Palestinian hip-hop crew, and self-proclaimed “founders of Arab hip-hop,” DAM have finally released their second LP, Dabke On The Moon. The album was released in November and since then DAM (Da Arabian MCs) have been touring in Palestine and abroad.
“Our first album was more us talking about reality, the way it is,” says DAM member Tamer Nafar. The band’s 2006 debut, Ihda [Dedication], was focused on politics, the Israeli occupation and questioning stereotypes of Arabs. “But this one is more telling stories and creating characters.”
And while there’s nothing as politically overt as the hard-hitting tracks like “Who’s the Terrorist?” that made DAM famous at home and abroad, the new album still contains provocative messages. The track “If I Could Go Back In Time” has caused a stir in the Arab world. The video – which quickly went viral – depicts a young woman who tries to resist an arranged marriage and is murdered by male family members, in what is often called an “honor killing.”
Nafar says the song is a reflection of DAM’s support of women’s rights and desire to tackle “taboo subjects.”
While the Israeli occupation affects all aspects of life for Palestinians, says Nafar, there are changes that need to be made from within Palestinian society and problems that can’t just be blamed on the occupation. “You have the same things in Amman, in Morocco and there aren’t any Israeli tanks over there,” he says.
It’s not just the lyrical content that has changed with this new album. DAM have expanded musically as well, looking to diverse genres and musicians for inspiration.
“I’ve been listening to different artists – [Lebanese indie band] Mashrou’ Leila, Toot Ard [a reggae band from the Golan Heights], stuff from the Amman music scene, and Pink Floyd, Kings of Leon – things other than hip-hop,” says Nafar.
The trio – Nafar, his brother Suhell and Mahmoud Jreri – have also concentrated on making their lyrics more concise. The first album contained 16 tracks with each rapper taking 16 bars each. On Dabke On The Moon, that’s cut down to eight bars and Nafar says this made writing tougher, but also more rewarding.
“Lyrically this is challenging – suddenly you only have eight lines. The hardest part of writing is erasing,” he says.
The tracks feature other top Arab musicians, from mainstream pop and more classical backgrounds. DAM collaborated with vocalist Amal Murkas on “If I Could Go Back in Time,” and the album features guest appearances from oud players Le Trio Joubran and Bachar Khalife, son of legendary Lebanese singer-songwriter Marcel Khalife.
All of this affected the new sound on DAM’s latest disc. “In a creative way, musically, we’ve evolved,” says Nafar. “If our debut, Ihda, was our documentary, this is our feature film.”