DAM: between bombs and beats

by Ben Schiller

We are living in Palestine. Our history, our culture, our everything is Palestinian. — Mahmoud Jreri of DAM

Photo: Marilyn Donahue

“I see myself as a fisherman,” says Suhell Nafar, a member of DAM, the leading Palestinian hip-hop group. “Today, I fished a few fish who didn’t know anything and now know a little thing. Maybe now when they see the TV news, they will think differently about it. Maybe they will go on the Internet and learn about it.”

Suhell was speaking at last weekend’s WOMAD music festival, minutes after DAM had given a passionate performance in front of a big crowd. “There were thousands of people at the concert screaming ‘Free Palestine’. Most of them have never heard about Palestine, and now they know something.”

Hip-hop has been one of the Palestinians’ most effective communication vehicles in recent years. While conventional messages are often drowned out, groups like DAM have been able to reach several new audiences at home and abroad, including the young. The group is not only popular among Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, but also in their native Israel, where they have a following among some Jewish-Israelis. Since forming in 1999, they’ve toured several times in Europe and the US, appeared in the Sundance-nominated film Slingshot Hip-Hop, and received exposure in US and European media, including on CNN and in Time.

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