Arab rappers you should hear

The Fareeq el Atrash band performing in Beirut. (Courtesy: Facebook)
Updated 12 August 2018
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Arab rappers you should hear

While the Arab world’s music scene is dominated by traditional oud-led music and mainstream pop, the region is also home to a number of talented hip-hop acts who have broken from tradition to forge their own style.

El Général

The Tunisian MC, whose real name is Hamada Ben Amor, was born and raised in Sfax. The rapper focuses mainly on politically charged lyrics — his song “Rais Lebled” has been described as the “anthem of the Jasmine Revolution.”

Shadia Mansour

Known as the first lady of Arabic hip-hop, Mansour, who’s been active on the scene since 2003, is a Palestinian-British MC who lyrics are fuelled by Middle Eastern politics. Rolling Stone Middle East recognized her for her “hardcore stance on Palestinian nationalism.”

Salah Edin

Dutch-Moroccan rapper Salah Edin, real name Abid Tounssi, is among the more seasoned artists on this list, with three studio albums, a demo, and a mixtape to his name. The 38-year-old, who is also an actor, is signed to Dutch label TopNotch.

Narcy

Iraqi-Canadian MC Yassin Alsalman’s family originally hail from Basra, but he grew up in Abu Dhabi and is now based in Canada. Narcy is something of a polymath — he’s an actor, a published author, and also taught a class at Concordia University: “Hip Hop: Past, Present, and Future.”

Ashekman

Lebanese street art and rap duo Mohammed and Omar Kabbani, known collectively as Ashekman, have taken the country’s capital Beirut by storm since the release of their debut album, “Ashekmanphobia” in 2011.

FareeQ el Atrash

Translating from Arabic to “The Deaf Team,” this Lebanese boasts three accomplished MCs — Edd Abbas, Nasser ‘Chyno’ Shorbaji, and Qarar, along with beatboxer Fayez ‘FZ’ Zouheiry and live accompaniment from John Nasr on bass and Fouad Afra on drums. Renowned for their high-energy live shows.


No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

Updated 21 January 2019
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No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

  • The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths
  • With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain,” looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw

BAGHDAD: Roaring along Baghdad’s highways, the “Iraq Bikers” are doing more than showing off their love of outsized motorcycles and black leather: they want their shared enthusiasm to help heal Iraq’s deep sectarian rifts.
Weaving in and out of traffic, only the lucky few ride Harley Davidsons — a rare and expensive brand in Iraq — while others make do with bikes pimped-up to look something like the “Easy Rider” dream machines.
“Our goal is to build a brotherhood,” said Bilal Al-Bayati, 42, a government employee who founded the club in 2012 with the aim of improving the image of biker gangs and to promote unity after years of sectarian conflict.
That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics.
“It is absolutely prohibited to talk politics among members,” Bayati told Reuters as he sat with fellow bikers in a shisha cafe, a regular hangout for members.
“Whenever politics is mentioned, the members are warned once or twice and then expelled. We no longer have the strength to endure these tragedies or to repeat them,” he said, referring to sectarian violence.
With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain,” looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw.
But while their style is unmistakably US-inspired — at least one of Bayati’s cohorts wears a helmet emblazoned with the stars and stripes — these bikers fly the Iraqi flag from the panniers of their machines.
The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths. One of their most recent events was taking part in Army Day celebrations.
Some are in the military, the police and even the Popular Mobilization Forces, a grouping of mostly Shiite militias which have taken part in the fight to oust Islamic State from Iraq in the last three years.
“It is a miniature Iraq,” said member Ahmed Haidar, 36, who works with an international relief agency.
But riding a chopper through Baghdad is quite different from Route 101. The bikers have to slow down at the many military checkpoints set up around the city to deter suicide and car bomb attacks.
And very few can afford a top bike.
“We don’t have a Harley Davidson franchise here,” said Kadhim Naji, a mechanic who specializes in turning ordinary motorbikes into something special.
“So what we do is we alter the motorbike, so it looks similar ... and it is cheaper.”