Muqata’a: ‘Our music is a way to disrupt, to be a glitch in the system’

The Palestinian rapper on the power of Ramallah’s dance culture documented in a new film, Palestine Underground

Muqata’a is locally known as the “godfather” of the underground hip-hop scene in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank, Palestine. A former member of the acclaimed collective Ramallah Underground, he plies a brand of experimental hip-hop – based on sampling and looping the sounds of his city – that has been heralded for influencing a new generation of Palestinian musicians. His family are Palestinian refugees who moved between Nicosia, Cyprus and Amman, Jordan, and eventually came back to Ramallah. Muqata’a features in a new documentary, Palestine Underground, which follows members of the growing subterranean dance culture as they put on DIY parties across the region. It’s released online on 30 October via Boiler Room.

“Muqata’a” means to disrupt, or boycott. How does your music reflect that?
I sample classical Arabic music in my records. When our land is being taken away, our culture is muted. So it’s a way to try and disrupt that – being a glitch in the system is very important. When your heritage is being attacked by the state, you have to find ways of being remembered, so I sample a lot. A lot of the Arabic music or old records in my grandparents’ homes in Jaffa and Safed, for example, were taken when their house was confiscated. So this is a way to bring those sounds back. I have to find a lot of these vinyls abroad now – the UK, France or Greece. If I’m very lucky I might see them in a second-hand shop here, but it’s rare. One of my current favourites is Al Henna by Layla Nathmi.

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