Arabian Knightz are the first off the block with a rap to celebrate the ongoing revolution. "Arabian Knightz feat. Lauryn Hill - Rebel (Prod. Iron Curtain).mp3" is the rough mix of a song that bears witness to the awakening of a new sensibility in their country.Egyptian hip-hop group
"Rebel" comes courtesy of a fascinating project called MideastTunes, whose mission is to share "music for social change" from the Middle East online, both among MENA countries and with the wider world.
Temperature's droppin' at the rotten oasis
The three Cairo-based rappers (yes, the Middle East has rappers as well as imams*), Rush, Sphinx and E-Money, recorded the song in the midst of the uprising and released it, raw, yesterday, the first day the Internet was restored to Egypt.
The track is rapped in Arabic and English and is built around a Lauren Hill sample.
As it says on their MideastTunes page:
"'Rebel' is an emotionally empowering song that captures the heart, courage & spirit of the Egyptian people currently embattled in a Revolution against an oppressive leadership."
The track itself is hacked off uncooked and awkward and beautiful. Protest music is at best yawn-inducing and at worst pretentious if it doesn't deliver its message on an interesting acoustic level. This song does. (Despite HIll's whiskey delivery, it could use a bit less of her and a bit more AK.) I found myself replaying it half a dozen times - beyond journalistic necessity.
As a band alone, Arabian Knightz seem worth keeping an ear out for. As a voice of a revolution, well, that's putting a hell of a lot of pressure on them, but they certainly captured one moment of it on key and in time.
MideastTunes is another product of the whippersnapper-powered Middle Eastern idea machine MideastYouth. It covers the music of the region with a completeness that is pretty near unrivalled and certainly is ahead of the game in knowing how to present it.
The site has an in-site music player, search function, and even a radio station, Re-Volt Radio. Users can browse by genre and by country of musical origin. Jordanian house? Yeah boys. Lebanese punk? Don't mind if I do.
During the Iranian protests during the last "election" there, the site was a hotbed of ideas changing hands, moving from ear to ear. The instantaneousness of social media means when a person or people have an idea they can bang it out in a hurry. What remains when time sifts out the products of the revolutions going around is anybody's guess. For now, Arabian Knightz and MideastTunes is a good place to start.
*Are there any rapping imams?