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.”


Philippines’ Duterte pestered again as gecko stalls speech

Updated 20 September 2019

Philippines’ Duterte pestered again as gecko stalls speech

  • In a previous speech lambasting the Catholic clergy, a fly kept buzzing around him and landed on his forehead
  • While attacking the political opposiion during an election campaign, a big cockroach crawled up his shoulder and down his shirt

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte just keeps getting bugged during his public speeches.
A noisy gecko was the latest wildlife contributor to an address by Duterte, interrupting the leader on Thursday evening just as he launched another tirade at human rights groups critical of his bloody war on drugs.
The reptile’s persistence caused laugher in the crowd of mostly soldiers, causing Duterte stop mid-sentence, turn to his left and pause for a while to see what the off-camera commotion was.
“You brought a gecko here?” he asked an official sitting behind him, drawing laughs.
Geckos are common across Southeast Asia. The small lizard-like reptiles are known for their ability to produce various loud sounds, from barks to chirps, to communicate or when threatened.
While activists accuse Duterte of cowing his opponents into silence, reptiles and insects have no qualms about pestering him during his often hours-long, televised addresses.
A big cockroach crawled up his shoulder and down his shirt during a speech in May when he was lambasting an opposition party ahead of a national election. He joked the cockroach was its supporter.
Two months later, a fly kept buzzing around him and landing on his forehead, just as he was berating his rivals in the Catholic clergy. He said in jest that the fly was acting on their orders.