Spreading the Palestinian message with music

By Van Thanh Rudd

Ramallah Underground is using music to spread the message that Palestinians have the strength to challenge Israel’s continuing brutal occupation of Palestine. Its members are Stormtrap (producer/MC), Boikutt (producer/MC) and Aswatt (producer/DJ), and the style is a fusion of Hip Hop with electronica and traditional Arab music. The band performed on October 23 at the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

The band formed in Ramallah during the second intifada. “It was during curfews. We were at home all day with nothing to do ... tanks and soldiers were on the streets. We wanted a way to talk about what was happening”, Stormtrap told Direct Action. The second intifada began at the end of September 2000, when Israeli Likud party leader Ariel Sharon (accompanied by a 1000 armed Israeli police) visited the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and declared that site would remain under perpetual Israeli control. Palestinians saw this as a direct provocation. It triggered a wave of Palestinian protests that continued for about four years, during which the Israeli occupation forces killed some 5500 Palestinians.

Since Ramallah Underground’s formation, the group has found an international audience, playing gigs in Italy and the UK, and recently Melbourne’s International Arts Festival. The group’s website has received at least 120,000 profile views. The group has found music to be an effective tool to combat the corporate media’s negative depiction of Palestinians. Stormtrap said: “Everyone’s interested in music. It’s one of the best ways of getting the message across. It’s so difficult to do through news as the media is against Palestine — it downplays whatever is going on in Palestine. Music is an alternative media, a form of journalism — real news.”

Stormtrap described some of the conditions, illegal under international law, that the Israeli occupations forces impose on Palestinians. “Checkpoints are everywhere. Going to a town 20 minutes away by car takes the whole day to get there and I may not even be allowed to get there ... and on the way I might get harassed by soldiers as well. Land is being stolen on a daily basis … Getting things into Palestine is very difficult. It is all controlled by Israel — water, electricity, internet, telephone”.

When informed of the Australian government’s pro-Israel position, Stormtrap wasn’t surprised. “It’s the problem with the whole international community in general. The only way the whole conflict can be solved is when the international community admits what is going on in Palestine and starts to take action — pressuring Israel to end the occupation and give Palestinians full, equal rights.”

Businesses all over the world that are profiting from Israel’s oppression of Palestinians have been targeted since 2005, with the creation of the international BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign. According to Ramallah Underground, this campaign is becoming very significant for the overall struggle of Palestinians.

The urge to fight oppression and Israel’s ongoing colonisation of Palestine is crucial to the mission of Ramallah Underground. “It is very important to express this because it is what we need to do … we want to make people aware of what’s going on inside and outside of Palestine”, said Stormtrap. There is one country of significance that Stormtrap knows had a tremendous positive effect from outside of Palestine — Venezuela. “During the Israeli attacks on Gaza, I recall they kicked out the Israeli ambassador. A very significant move because a lot of other countries that were supposedly supporting Palestine didn’t do that. It was nice to see a country so far away give that kind of support. It shows that humanity should be everywhere and shouldn’t be limited to one kind of people”.

[Van Thanh Rudd is an artist/activist and member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.]