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Arab rap music offers youth a voice for self-expression.

Dubai: A live performance by Emirati hip hop group Desert Heat at the Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi on Saturday showcased the rise of Arab rap music as a voice for the youth.

Brothers Salim and Abdullah Dahman aka Desert Heat pioneered the nations home grown hip hop scene with their debut single Shootsawy, released in 2002. Their first album When the desert speaks, released last year, has sold 6,000 copies to date.

The events of September 11, 2001 are what triggered them to take hip hop seriously, the rappers say.

"All of a sudden the spot light was on the Arab world and we felt frustrated [with negative stereotypes]. We wanted to educate people and educate the next generation through hip hop," Salim aka Ilmiyah, 28, told Gulf News.

"In a nutshell, we just want to fight two stereotypes. Firstly that Arabs and Muslims are not all terrorists or ignorant people, and secondly that hip hop is not all negative. Hip hop was born out of positivity; out of struggle and freedom of speech... We are also trying to educate mainly the West about our culture, about our history and personalities. That is why we rap in English," said Abdullah, 22, aka Arableak.

The growth of Arabic rap, sprouting all over the Middle East, helps a disturbed youth express themselves.

Lynn Fattouh aka Malikah drew attention on a show called Hip Hopna (our hip hop) on MTV Arabia; Malikah, 23, is the only official female Arab rapper in the region.

"People in Europe love Arabic hip hop because they know we are the people who are struggling the most for the time being," she said, having toured in Europe and the Middle East.

"Being Lebanese, I live in a country with a lot of problems. I have lots to talk about and anger inside of me that needs release. Instead of shooting people, rapping is the most positive and peaceful way to do it [release]," Fattouh said.

Her aim is to spread a positive message amongst the youth through her music. "If the kids who are growing up now change their mentality, it will make it [Lebanon] a better country, because for the moment it is completely ruined."

Fuad Abdul Hadi aka Massacre is Palestinian born and raised. His stage name comes from his first hand experience of the genocide in the town of Jenin in 2002.

"My camp was the only one left standing," he said. Inspired by other Palestinian rappers he turned to rap as an escape.

"As children we didn't play with toys, we played with rocks. We didn't have dreams. We'd go to bed one night not knowing if we'd wake up the next morning," Massacre told Gulf News.

"I wanted to express myself and tell people the truth about what happens in Palestine."

Hip hop for him is a way to get his voice and that of his people heard, but he doesn't think Arabic hip hop has a future.

"[People] think rap must only be in English, and everyone has a mentality that hip hop is American& hip hop is a form of expression."

For full report read Notes and also visit

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Article Type:Concert review
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Apr 19, 2009
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