The Madaa Silwan Creative Center in Silwan, East Jerusalem, is home to an exciting new project where eight local Palestinian teenagers are learning to rap with guidance from Tamer Nafar, of the Palestinian rap group DAM. Together, they are known as Dandara, and Tamer has high hopes for their achievements.
The centre was established in 2007 by the Palestinian residents of Silwan to provide a safe space for children and teenagers to express themselves in educational and recreational ways. For the members of Dandara, the rap workshops provide an opportunity for them to talk and rap about their lives in Silwan.
The participants in the workshop are inspired by Arabic rap, particularly (and somewhat predictably!) the music of DAM. They also rap about great Palestinian and Arab poets: in their song ‘Kitab Kitabi’, meaning ‘the writing of my book’, which is also an Arabic phrase for marriage, they mention Mahmoud Darwish, Tamim Barghouti, and Ghassan Khanafani. This song discusses the problem of the erasing of Palestinian history from schoolbooks through the metaphor of marriage.
On 16 June, Dandara members Ali, Naseem, and Taaima performed in a Silwan playground alongside Suhell and Tamer Nafar of DAM, Shadia Mansour, and American singer Carrie Newcomer. Their performance was a great success, rousing the crowd, of whom the majority were local children, to sing along to the chorus of their song ‘Games in My Hood’, which went ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Pikachu!’
Dandara are currently working on their first album, with the assistance of Tamer Nafar. Most of the tracks have been completed in a studio in Nazareth – but they are now excitedly awaiting the completion of Silwan’s first studio, which will allow them to record more easily. Tamer has plans to work more closely with individuals from the group, and to incorporate more live instruments once the studio is finished.
Dandara are an exciting example of what can be achieved with hard work, skill, and an inspiring teacher. Their work inspires those who make music in difficult situations worldwide.