September 5, 2017 / 2:35 PM / 19 days ago

Gaza rapper hopes to hip hop to world stardom

Palestinian rapper Ibrahim Ghunaim (MC Gaza) practices his songs in his room, at home in Gaza City, August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

GAZA (Reuters) - Ibrahim Ghunaim, or MC Gaza as he likes to be called, raps to a different beat in an Islamist-ruled Palestinian enclave rocked by internal conflict and three wars with Israel over the past decade.

The 25-year-old, who grew up listening to American rapper Eminem, began rapping when he was 13 and hopes for an international career one day. reut.rs/2x6SHQ5

“I believe I was born to become a rapper,” Ghunaim told Reuters.

It took years to change the public perception of hip hop in the conservative Gaza Strip, which the Hamas movement seized in 2007 from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rappers in Gaza did not have an easy start, and their first performance in 2005 - to celebrate Israel’s withdrawal of troops and settlers - did not go down well.

At the show, a pioneer rap band had to flee the stage after a crowd was angered by what it viewed as offensive hand gestures by the performers.

Ghunaim’s songs focus on Gaza’s high unemployment, women’s rights, young Palestinians jailed by Israel for alleged security offences and the absence of peace. This year alone, he’s written 25 songs.

Palestinian rapper Ibrahim Ghunaim (MC Gaza) performs in a studio in Gaza City, August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

“He sings mostly nationalist songs, about social issues and about our life,” Ghunaim’s mother, Adeeba, 64, said as he helped her prepare lunch.

But while social and political tensions and violence provide ample material for his lyrics, Gaza itself is far from fertile ground for nourishing hip hop careers.

Slideshow (17 Images)

It is tough enough for ordinary Palestinians to make a living in the tiny coastal territory hemmed in by Israel and Egypt. Citing security concerns, the two countries have contributed to Gaza’s woes by keeping tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods across its borders.

Many local hip hop performers have either migrated or stopped performing because they cannot find sponsorship, Ghunaim said, adding that he was also looking to leave, though not before he makes his mark at home.

He is working on a new album that he says will be his final one in Gaza.

“I am making it the best of all of my works. I am using 10 kinds of music merged together, and that is the first time in the rap art here and abroad,” he said.

“I want to become famous before I quit Gaza.”

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Gareth Jones

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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