Photography: Glyn Akroyd / @GlynAkoyd

DAM

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  • DJ Sotusura
MARSM and Liverpool Arab Arts Festival @ Constellations 27/2/19

As the great B Dolan once rapped, hip hop is folk music grown from the struggle. The struggle for, or against, what? Well, the era we’re currently roller coastering through provides answers to that question on a daily basis. Social and economic inequality, sexual inequality, racial inequality, poverty, corruption and untold amounts of other global issues are caught in many rappers’ and artists’ perpetual crosshairs. As a movement, hip hop epitomises the struggle of those underfoot trying to strive for two things: justice and freedom.

At its inception, its individual components – turntablism, rapping, breakdancing and graffiti art – served to pull together the victims of institutional and overt racism in America and offered a haven for those swept under the proverbial rug of Robert Moses’ New York. As folk music does, it empowered the powerless, gave a voice to the voiceless and sparked a fire that generations of people would gather around. This was late 70s, early 80s New York. Who knew that this same musical style would rouse the strength of a people who’re victims of colonial war and religious/political persecution? This is the value of music, the meaning of hip hop, and it’s being demonstrated tonight in our fair city’s Constellations, where we await the Palestinian trio DAM.

Tonight’s show is a powerful and important statement, which showcases the diversity and ingenuity that is possible within the genre. As the doors open and people begin to funnel through to stage area, it’s unfortunate to see that the room doesn’t become as full as it deserves to be. No matter, though. The heads in this room form a small but dedicated nucleus. They’re heads ready to bop.

The support, DJ SOTUSURA, provides some enchanting and refreshing cuts which mix Arabic samples with old school hip hop beats. Following the release of his first solo album, the crowdfunding success Salah El Alhan, Sotusura delivers a lush and brim-full set that displays his unique style and approach to the turntables.

Before long it’s time for the anticipated headliner, DAM. This Palestinian hip-hop trio has garnered legendary status, a renowned talent present throughout the course of their 20-year career. As new-ish member, MC and singer Maisa Daw, joins her partners Mahmoud Jreri and Tamer Naffar on stage, they make an energised dive into what proves to be an insightful and passion-filled set.

In equal measures a show of artistry and musicianship and a celebration of poetry, these are three incredibly gifted writers and rhymers. Tamer Naffar, sometimes hailed the Godfather of Palestinian rap, oozes charisma and syllables by the bucketload. The new single, Emta Njawzak Yamma, is a clear standout and one of the most memorable performances of the night.

During the set, the poetic strengths of each member has its own time in the spotlight, with Maisa Daw taking a stand for her Arab femininity in the moving Jasadik-Hom (Your Body Of Theirs) and Mahmoud Jreri’s complex rhyming ability showing consistent strength throughout. #Who_You_R is another highlight; one of many. This is hip hop as raw and sincere as it’s supposed to be.

As the set closes with a return to the refrains of their new single, it’s clear that DAM are the best hip hop group you’ve never heard of (until now). Liverpool, open your ears.

Christopher Carr

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