Abo Ali is a rapper and music producer from Ramallah. He has studied Psychology, Music and Media at the University and recently graduated with a BA in Visual and Conceptual Art from the International Academy of Art, Palestine.
“There is a small bubble of Hip-hop artists, especially from Ramallah, where everyone knows each other. It is always the same group of people who show up at the concerts. It’s a closed circle and it’s hard to enter if you are not from this society. This is wrong in my opinion. The scene should be open to people with different backgrounds, to make it more diverse. There is a hip-hop scene in Haifa similar to the one in Ramallah. But it’s difficult for them to come and play here and it’s difficult for us to play in Haifa, which means we can’t cooperate the way we want to. We still communicate and share our music through the internet, but if it wasn’t for the occupation, we would be able to make great things. If they could come here every night, without the boundaries we could create a big hip-hop scene and a big culture of music from Palestine. This would be so much easier if we could interact face-to-face.
The occupation kills our hope and will to create something new. I think it is in the human nature to create and explore something new every day, but the occupation limits us in doing so. If your brother is in prison, you don’t think about what you want to achieve with your own life. You think about what you can do to help him and this takes all of your energy.
However, our struggles from the occupation also inspire us as artists. If you are struggling, you have to express yourself to release some energy. You will have to talk to someone about it or write it down. In Gaza, they collected the bombs that were thrown by the Israelis and they planted small trees and flowers in them. This is a way of creating art from your struggles.
The Arab society is sexually limited and sexual educationally limited. We have a lot of boundaries and limitations in our culture. I don’t want to change our culture, but I want to illuminate these limitations through my art and my music. I’m trying to make people aware that they are there and I want them to reflect upon it. I try to show people something they have missed or something they have never thought about. This way I’m trying to upgrade our culture through my art and my music. If you are a Palestinian musician you must hide your words in the music. You have to hide your lyrics behind two different meanings. This way you can save yourself, from accusations from people – and from people who are not able to understand what you are expressing. I used to make songs that you could read in a good and in a bad way.
When I was 18 years old, I was spending a lot of time with some bad guys. One day I saw a 16-year old boy being killed, shot twice in the head, because he was selling drugs outside his area. I sat at home for two months writing a song about it. We shouldn’t have these kinds of problems here. We shouldn’t sell drugs and have this mafia life. We are under occupation, but we could still improve our own society.
We have a lot of suffering in Palestine. Young children die here because they are poor and many drop out of school because they can’t afford it. There is a lot of hopelessness in the young generation because there are no jobs and the financial conditions are unstable. Every day something is happening; a killing, a robbery etc.
I believe we should try to change the minds of the youngest people in our society. Then they might be able to lead us to another future. I think artists have a responsibility to give hope and new ideas to the future generation, and inspire them to change things for the better. If they grow up in the present society, they will lose hope when they get older, just like we did. We have to plant our good ideas in their hearts and minds, and give them the right education so they can make the change.“