Meet The Palestinian Artists Breaking Borders Through Music

by | Dec 19, 2018 | Feature/Discovery

Palestine Underground by Boiler Room documents the resilience of a burgeoning music scene undeterred and fuelled by political restrictions, building bridges through a shared sound and identity. The 25 minute documentary by Boiler Room documents the thriving underground music scene in one of the most conflicted regions on Earth.

This documentary follows a week in the life of alternative Palestinian music collectives, up-and-coming techno DJs, and innovational hip-hop producers and rappers, in the lead up to the first Boiler Room party in Ramallah last June.

The film sheds light on the constraints placed upon these Palestinian artists, from their restricted freedom of movement enforced by the Israeli government to the midnight party curfew imposed by the Palestinian Authority, and shows that their scene is thriving in spite of it.

United through the unique regional sound they’ve created and their love for partying, these artists have managed to build a scene and have succeeded in circumventing the political system that aims to restrict them.

Palestine Underground is the first film to document the underground nightlife culture in Palestine. It offers a fresh and different insight into the lives of a minority of young Palestinians and subverts the Western media narrative surrounding Palestine.

For the last 15 years, the internet has been a disruptive force allowing a handful of Palestinian DJs and artists in the West Bank to connect with Palestinians living in Israel, which they refer to as “Occupied Palestine”.

Palestine Underground follows Jazar Crew, a Palestinian music and arts collective from Haifa in the North of Israel. For the last ten years, they have been defying Israeli law to travel to Palestine to play parties and collaborate with the scene there – Saleb Wahad, Bltnm, Oddz and Sama’ – some of Ramallah’s most talented artists.

Active members of the scene in Ramallah include Oddz and Sama’, two of Palestine’s most popular techno DJs. Oddz, a member of the label Harara and the streaming music service Radio Nard, regularly defies the apartheid wall and checkpoints to play in Palestinian-owned venues in Israel, risking three months imprisonment if caught. Sama’, Palestine’s first female tech-house DJ and producer, has played a key role in building a bridge with Palestinians artists in Israel.

Also part of the Ramallah scene is the beatmaker Muqata’a, who has been revered in the Arabic Hip Hop scene for over a decade under the name Boikutt as part of the trio Ramallah Underground. He is now a member of the rap crew Saleb Wahad, whose seven members count Makimakkuk, a talented female MC, and Al Nather, one of the most forward-thinking and prolific trap producer in the Middle East, aided by his MC Shabjdeed. Palestine Underground is the first documentary to have captured the collective’s tangible creative energy and camaraderie and to have translated their highly politicised, darkly humorous and intricate lyrics from Arabic to English.

The film gives a rare insight into the lives of these counterculture activists. For those involved, music and partying isn’t just hedonism – it’s about cultural survival. Nightlife culture allows them to break down geopolitical borders, reconnect with their people, and celebrate their Arab identity on the dance floor.

The documentary culminates on Friday 22 June 2018, when Boiler Room hosted its first ever party in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian West Bank. Live streamed to their international audience of 260+ million, the daytime outdoor party hosted by Jazar Crew and friends showcased an underground music scene peacefully reacting against one of the toughest political feuds in history. It stands as a historical chapter in the scene’s ten-year existence, an ecstatic celebration of its creativity and strength, shared globally.

Palestine Underground is the first film created as part of Contemporary Scenes, a new series by Boiler Room. Contemporary Scenes uncovers underground collectives, artists and subcultures around the world and gives them a global platform. Watch the trailer for Boiler Room’s Contemporary Scenes series below.

Palestine Underground was released 13 November and available to watch across Boiler Room’s Facebook Live, IG TV and YouTube.

Palestine Underground is directed by BBC and Channel 4 documentary filmmaker and journalist Jess Kelly and produced by Boiler Room’s Anaïs Brémond. The 22nd June 2018 live-streamed Boiler Room party was programmed by Debora Ipekel, Palestine Underground Assistant Producer.

All Stills have been kindly provided by Boiler Room

By Tony Creek

Tony has had a passion for music of all genres since an early introduction to the Rolling Stones and Rock in the 70's. He also loves to write and discover new music, so reviewing and publishing features is his idea of heaven. Unfortunately work and his wife's love of R n B has a habit of getting in the way!

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