For reasons all too painfully obvious since the bombardment of Gaza, rap – a genre adopted internationally as the voice of authentic protest – has an especially edgy presence in Israel/Palestine. And Sagol 59 – a Jerusalem-based rapper and peace activist – is one of the main players on the scene.
Khen Roten – his rap persona’s name derives from a laundry label meaning ‘Purple 59’ – first sprang to wider fame with ‘Summit Meeting’, a 2001 track made with Da Arabic MCs’ Tamer Nafer and Sha’anan Street from Hadag Nachash. Theirs was an attempt to broker some kind of meeting between the hiphop-minded in the Arab and Jewish communities, a mission Roten has continued through running Jerusalem’s Corner Prophets space. Make Room is a poignant plea to both sides to make way for each other. Its funked-up Hebrew rap, full of asides about booze, girls and – this is one you wouldn’t find with Enimem – gefilter fish. While the album displays the same love of the good life that you’d hear on any rap record, there’s also a terse acknowledgement on both the title track and ‘Jerusalem’ (a rap in Hebrew, Arabic and English) that some serious listening needs to be done by those in power. Amen.