A few weeks back I posted about my discovery of a Bahraini hip-hop scene. As I mentioned in the post, Infinity and DJ Outlaw were due to perform at the Alliance Francaise's annual Fete de la Musique along with many other local musicians. I've been meaning to post something about the performance but I never got a chance until now.
Anyways, the concert was great. You had to be there to feel their energy, as they had a huge crowd of teenage fans at the show just to see them. Although it's common to see kids in Bahrain dressed in American clothing, it was quite funny and interesting seeing both the performers and the fans dressed in clothes imitating their hip-hop idols. I had a hard time wiping the smirk off my face when I saw the big group of adolescents decked out in big Timberland boots, Fubu, Ecko and NBA gear, wearing bandanas, with big chunky gold medallions hanging around their necks. There were even a couple of Bahrainis in the crowd who had their hair done in cornrows; I wasn't aware that there are hairdressers on the island that will do that for you. Seeing these kids reminded why I still find Ali G so funny.
One thing that I was really impressed with was that they had their very own crew of b-boys to start off the show:
There were probably around 8 b-boys pulling some pretty crazy moves. I had no idea that there are kids on the island who take break-dancing seriously. I look forward to the day when we might see b-boys dancing on a flattened cardboard box below a palm tree on Al Fateh Corniche to the sounds of a ghettoblaster :) ... okay, it's unlikely, but possible.
The music itself was not bad either. DJ Outlaw was dropping some ill beats... much better than I expected (that's him below).
The rappers really had energy and they knew how to get the crowd going. But I wasn't able to understand anything they were saying, except the repetition of stereotypical phrases associated with hip-hop. On top of that I'm still trying to figure out where these kids might have picked up their accents. It was a very strange mix of a Bronx NY and a Compton CA accent, with an ever so subtle touch of Bahraini. It's not just these guys though. I've never understood why so many rappers from the global hip-hop scene insist on imitating these accents, even when they aren't rapping (see Outlandish, or Too Phat for example).
Asides from that it was quite an entertaining show. I'm sure that the subject of their music will mature as they themselves grow older, and the hip-hop movement here grows. Also, I hope that hip-hop will start to be used as a medium for the marginalized communities here to express themselves, as is taking place around the world. Right now it seems that both the musicians and the fans belong to the rich, private school going, English speaking part of society. I don't think it will be too long before we start seeing the movement spread to other sections of Bahraini society, and maybe we'll soon get to hear some kids rapping in Bahraini dialects of Arabic, rather than just English.
Anyways, my support goes to Outlaw, Infinity, the b-boys, and the rest of the Bahrain hip-hop scene.
This entry was posted
on Monday, July 19, 2004 at 7/19/2004 06:31:00 pm. Permalink
Faith, thanks for your reply. I'm sorry if you were offended by anything in my post. I just want to make it clear that despite my criticisms I totally support these guys and have the utmost respect for them. My post was meant to be supportive.
What I'm doing over here is definitely not journalism, and I certainly don't claim it to be. I neither have the training nor the resources to do journalism. These are merely my personal rants and observations about anything... my personal soapbox. It is obviously biased. I would love to ask around and investigate some more, but I just don't have the time to do it.
But I did contact the band to get to know them better (which is why you got that e-mail from me). Okay, but I concede maybe I should not have posted anything until I got more information.
Anyways, my point is that I may well be misinformed, and I'm willing to accept that. And you, and others, are always invited to correct me whenever I may be mistaken here (as you have already done in your reply). But please don't expect "journalism" from me.
I am hoping to learn a bit more about the group and possibly having a follow-up post to clear up any issues that I may have been off the mark with. But again, let me reiterate that I think what these guys are doing for Bahrain is great and I look forward to their upcoming album and many more concerts. Hip-hop is a unique musical social phenomenon around the world, and as such I'm thankful to Infinity and DJ Outlaw for being the first to bring it to Bahrain.
Hello again chan'ad Bahraini.. It's faith replying to your message.. I was very relieved to read your reply and am very appreciative of the tone and reply itself. I have been supporting Infinity & Dj outlaw since the beginning, and have seen all the struggles, criticsm, and especially prejudice they have recieved. Especially of late, since more people have gotten to know about infinity, we have been harshly critisized because people dont listen to their music and recognize their talent, and would rather just base all their opinions on their clothing or such. Although we expected this, I try as much as I can to clear things up, and let people see past their nationality and image, in order to hear their music. After they hear the music, we respect all opinions. We thank you for including us in your site, and we hope to co-operate with you soon for an interview.
With the deepest respect and best wishes, Infinity Webmaster, Faith
At first it might be easy to say that hip hop in Bahrain or throughout the region exists here by way of ex-pat English speaking schools or by the electronic missionary--the satellite dish, and that it is only a knock-off. But how or why it sprung up here is unimportant. Whether or not it has a legitimate reason to be acknowledged for its aesthetic begs the question; otherwise, it would be only a knock-off, like Taiwanese boy bands.
Can Gulf Arab youth justifiably put on their curricula vitarum experiences which are relative to the brurva's back the US of Areous? For instance, is there a need for "keepin' it real"?
Well, for one, if you don't keep it real and you diss the wrong jigga, you could easily have a K round splatter your brown ass all over Sheikh Isa Highway.
The Crips and the Bloods have their own warehoused in San Quentin. The Khaliji Shebab have theirs in Gitmo and Al Gharib where similarly the chucks have put them there for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Is there reason for them to feel that the best opportunities are reserved only for those who have a lock on prosperity?
Hip Hop is not rap. It isn't only about turn tables, fashion statements and sound systems. There's a little more to it than that.
Great comments David. You're right, that the question of how hip-hop sprung up here is a separate question from that of whether the potential here exists for it to take root. I hope it didn't seem like I was answering one question with answer of the other.
But anyways, the question of whether Bahrain has the "social profile" in which hip-hop will catch on is something I have thought about quite alot. And this sort of debate is taking place in all places of the world where hip-hop springing up. In Bahrain, I think there certainly is such a situation.
From my interactions with Bahraini youth, I don't think that Gitmo or Abu Ghraib rank that highly in their minds, nor even Palestine and Iraq. I get the impression that unemployment in Bahrain is a real concern. And related to that is the large and ever growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. One needs only to look at the huge difference between the Seef Mall and the Ritz-Carlton in the Seef district, and the adjacent Karbabad village. Both areas lie side by side, but the former consists of modern high-rise buildings, fast cars, and designer label clothing, while Karbabad is a neglected village with crumbling houses and bumpy roads that are a tight squeeze for even one car.
And this economic division happens to overlap with sectarian differences. For years the Shia' majority have been discriminated against and denied employment in government institutions. Although the recent reforms are slowly changing things, remnants of the previous still live on today, both in memories and in everyday life.
But the global hip-hop movement has also been questioning whether it is possible to "keep it real" even if you don't come from a ghetto, if you aren't discriminated against in society, and you had a reasonably comfortable childhood. This was a question that was asked over and over when hip-hop was growing in Japan several years ago. People really thought that you didn't have a story to tell if you didn't grow up ducking from drive-bys, or didn't have to sell crack on the street corner. But time has proven the sceptics wrong, and Japanese hip-hop is one of the fastest growing music genres in Japan.
It is in that respect that I did not mean any disrespect when I said that the Bahraini hip-hop scene appears to consist of mostly private-school going English speakers. That's fine. Because even that part of the youth have real concerns that they'd like to talk about, all the while keeping it just as "real" as anyone else.
There are so many issues that I hear alot of the youth talking about, regardless of their socio-economic background. Complaints about the ever growing materialism among the youth, about not being able to interact with the opposite sex, about being bored. And here's a great comment from a Bahraini youth which is exactly in unison with what I've heard from many others here (from Bahraini Blog):
"I find myself torn between two parallel worlds in Bahrain- the high-class private school posse that goes from one gahwa to the next, and the religious socially active working class lot. I find the latter much more entertaining, but since they go to bed at 10pm, I am obliged to hang out with the private school lot later on and talk about sod all for a few hours, checking out who comes in and out of the coffee shop.
With this generational gap increasing, a lot of talent is being subdued, and their is an identity crisis among the youth in thier own country!! My parents want me to do well at school and university, but yet dont give any credance to my opinion on social or political matters at all!"So in short, yes. Given the frustration in all the different sections of Bahraini youth, I think the demand for local hip-hop, addressing local issues, will definitely be on the rise. I'm sure that Infinity and others will be able to meet this demand by translating this frustration into the poetry that is hip-hop.