Make Room

Uniting hiphop-minded Arabs and Jews.

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.


mag cover This article is from the March 2009 issue of New Internationalist.
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