Resilient Palestinians’ Rhymes

By Ifeanyi Awachie:

“Slingshot Hip Hop,” a documentary by New York-based filmmaker Jackie Reem Salloum, was screened this past Thursday, March 30th, in Luce Hall auditorium. The film—winner of the Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival of 2008, where it debuted—showcases the ability of hip hop music to affect and mobilize people in diverse contexts. In this case, a group of Palestinian musicians turns to rap as an outlet for their anger at the violence, discrimination, and injustice that have become a part of their lives. For artists DAM, Palestine Rapperz (aka PR), Abeer, Arapeyat, and Mahmoud Shalabi, rap is infinitely more than a medium of expression. As Abeer says in the film, “I’m just doin’ it because there’s no other reason to live.”

Slingshot Hip Hop's Sundance success can mean only one thing: guest verses on the next Rihanna album. (Courtesy Slingshot Hip Hip).

The film showcases the burgeoning hip hop culture in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, a scene that the aforementioned artists currently lead. Unlike other music scenes, the Palestinian hip hop movement has no locus: despite the rappers’ deep-seated desire to meet each other and perform together, many factors make travel in the region difficult, including checkpoints that sometimes take upwards of seven hours to pass through. So the rappers stay in touch by phone or Internet and put on shows independently, but they suffer from the lack of a true music community. Playing concerts is a whole other hurdle: in certain areas, the musicians could get arrested for performing live. But they refuse to be stopped. The “Slingshot” rappers grew up throwing stones at gunmen. Now, their method of resistance is music. Not only do they use rap to speak out against stereotypes, discrimination, and intolerance, they also encourage young people in their communities to turn to music rather than violence as a means of helping their people.

The screening of “Slingshot Hip Hop” was part of CMES Cinema, a series of films from the larger Middle East sponsored by Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies.

Ifeanyi Awachie ’14 is in Timothy Dwight college. Contact her at