Rap Music Is the Soundtrack to Libyan Revolution
Rap music is becoming the soundtrack to the revolution in Libya. In the eastern coastal town of Benghazi, which hosted the February rebel uprising against the country's dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, an underground rap scene is fueling the opinions of the young Libyan rebel fighters. While the genre is shunned by the country's militant leader, the Associated Press notes that rap music "captures the anger and frustration young Libyans feel at decades of repressive rule under Gadhafi."
"It captures the youths' quest for freedom and a decent life and gives us motivation," 27-year-old rebel Jaad Jumaa Hashmi told the AP. Rap groups like Music Masters and Revolution Beat use both English and Arabic in their songs, and often present themselves in the baggy attire of the gangsta rap genre. The lyrics on the Music Masters track 'Youth of the Revolution' show their disdain for Ghadafi. "Moammar, get out, get out, game over! I'm a big, big soldier!" the duo rap.
"I always wanted to talk about Gadhafi's mistakes and crimes, but we never had the chance for free speech," one-half of Music Masters Mohammed Madani told the AP. "All you could talk about was how good Gadhafi's revolution was."
Hip-hop has long been a vehicle for venting about life on the streets and the hardships of growing up in the American ghetto. But in war-torn countries like Libya, rebels are also using it as a method to reach other similar-minded youth in their politically-oppressed countries.
Before Libya, Iraq witnessed a rap boom, after Iraqi spitters gained lyrical freedom following the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Wall Street Journal ran a story in February about a Cairo-based rap group incorporating revolutionary themes into their music. "The Arab world and hip-hop seem made for each other," the WSJ noted, "with the region's poverty and repression giving fresh new voice to themes of self respect and resistance to authority."
In Libya, that sentiment rings true with Revolution Beat. "Rap is more popular than rock and country among the young people in Libya because it expresses anger and frustration," explained Mutaz al-Obeidi, the group's 23-year-old member.
The AP reports that about a dozen rap songs have been recorded to CD since the start of the rebellion "with rebel-inspired album covers and are available for sale in downtown Benghazi." In some respect, rap in Libya is fueling a more peaceful revolution, with youth picking up microphones rather than guns and hitting the streets. "Everyone has his own way of fighting, and my weapon is art," 20-year-old Music Masters member Milad Faraway concluded.