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Gazan rappers battle in rare competition

Dec. 22, 2009 5:29 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 26, 2009 9:59 A.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Seven Palestinian rap groups battled for the top spot in a Norwegian-funded competition in Gaza City on Monday night.

Screaming, fans crammed into a concert hall in the Red Crescent complex for the show, applauding each group on stage. The Norwegian sponsors joined via videoconference.

The competition (titled Riasalatna - Our Message) was organized by young Gazan women as the end product of a number of workshops in Gaza and the Norwegian city of Tromso. The workshops were about how to execute a project supervised by Norwegian specialists.

Norwegian judges were supposed to choose the winner of the rap contest on Monday, but the decision was delayed due to problems with the video link.

Judges said they were thrilled to participate in the event, saying it was an expression of support for the Palestinian people.

The competition’s Gazan coordinator, Nour Afana said she chose to focus on hip hop for her project because it was a point of cultural intersection between Gaza and Norway.

“Rappers in Gaza deserve to have their chance,” she said.

Like all musical genres, hip hop has suffered during two and a half years of an Israeli blockade. Under the blockade, musical instruments, recording equipment, and CDs are banned from entering Gaza. Gazan artists are also banned from leaving the Strip to perform.

Afana said hip hop’s aggressive, lyrical style gives Palestinian young people a medium suited to express their personal trials and the struggles of their people.

“They hope their voices will be heard in a language that the West will understand,” she added.

Hip hop has a growing following among young Palestinians in the West Bank, inside Israel, and in Gaza.
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