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Wood 1 James Wood Ashby, Sada Eng 112 Sec 20 1 August 2011 Research Paper The Middle East

and Hip Hop There has been much political, social, and economic unrest all around the world since the dawn of civilization. It seems that music has always reflected upon the state of the culture. The Middle East is no exception and the youth of today have taken the American based form of Hip Hop to express their discontent of their current situation. It can be shown that music is a source of change and resolution of conflicts. There has been a long history of distrust, hate, and war within the Middle East that has gone on for hundreds of years. At the heart of this regional feuding, the major conflict has been between Muslims and Jews, Arabs and Israelis. The countries of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel participated in this on-going conflict that came to a head in 1948 when Israel gained its independence as a recognized country. The Muslim world saw this action as a step toward ethnic cleansing of the Arabs. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives during this period, as Israel defeated their Muslim aggressors and broadened their borders. The Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace indicates that the war displaced 760,000 Palestinians, who became refugees in the surrounding Arab countries (15). Not all Arabs left the country of Israel but those who did were supposed to have been paid for their land. Supposed to be paid is the key phrase.

Wood 2 Thornton identifies in 1956 the second Arab war broke out with Egypt over a dangerous shift of power in the region and the blockade in the Gulf of Aqaba between the Tiran Straits and the Red Sea. The US, furious with Israel and condemning the attack, sponsored a UN resolution resulting in a cease fire. This also marked the end of the British and French Colonial period in the region (29). Thornton continues to state in 1967 a third war broke out known as the Six Day War. As a result Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This area had been controlled by Jordan and Egypt and the occupation was very difficult for the Muslim world to accept. But the hardest thing the Muslim world had to accept was Israeli control over all of Jerusalem including the third holiest site of pilgrimage in the Muslim world: the Mosque of alAqsa and the adjacent Dome of the Rock. It did not help when fire was set to the al-Aqsa mosque in. This was viewed by the Arab world as further evidence of Israel sacrilegiousness and must be fought until Gods victory was assured (35). All of the previous events throughout the history of the Jews and Israelis have led to the current ongoing conflict in the Middle East. A deep rooted hatred of each fellow countryman is still present today. The unrest in the Middle-East focuses on the civil struggle between the government of Israel and its Palestinian people who want to establish a separate Palestinian state. Most of the Arab and/or Islamic nations in the area are also involved. The United States, the U.N., the European Union, and even Russia are all trying to broker peace in the region. The current wave of violence could die out and become one of many such cycles in the area, or it could lead to more serious war. The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on 25 January 2011 and is still continuing today. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience,

Wood 3 and labor strikes. An article in the Huffington Post described millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Despite being predominantly peaceful in nature, the revolution was not without violent clashes between security forces and protesters, with at least 846 people killed and 6,000 injured. (Kannalley, par. 1) The uprising took place in Cairo, Alexandria, and in other cities in Egypt, following the Tunisian Revolution that saw the overthrow of the long-time Tunisian president. Egyptian protesters were focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, uncontrollable corruption, and economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages. The primary demands from protest organizers were the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime and the end of emergency law; freedom, justice, a responsive non-military government, and a say in the management of Egypt's resources. Strikes by labor unions added to the pressure on government officials. The United States has gone through many cultural changes over its 200 plus year history. There have been multiple wars and civil unrest, all with music and the youth championing these social and political issues. The modern American Civil Rights Movement began after World War II and was most active across the South and the North from 1951 through the mid 1960s. Many traditional and Southern regional songs were sung to keep peoples spirits up and to communicate changes in strategy musically, without police and bigots knowing. The Civil Rights songs that were adopted in the 1950s and 1960s were ones that the basic poor black people in those cities and towns decided to sing while they were holding long meetings and rallies that were key to making actions like the Montgomery Bus Boycott work.

Wood 4 Churches and meeting halls, and peoples homes in many States used song as a tool of cohesion and it was most effective in communicating the reality of the American South. Thousands of black people were arrested in many Southern States and held in crowded jails and places for days. They sang together to show unity and communal support and to pass the time and show defiance to racists there. Throughout the South, and any state that had slaves, which originally was all of them, slaves devised and invented ways of expressing their dealing with a harsh, violent, repressive and hopeless life in that institutional bondage. Slave chanting and work songs developed into the gospel and religious hymns that so influenced white institutions. Jazz was an original expression by a people who, in the deep South, were so financially downtrodden, that they invented makeshift instruments, and a way of blending them to make a rich and effective sound. The structure of the early Jazz performers was based mostly on the unavailability of modern, costly instruments, and the adaptations of self made musical instruments as the washboard bass and broom fiddle. The music was another form of speech in the protest, just like Irish Protest songs and Labor songs were effective in the US Labor movement in the 1920s and 30s. Music is one of the most human forms of communication. The antiwar music of the Vietnam era took the children of the 60s to a different level. Musicians of this generation took the guitar strumming troubadour from the coffee houses, plugged them in, and sent the music and the message into the college dorm rooms and the homes of the youth of America. This generation was not going to sit idly by while the government lied to the people about what was going on in Vietnam. This was the first generation where combat veterans were returning prior to the end of the war and exposing the lies and miscued logic that put us in

Wood 5 Vietnam to begin with. This social climate, plus musicians who became the collective conscience of this generation through their lyrics and music became the foundation of ending a barbaric and unjust war, which the government tried to sweep under the rug by calling it a conflict. As in many movements throughout history, music of the Vietnam era served as a rallying cry and a cause for action by the youth. However, it was not necessarily the music but the message. It was a form of communication that served as a uniting factor for a population that felt disenfranchised, much like the blacks during the civil rights movement. The message brought out emotions that made people feel angry. While the war had a numbing effect on everyone under the age of 30, the music would bring out the emotions of fear and anger that brought about the need to do something about it. When hip hop began in the South Bronx, it was the voice of the voiceless. Hip Hop artists spoke to the despair and pain of urban youth and the poor who were often without a voice. The rappers themselves were products of that reality and it was conveyed through their lyrics. It was legendary hip hop pioneer Chuck D of Public Enemy who famously said that, hip hop is the CNN of the ghetto (Muhammad, par. 1). When Public Enemy began infusing references to Black history icons and Black facts in the rap, an entire generation of youth of all colors were raised to a new level of consciousness. Now, many hip hop artists, heavily influenced by the socially conscious rappers of the past, are picking up activism and becoming a very important voice of the youth, specifically dealing with social and political commentary. This is something that we might not know by looking at many of the controlled news channels which are much more likely to report a hip hop artists run in with law enforcement than their social short comings. Beyond the violence and materialism that is often associated with hip hop culture, many artists are involved in service oriented activities demonstrating their deep connection to their

Wood 6 people, their love for hip hop culture and their desire to improve current social realties. Nas, a hip hop pioneer joined the political arena on July 24 and states: Joining the ColorOfChange.org to present over 600,000 signatures demanding that Fox News end their biased pattern of racist attacks against Black Americans and the Obama family. Fox poisons the country every time they air racist propaganda and try to call it news. (Muhammad, par. 19) Nas also recently announced his support of PoliticalSwagger.com, a new alternative website for political news aimed at the hip hop generation. Those unfamiliar with the origins of Hip Hop might be surprised to hear rappers weighing in on issues such as gang conflict, human rights and political issues. Their misperception of hip hop is based on the mind-numbing and profanity laden music played on radio stations, beamed across the globe via satellite and accessed via YouTube by millions on a daily basis. Now hip hop and its ability to convey the plight of youth has migrated from the ghettos of the Bronx, then the suburbs of middle class white America, to countries all around the world. In countries like Great Britain, China, Japan, Mexico, and Canada hip hop is more of a vehicle of entertainment. In countries like Africa and the Middle East, hip hop is more of a vehicle of protest and communicating social and political issues. The youth of the Middle East have taken a page from American music in times of turmoil and adapted hip hop to be their voice of revolution. An article in the M & C News states, The Arabic revolutions have largely been a revolt by the young, who have made clear they are no longer willing to live in a climate of corruption, repression and hopelessness. (Clasmann, par. 8) The article goes on to say, Since the weight of the protests has been carried by the young, the protest songs are not the classic marches or ballads that were used when Arabic countries rose up

Wood 7 against colonizers. Instead, today's protest songs are all hip-hop and Oriental pop. (Clasmann, par. 5) These songs have the reoccurring theme of current situation and their desire to bring change. This change will not be given to them, as of all forms of revolution it takes courage, sacrifice, and the need for change. Though there are very distinct differences in culture and social norms as with the youth of the Middle East and America, but music is universal and is bringing together people of all races, regions, ages, and religions. This is no more evident than shown in a Spot.us article online. It is about an Egyptian rapper named Mohamed El Deeb aka MC Deeb. He is a long-standing hip hop artist who has been around the world. His travel has given him the larger perspective that we are all from the human race and need to embrace one another as brothers. In keeping with this motto: Deeb is also a member of the Arab League, a pan-Arab super star crew that includes the likes of Egyptian crew Arabian Knightz, another phenom Egyptian rapper, MC Amin, UK-based Palestinian soul singer Shadia Mansour, Iraqi-Canadian MC The Narcicyst, UK-based Lebanese-Syrian MC Eslam Jawaad, Moroccan-Dutch MC and Wu-Tang family member Salah Edin and Lebanese based turntablist DJ Lethal Skillz among many others. (Allers, par. 6) Their group hosts a wide rang of members, not ever seen in any of their lifetime. This gives hope that change can be delivered by the multiracial and multiregional coalition thru hip hop. Hip Hop is the vehicle that some of the youth of the Middle East hope will inspire their peers to usher in a new era of change for the future. By putting out their messages of peace, unity, tolerance, cooperation, and change, it is the belief of this demographic group, that they can be the difference. In time it will be the youth of the Middle East that will one day be the adults making the decisions. So, if they inspire change in the presence of such overwhelming

Wood 8 suppression today, they will be the bearers of peace tomorrow. This will be done by taking a page from their American brethrens from the inner cities and rapping about the state of their country (environment), using hip hop as a means of communication to the world, giving a chance for their voices to now be heard. It will not be those who sit by and hope for change, but those who stand up and demand it by any means necessary.

Wood 9 Works Cited Kannalley, Craig, ed. Egypt Revolution 2011: A Complete Guide to the Unrest. Editorial. The Huffington Post. Huffington Post Inc., 5 May 2011. Web. 30 July 2011. Muhammad, Ashahed M. Hip Hop: The voice of the youth and social activism. Online Posting. Final Call News. FCN Publishing, 7 Aug 2008. Web. 24 July 2011. Thornton, Ted. History of the Middle East Database. Online Posting. History of the Middle East Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2011. Allers, Jackson. Rymes to Revolution: The soundtrack of the Arab Spring. Online Posting. FSRN Documentaries. Spot Us Publications, 2 July 2011. Web. 24 July 2011 Clasmann, Anne-Beatrice. Arabic Revolution Fueled by a New Kind of Music. Online Posting. M & C News. Deutsche Presse-Agentur Inc. 18 April 2011. Web 24 July 2011. Berger, Alan Cox, Harvey Kelman, Herbert Martin, Lenore Mendelsohn, Everett Norton, Augustus Steiner, Henry and Walt, Stephen. Two States for Two Peoples If Not Now, When? Online Posting. The Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace. N.d. Web 30 July 2011.