Hip Hopping Around the Globe: Getting in Tune to a New Cultural Revolution: Part 4


Tunisia is the location where the Arab Spring began in 2011. However a passive form of protest began in November, 2010, when a young rap musician calling himself El General posted a song on his Facebook page and YouTube. The song, Rais Leblel, was a mocking of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ali for the problems of poverty, unemployment, hunger and injustice. The YouTube video showed El General walking through a darkened, sewage-strewn alley, with graffiti spray-painted on the wall.

The video instantly became popular among young Tunisians. Al Jazeera picked it up, and it spread quickly across the Internet. As Robin Wright put it in her book, Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, “It broke through the climate of fear in a country where no politician had dared to criticize a president in power for almost a quarter century.”

A few weeks later, a government inspector general demanded a bribe from a street vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi. The vendor’s produce was confiscated, and his livelihood was put in jeopardy. When Bouazizi found no recourse, he committed suicide by setting himself on fire.

As protests over the street vendor’s death spread across the country, El General’s rap lyrics became the rallying cry. After he wrote another protest song, the Tunisian police arrested and imprisoned  El General was released after three days when the government attempted to appease the demonstrators.

El General’s influence later spread to Egypt and Bahrain. His impact gained him the honor of being named one of Time Magzine’s 2011 Most Influential People.

Below is a YouTube video of El General’s video that had such a powerful impact on the Arab Spring.


Hip Hopping Around the Globe: Getting in Tune to a New Cultural Revolution: Part 3


Hip Hop in Iran has strong working class roots. Most Iranian musicians have chosen it because of rap’s history of political and social criticism. They also like the connection rap has to worldwide trends.

The history of Hip Hop in Iran began in the 1980’s. Souresh Lashkari, popularly known by the name Hichkas, founded a band named 021, which is the area code for Tehran. 021 uses elements of traditional Persian music, poetry, along with hip hop.

Hichkas was one of the musicians featured in a film entitled, No One Knows About Persian Cats. Although the film was inspired by Iran’s ban on taking cats and dogs out in public, it also covered the regime’s prohibition on secular music. Hichkas and 021 performed a song in it that has lyrics and video images of the extreme poverty in Tehran.

Another notable Iranian rap musician is also the country’s first female rapper, Salome MC. Salome began her hip hop career in 2002, recording her first song with Hichkas.

Her first album, a collaboration with a German rap musician Shirali, was entitled, Delirium. Two of the songs on that album are The War Within, and My Path, My Fight. “War, it’s war again, from the very moment of birth to the exact time of death.” But the closing lyrics are “because the voice of justice has conquered the war within me again.” Lyrics from My Path, My Fight include “I separated from the herd of the sheep from the beginning. Banished from grassland, without any homeland. Intellectuality, technology, movements, ideologies, politics, principals, side-tracks, religion obstacles, I pass them all with my invisible chainmail.”

In 2013, by this time having moved to Japan, she released an album  entitled, Salome’s Tale. Salome’s Tale featured her first English language song, I Officially Exist. In the song, Salome tries to reconcile her place in a world that is defined by politics and conflicting stories about right vs. wrong. As she puts it in the lyrics, “neither my hell nor my heaven is defined, my destiny is unknown and out of my hands, out of my brain.”

Below you will find YouTube videos for Hichkas in No One Knows About Persian Cats, and two for Salome. One of the Salome videos is about the Iran she left behind.

NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS on DVD now. The acclaimed fifth feature film from Bahman Ghobadi, the director of Half Moon and Turtles Can Fly opened the Certain Regard strand of the 2009 Cannes Film…
Added on 3/01/10

Hip Hopping Around the Globe: Getting in Tune to a New Cultural Revolution: Part 2

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Palestinian hip hop began in the late 1990’s with a band named DAM. DAM has two meanings, blood in Hebrew, and eternity in Arabic.

They are a three member band comprised of lead singer Tamer Nafar, brother Suheil Nafar, and friend Mahmoud Jreri. DAM’s music blends Arabic melodies with hip hop beats. Borrowing from traditional rap music that was discussed in Part I, young Palestinian rap musicians have tailored their style to express their own grievances with the social and political climate in which they live and work.

Tamar and Suheil grew up in the slums of Lod, a mixed Arab and Israeli town near Tel-Aviv. As Robin Wright put it in Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, “just as rap initially provided an alternative to gang violence to young Blacks in the Bronx, hip hop has offered an alternative to suicide bombs and Molotov cocktails among Palestinians.” Or as Tamar describes it “hip hop is our CNN.”

Prior to the violence or intifada that erupted in 2000, DAM had collaborated with an Israeli hip hop musician, Subliminal, at many performances. However the two stopped after DAM released a controversial song in 2001 “Who’s the Terrorist.” The Palestinian trio was angry that the world did not understand the desperation felt by Palestinians because many more of their own people were killed by the Israeli military during the previous year of the Intifada.

However for all of their fury, DAM’s songs do not threaten violence. As Tamar put it, “I have a lot of rage, but I express it with a microphone, not a weapon.” He made this statement to an Israeli audience in 2007. In an album released that same year entitled Dedication, the band stated that “our album is the new intifada, and the lyrics are the stones.’

After the last Intifada ended, DAM collaborated with an Israeli band Shotei Hanuvah on a track entitled, Generations Demand Peace. This song was performed at peace rallies attended by young Palestinians and Israelis.

Below you will find YouTube videos of an interview with DAM, as well as one of a song for peace.



Hip Hopping Around the Globe: Getting in Tune to a New Cultural Revolution, Part 1

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Hip Hop, or Rap music began in the early 1970’s in the South Bronx of New York City. It was intended to be an alternative to the violent gang culture that existed there.

Clive Campbell, or popularly known as DJ Kool Herc, is regarded as the creator of rap music. Campbell was an immigrant from Jamaica, where he heard sound systems of neighborhood parties called dancehalls, and the accompanying speeches of their disc jockeys, known as toasting. Combining a powerful sound system with music from artists such as James Brown, Campbell modified the sound of it, so that the percussive part that dancers liked the best came through. He also developed the rhyming style for rap lyrics by punctuating the recorded music with slanged phrases.

Soon after Herc began to hold street and neighborhood parties where he would be the disc jockey host. By the mid-1970’s, hip hop culture in the South Bronx began to replace a lot of the street gangs that terrorized their neighborhoods. While the violence did not end, rap music released an enormous amount of creative energy from the bottom of American society.

Hip Hop began to gain popularity in white America during the 1980’s, when the punk rock group The Beastie Boys changed their sound to rap. License to Ill was the album that marked this transition with its release in 1986. The band became interested in hip hop when rap disc jockeys began coming into punk rock venues in New York, where the Beastie Boys originated. Topics they rapped about were ones that middle class whites could understand. They had the support of some black hip hop musicians, since the band was honest about themselves. In time they were performing in front of black audiences.

The other white rap musician who popularized hip hop among white audiences more than any other was Eminem. Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, grew up in a largely black lower middle class neighborhood in Detroit. He became interested in storytelling at a young age, and discovered hip hop after hearing a rap song by a musician named Ice-T.

At age 14, Eminem and a high school friend began as a rap duo. In time, Mathers began to become noticed by the local rap music community, He was signed to a record label FBT Productions in 1996. Eminem’s debut album Infinite covered subjects such as his struggles raising a newborn daughter on a limited budget. However it was not until the release of the recording Slim Shady LP in 1999 that began his rise to stardom. It was this album that for the first time showed how a white rap musician can join his black counterparts. As Jason Tanz put it in Other People’s Property: A Shadow History of Hip Hop in White America, Eminem’s “white skin appealed to even the most sheltered of teeny-bopper mallrats, kids who may never have picked up a rap CD before in their lives.”

As far as the popularity of black originated hip hop into white America is concerned, Eminem became accepted by fellow black rap musicians as genuine. Lyrics in songs make references to white pop culture such as the Spice Girls, Pamela Anderson Lee, and Nine Inch Nails. According to Tanz, “what Eminem demonstrates clearly is that race now is not just about the color of your skin, it’s also about your psychology. It’s about your positioning yourself. It is a mix of conscious and unconscious factors that situate you in a demographic which your skin color might even deny. It’s a fact today and it took hip hop to make this fact manifest.”

Below you will find YouTube videos for an historical background for Rap and Hip Hop, as well as a well known song by Eminem, ’97 Bonnie and Clyde

Hip Hopping Around the Globe: Getting in Tune to a New Cultural Revolution, Introduction

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As someone who grew up as part of the Baby Boomer generation identifying with Rock and Roll music, I have attempted to write a four part series of blog posts about another genre of music that has defined a younger generation, Hip Hop and Rap. Even though I cannot relate to Hip Hop and Rap, I understand that what Hip Hop and Rock and Roll have in common is an expression of rebellion, as well as a way to channel emotions, yearnings, etc. from each generation.

For the purpose of the posts that follow, the terms hip hop and rap will be used interchangeably. Generally speaking, Rap is the music itself, meaning the sound, lyrics/rhymes/poems, etc. sung by the singer. Hip Hop is the broader culture in which Rap is a part of.

The history of Rap really began after World War I, but only as a linguistic art form. According to Henry Louis Gates, an African American professor at Harvard University, it was called at the time a “long oral poem”, specific to the Black American community. It was kind of a language game, similar to a preacher’s call and response to an audience. This kind of communication addressed varying concerns, such as social and political issues, love, loneliness, and heartbreak.

The music element was added in the 1970’s, when Hip Hip and Rap as we now know it began. As Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois, editors of The Anthology of Rap put it “Hip Hop’s pioneers fashioned in rap an art form that draws not only from the folk idioms of the African diaspora, but from the legacy of Western verse and the musical traditions of jazz, blues, funk, gospel and reggae.”

This four part series consists of Part I, its beginnings in the United States, Part II, its influence abroad in Palestine/Israel, Part III, its influence abroad in Iran, and Part IV, its influence abroad in adding a spark to the start of the Arab Spring in Tunisia.

Stand and Face the Unknown: A Soundtrack for the Rest of My Life

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Those of us who are fans of the rock band Evanescence will be familiar with the first part of the post title, Stand and Face the Unknown. These are lyrics that are an important part of their song, What you Want. It is the spirit of the song, but particularly the video for it, that gives me my own swagger as an attitude toward life.

Do what you, what you want

Your world’s closing in in you now (it isn’t over)

Stand and face the unknown (got to remember who you really are).

As I get older, the expression that life is too short now holds meaning. As someone who leads a busy life, time also seems too short.

There’s still time

Close your eyes

Only love will guide you home

Tear down the wall, and free your soul

This song’s sense of determination fits my own swagger  Below is a video for the Evanescence song, What you Want:


Can You See the Real Me?: The Soundtrack of my Life

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The title of this post is also the title of a song by the one band that has formed the soundtrack of my own life: The Who. Four of their songs, I’m Free, Love Reign O’er Me, Baba O’Reilly, and Pure and Easy, each have elements of how I have grown, and what I value as I continue  living my life.

I’m Free, from the rock opera Tommy, is the song that I can identify with the most. As someone who experienced misfortune during my own early childhood, but found myself later in life, this is the real me.  Love Reign O’er Me, from their other rock opera, Quadrophenia, is about finding a higher power with all-consuming love, and trying to turn some of that spiritual love into a romantic one. Baba O’Reilly, or popularly known as the Teenage Wasteland song, is about feeling mentally young, and starting life over again, which I find as I get older. Pure and Easy is about the power of music, and how it can make a difference in the world. I definitely know that music makes a difference in my own life.

Below you can find YouTube videos which have  lyrics to  each of these songs.




O’er The Land of The Free, and the Home of the Brave: Star-Spangled Veterans Discover Music as a Way to Transition Back to Civilian Life

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, large numbers of soldiers are returning with a variety of injuries that severely impact their physical and mental health. Overcoming these challenges is so important for a successful transition to civilian life.

Musicorps, created by composer Arthur Bloom, began in 2007, after he was invited to visit a soldier recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The soldier had been badly injured in combat, and was concerned about how his injuries would impact his ability to play music. Bloom and Resources in Music Education, his organization that uses a curriculum of music to help people in need, devised one for veterans in need. To quote from the Musicorps website, “Musicorps replicates real world music relationships. It integrates individualized projects, regular visits by professional musicians, and the use of specially-assembled computer-based music workstations, along with traditional instruments.” Soldiers are able to learn, play, write, record and produce original music.

One of Musicorps’ advisers, Dr. Allen Brown, director of brain research and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic, believes that for veterans with brain injuries, playing music may literally help the brain recover. This is because the process of learning to play music requires the use of many parts of the brain.

As far as the results of the Musicorps ccurriculum are concerned, one soldier, who was never musically inclined, described how much it helped him. Sgt. Levi Crawford was hit with a rocket propelled grenade while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. He was permanently blinded in his right eye, and almost lost his right arm. Sgt. Crawford also suffered traumatic brain injury, which affected his memory, speech and overall brain function. Musicorps helped him gain the confidence to not only learn to play the guitar, but to perform other normal activities such as rock climbing and hiking.

Below is a YouTube video of professional celloist Yo Yo Ma performing with the Musicorps Wounded Warrior Band.




Doctors Who Are Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Part 2

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The Longwood Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in Boston Massachusetts, is a group of physicians who also play together as musicians on the side. They bring free chamber music directly to patients who can no longer attend concerts. The LSO plays in in hospital wards, rehabilitation centers, hospices, and other healthcare facilities throughout the state of  Massachusetts.

In Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine, author and current LSO President Lisa Wong traces its history since its founding in 1982. Biographies of some of her musical and medical colleagues in the LSO are covered. What they all have in common is a belief that playing for the Orchestra has greatly helped them in their relationships with their patients. When these doctors play music, they become  better attuned to their patients’ emotional state of mind.

The LSO has a three-part mission. The first is the concert performances at health and medical facilities across the state of Massachusetts. Wong defines this as “Healing the Community through Music.” The second is “Community Engagement.” Chamber groups of young doctors and medical students are sent to perform in hospitals, hospices, and Alzheimer units. According to Dr. Wong, “studying the impact of chamber music on Alzheimer’s patients and senior citizens, their families, and their caregivers has the potential of changing the way we care for our aging population.” “Educational Work” is the third part, which consists of symposia that draws colleagues from across the country to discuss topics such as “Crossing the Corpus Collusum: Neuroscience, Healing, and Music.” This is an example of one which was hosted by the LSO, in partnership with “The Lab at Harvard University.” Topics that attendees  addressed for this symposium were about how music can help in recovery from neurological disorders, how music shapes the developing brain, and if music can “be the way towards recovering functions for individuals with autism.”

Most promising is a trend of some medical schools in thinking about how to integrate c curriculum of humanities into medical practice. Wong cites Harvard, Stanford and Dalhousie as examples of schools where a professor may encourage a first-year medical student to create art to express feelings about a first encounter with a cadaver.

Below you will find a YouTube video of Dr. Wong elaborating on the purpose of the  LSO and its impact on doctor and patient alike.

Doctors Who Are Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Part I

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Oliver Sachs, a renowned doctor and author, and the physicians making up the Longwood Symphony Orchestra in Boston, Massachusetts, are examples of professionals dispelling negative perceptions about doctors. As Dr. Lisa Wong of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra put it in her book, From Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Musical Medicine, “science, in the forms of innovative technologies, increasingly views the patient as an amalgam of dysfunctional parts, while the arts, since time immemorial, have probed the meaning of being human. The former focuses on curing diseases, the latter aims to heal a human being brimming with uncertainty, discomfort, and dread.”

This impact is part of an increasing trend in the medical profession to recognize an important role music plays in bettering our medical health. As far back as 1914, The Journal of the Medical Association published its first writing on the link between music and health. According to the article, a doctor used a phonograph during surgery for “calming and distracting patients from the horror of the situation.”

Dr. Sachs first became aware of the impact of music on mental health in 1966, when  patients who had been stricken with a sleeping sickness years earlier were suddenly showing active signs of life. In Sacks’s book, Awakenings, he addressed how some of these patients with this sleeping sickness, one form of Parkinson’s Disease, were freed up in their movements after hearing music. One of his case studies described a patient as having movements that were “wooden and mechanical, like a robot or doll. In this state, this statelessness, this timeless irreality she would remain, motionless-helpless, until music came.” As this patient herself described it, “songs, tunes I knew from years ago, catchy tunes, rhythmic tunes, the sort I loved to dance to” had awakened her.

Sachs wrote about a patient suffering from amnesia and the impact of music in another book, Musicophilia. This patient had been in his mid-forties when he was struck with a severe brain infection, which severely affected his memory. His recall span was just a few seconds. According to his wife, “his ability to perceive what he saw and heard was unimpaired. But he did not seem to be able to retain any impression of anything for more than a blink.” However since this patient had been a musician prior to being stricken with amnesia, he was able to recall every part of performing a musical piece. As Dr, Sachs described it, “when we remember a melody, it plays in our mind, it becomes newly alive. There is not a process of recalling, imagining, assembling, recategorizing, recreating, as when one attempts to reconstruct or remember an event or a scene from the past.”

Below you will find a YouTube video in which Dr. Sachs discusses the impact of music on people who suffer strokes.