Musical Intifada? Shadia Mansour: “First Lady of Arab Hip Hop”


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With Israeli occupation comes Palestinian resistance; however, this does not always translate into violent conflict. The “First Lady” of Arab hip hop, Shadia Mansour, sees her lyrics and rise to popularity as a “musical intifada” of its own. She uses cultural means to gather support and awareness for her political goal: ending Israeli occupation and injustices in Palestine. With her unique background and a passion for Palestinian justice she raps about liberty for Palestinians, cultural appropriation, and pride. She now travels around the globe performing in hopes of political mobilizing in support of peace for Palestine.

Born in London but not English, Shadia Mansour felt very connected to her homeland even growing up in Europe since her family moved there as a result of the Israeli policy toward Palestinian people and territory. Her family is Christian Arab and originally from Haifa and Nazareth, the two cities with the largest Arab population within Israel. As she got older, Shadia Mansour got a reputation for performing “classical Arab protest songs” among the London Palestinian community.Mansour also lost her uncle, who was also an activist recently. Having lost a family member and feeling such an affinity for the Palestinian cause, Shadia Mansour admits to writing much of her music out of anger and frustration. As an advocate for Palestine, she takes pride in her background and wants justice for her people more than just her family.Her actual trade was being a personal trainer, before establishing a commercial career, as she stumbled into the spotlight.

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Viewed as aggressive by many, her first hit song was actually written in response to a random act that she saw as cultural appropriation and as provocative. On the street, Mansour saw a trendy “Keffiyeh” (tradiiontally Arab scarf) with the Israeli flag(with Jewish stars) imprinted in to it. This triggered anger and a new passion within the Palestinian MC. The line “You can take my falafel and hummus, but don’t f***ing touch my keffiyeh” shows her strong passion against what she felt threatened her people’s pride and culture. After this song gained popularity, she joined a MC crew made up of Arab diaspora that perform together on tour and do collaborations. Since then, she has seen a growing fan base. In 2008, she performed for the first time in the West Bank for a Palestinian crowd-something she wanted to do all along. Her success has won her much recognitiion in and out of the Arab community. She tours across the globe in concerts, grassroots events, shisha bars, and anywhere that people will listen. She is now even dubbed “First Lady” of Arab hip hop by Rolling Stone, almost always dressing in her traditional garb and representing Palestine.

After researching Shadia Mansour I have found that I have a natural affinity for her music and aspirations. Many would view her as aggressive and anti-Israeli but what she wants is justice and peace. She is fighting for a cause greater than her own,not through violence but through music. Her experience is unique, being born in London to a Christian Palestinian diaspora, and cannot be ignored. Touring across the globe, Shadia Mansour represents a new kind of Palestinian activism and is breaking ground for feminism as well. She is an inspiration for diaspora Palestinians abroad and an advocate for her people back in Palestine. Although, I do not understand the language of most of the raps she is ‘spitting’ I enjoy listening and can appreciate her passion and cause.

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http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/03/meet_the_first_lady_of_arabic_hip-hop_shadia_mansour.html

http://www.rollingstoneme.com/music/the-passion-politics-and-power-of-shadia-mansour

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2 thoughts on “Musical Intifada? Shadia Mansour: “First Lady of Arab Hip Hop”

  1. As a listener to American hip hop its cool to see hip hop from other cultures. In the blog you talked about how she raps out of anger due to a loss of a family member. This is comparable to some of the rappers in our hip hop as well. I thought her songs didn’t song to bad either.

  2. I want to hear her but the volume isn’t working on my computer. So this is my interpretation of your article without getting to experience her trade. I wonder how traditional elders of palestine see her, in contrast to the youth. Is she respected, appreciated for her radicalism amongst the older population?

    You can take my falafel and hummus, but don’t f***ing touch my keffiyeh”

    This line strikes me, and I don’t know how to feel about it. In the United States, we are almost a global culture, not isolated near enough to get delight in the specialness of our exclusive traditions. I don’t have that kind of threat in my life, of people hijacking my culture. As an American, there are things I want to share with a foreigner, and they’ll often say, “I already know about that. I saw it on TV!”
    I guess I’ve just never felt that kind of nationalism that comes when your nationality is under threat.

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