Damn, who are DAM?
Written by katehazeldine on 20th February 2019
Listen up, listen up! Palestinian hip-hop crew DAM are in Liverpool and they want to show you their world. Through a unique fusion of Arabic rap and hip-hop, their story covers all corners of Palestinian culture. It unfolds at Constellations on 27th February, but first they’ll be dropping into our very own studio for a chill and chat.
Formed in the late 90s, DAM (the Arabic verb for “to last forever/eternity”) have been heralded as “the spokespeople of a new generation”. Creators of the first commercially successful hip-hop to emerge from Palestine, the powerful group that is Suhel Nafar, Tamer Nafar, Mahmoud Jreri, later joined by Maysa Daw, felt a duty to tell their stories through the medium of music.
After being struck by the similarities of the streets in a Tupac video to those in their own neighbourhood, DAM’s lyrics are largely protest-driven. Also among the first groups to rap in Arabic, their poetic tales raise crucial issues regarding oppression, racism, poverty and women’s rights. With daring yet revolutionary tracks such as ‘Min Irhabi’ (‘Who’s the Terrorist’) and ‘Handcuff Them War Criminals’, the group are certainly not afraid to represent and support their country. Still living in their hometown of Lyd (fifteen minutes from Tel Aviv), DAM are committed to improving the quality of life for their community and youth of the city, creating opportunities through programmes that would have otherwise been denied to Palestinian citizens of Israel. Such activities have also taken them across the world, having conducted workshops for young people in America, Canada and Europe.
Clear influences from both the East and West are apparent in their music, creating a melting pot of many genres. There’s everything from hip-hop beats and fizzy synth melodies to pining string lines and muted guitar licks. But the Arabic influences are not missed, with hypnotising Middle-Eastern wiggles and percussive rhythms. The focal point, however, is the power of their political storytelling. Their latest 4-track EP ‘Street Poetry’ is just that – a beautifully woven record highlighting issues that most of us in the UK are lucky not to have faced. For example, the opener ‘Who Are You’ features a head-winding chorus protesting the constraints of arranged marriage. The only woman in the group, Maysa, takes charge and sings in Arabic, which translates as “I am the single, the sterile and the divorced. I am ‘better living with a man than alone'”.
Influenced by a variety of artists including Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, Algerian writer Ahlam Mosteghanemi and musical big cats Tupac, Biggie and Public Enemy, DAM’s unique sound has led to an illustrious career. Since signing to London-based independent record label Cooking Vinyl in 2017, they have released an EP alongside a re-release of their first two albums. This created a surge of new exposure, new audiences and new avenues of success, with tracks being featured in a slew of films including ‘Ford Transit’ and ‘Salt of this Sea’. That same year, Jehre organised the first ever Palestine Music Expo (PMX), showcasing a blossoming of musical talent among people whose voices have struggled to be heard.
DAM have just released new bop ‘Emta Njawzak Yamma’, the first single off their upcoming third album. We can expect it to hit our sound waves on 7th June, but until then the unstoppable group are busy with a UK tour, kicking off in our beautiful city before heading on to Manchester, Birmingham and London. Don’t forget to tune in to Melodic Distraction on the 27th February at 4pm, before they headline Constellations that evening!