and backing. Hamas has only supported bands that sing religious songs.
Palestinian youth is divided between those who prefer songs by Arab singers, such as Assaf, and others who listen only to religious music.
Nevertheless, Ghoneim is proud of his album, “25 Steps,” which he finished producing a month ago at his own expense. He would love to perform a concert to launch it.
“It’s a work of art that I’ve been producing for years in cooperation with a group of musicians and technicians, and, finally, this work is ready,” he said.
“But, unfortunately, I cannot perform my songs at a public concert.”
In February, the rapper booked a hall and invited an audience, but 72 hours before he was due to sing, the hall owners told him they had to cancel following pressure from the police. In the past, he has taken part in more than 100 concerts abroad and at social and national festivities in Gaza.
When granting permits to organize concerts in closed halls, Palestinian police require segregation between males and females, and no dancing.
Ghoneim lives with his parents, sometimes doing odd jobs in advertising to make money. He is thinking of moving to Morocco and hopes to achieve the same success enjoyed by his hero Eminem, the US rap star.
“I struggled a lot to stay here. I tried a lot, produced and continued my work. I spent a lot of money on this art, but now I cannot anymore,” he said. “I will be leaving soon. I will search for a place where I feel more freedom, to add more, and come back as an Arab and international star.”


Prince heirs sue Illinois hospital over care during overdose

Updated 24 April 2018
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Prince heirs sue Illinois hospital over care during overdose

MINNEAPOLIS: Prince’s heirs have sued Walgreens and the Illinois hospital that treated the music superstar after he suffered from an opioid overdose, alleging that a doctor and various pharmacists failed to provide Prince with reasonable care, contributing to his death.
The wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Cook County, Illinois, alleges a doctor and pharmacist at Trinity Medical Center in Moline, Illinois, failed to appropriately treat and investigate Prince’s April 15, 2016, overdose, and that he died “as a direct and proximate cause of one or more ... deviations from the standards of care.”
It accuses Walgreen Co. and pharmacists at two of its Minnesota branches of “dispensing prescription medications not valid for a legitimate medical purpose.”
Walgreens and the hospital’s parent company both declined to comment Monday, citing pending litigation.
Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park studio compound in suburban Minneapolis on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Authorities said it was likely Prince didn’t know he was taking the dangerous drug, which was laced in counterfeit pills made to look like a generic version of the painkiller Vicodin. The source of those pills is unknown and no one has been charged in Prince’s death.
A week before he died, Prince passed out on a flight home from an Atlanta concert and the private plane made an emergency stop in Moline. The musician had to be revived with two doses of a drug that reverses effects of an opioid overdose.
At Trinity Medical Center, Prince refused medical tests but was asked what drugs he took. Documents show a pill that he had with him, which was marked as Vicodin, was sent to the pharmacy for testing. A hospital pharmacist said it appeared to be Vicodin and returned it to Prince.
Prosecutors said last week that no chemical testing was done on the pill, but evidence suggests it was counterfeit and laced with fentanyl.
The lawsuit alleges the pharmacist and emergency room physician, Dr. Nicole Mancha, failed to timely diagnose and treat the overdose and failed to provide appropriate counseling.
The allegations against Walgreens stem from prescriptions that were dispensed to Prince, but written under the name of his bodyguard, Kirk Johnson. Authorities said Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg admitted that he prescribed oxycodone to Prince under Johnson’s name to protect Prince’s privacy. Schulenberg disputes that, but paid $30,000 to settle allegations the drug was prescribed illegally.
Attorneys for Prince’s family, George Loucas and John Goetz, said in a statement that they will have more to say when the time is right.
“Prince’s family wishes, through its investigation, to shed additional light on what happened to Prince. At the same time further light on the opiate epidemic will hopefully help the fight to save lives,” the attorneys said. “If Prince’s death helps save lives, then all was not lost.”