Gaza City – Under recent Israeli air strikes and shelling of the Gaza Strip, members of local rap group Palestinian Unit struggled to be creative. But as Israel’s seven-week bombardment ravaged cities across the coastal territory, the young rappers knew they had to get involved in their own way.
“It’s hard to work under these conditions,” said group member Mohamed Lomani. “We had to cover all of the production costs – around $1,200 from our own pockets. But we also know that we don’t want to stop.”
Five members of the seven-member group were in Gaza during the recent Israeli military operation, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead and displaced at least 475,000 people, or one-quarter of Gaza’s total population.
Upon seeing the devastation, the group decided to record a music video, interspersing clips from a well-known poem by Palestinian spoken-word artist and activist Rafeef Ziadah, titled “We teach life, sir“, and daily scenes in Gaza throughout the Israeli offensive.
That is our message: that after all of this, we are still alive. That despite the tragedy, we do teach life, sir.
“The video that we made is only a part of what you see here in Gaza. You see kids barefoot, people who lost their homes, and who despite all of this, can overcome the catastrophe. One hour after they lost everything, you see people chatting, even smiling,” said group member Khamis Abu Shahban.
With little electricity access, and no safe place to meet, the group members recorded their verses separately, sending each other messages online using laptops with only six-hours of battery life.
They uploaded their resulting audio files and exchanged ideas on Facebook, only going to a local studio once to record the final version of the song.
“Here in Gaza, normal is a broken concept,” Khamis Abu Shaban, one of the group members, told Al Jazeera.
Once they had the recording done, it took a week and a half, under constant bombings, to mix the sound. Most of the video’s content is footage taken during the war, and was recorded by Mohamad al-Jabaly, who besides being a member of the group, also worked as an embedded videographer with a Red Crescent ambulance during the war. They gathered one day during a five-day ceasefire that was declared on August 14 in order to film themselves and took another four days to edit the video clip.
Since it was uploaded, the group’s video has garnered more than 10,000 hits on YouTube. “We work a lot with social media. The good thing is that you can get people’s feedback. It’s important to us as musicians,” said Mohamed Lomany.
According to group members, the video and song are their contributions to Palestinian resistance in Gaza. “If we tell you what we saw in this war, you would cry,” said al-Jabaly.
“That is our message: that after all of this, we are still alive. That despite the tragedy, we do teach life, sir,” Ayman Mghames added.