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.”


Former Miss Universe to be first Filipina to get Madame Tussauds statue

Updated 24 September 2018
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Former Miss Universe to be first Filipina to get Madame Tussauds statue

Former Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach, will become the first Filipina to have a wax statue at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong.

“When I found out, I was so excited. I couldn't believe it! In my head, this is something that only happens to big stars,” Wurtzbach told Philippines local daily, Rappler.

The statue will be unveiled in early 2019.

Madame Tussauds first opened in London and has since opened several museums all over the world, housing wax figures of prominent historical figures and contemporary celebrities.