"I'm fed up with the media. The new cool thing seems to be to blame Israel for everything. It's raining? Blame Israel," says SHI 360.
Ben Bresky, 20/02/12 22:44
Israeli musician SHI 360 has released a new CD entitled Shalom Haters. The album is primarily in English and features hard hitting lyrics that deal with the Israel's political situation. Several songs incorporate Middle Eastern rhythms with funky, hip-hop beats.
The rapper spoke to Israel National Radio on the Israel Beat Jewish Music show about his lastest work and the reaction it has been receiving.
"I'm fed up with the media," SHI says. "The new cool thing seems to be to blame Israel for everything. It's raining? Blame Israel. I'm sick? Blame Israel."
That sarcasm is found on the track Forgive and Forget. The chorus is a reworking of the song Resistance, from SHI 360's 1999 debut album Chapters.
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"I was fed up with the very one sided portrayal of who we are, what we represent and what this land is about," says SHI of the song. "I did it in English so more people can understand it. I want to reach as many people as I can. A lot of people talk about 1948 and [the founding of] the State of Israel. We've been here for 5,000 years. Everybody seems to be brainwashed to believe that Jews came here in 1948 and took over a mass of land. It's not like that," he says.
"The message of the song is that we keep on forgiving and forgeting everything that was done to us.," the musicians says. "But my conscience doesn't allow me to close my eyes. It doesn't allow me to forget or to be left in the blind and not think for myself and let the media dictate what I'm supposed to believe and what I'm supposed to think. We are native to the Middle East, we are native to this region and to this land. It is important for us to remember that and for the world to know that."
So how does the original song compare to the new version? "Unfortunately the situation just got worse as far as I see it," SHI answers, "in terms of how sadly effective all this propaganda against us has been. I think we have a strong and mighty army, we have strong people. We went through a lot, but in terms of the media, it's as they say in Hebrew, 'we slept on guard'. We let others push their message through."
The artist says that from what he has seen on college campuses, students today have "grown up with a misconstruction that Jews here are an oppressive power."
The video for Forgive and Forget features SHI standing in a desert with barbed wire wearing a blue and white head scarf with Jewish stars. An Israeli based organization called the Zionist Freedom Alliance of which SHI is a member of has been making the scarf available for the past several years. (Click here for an article regarding the new Jewish scarf phenomenon.)
"They call it a keffiyah," says SHI. "It's called a sudra. It's originally a head-wear that Hebrews used to wear a long time before Mohammed was born. The keffiyah later on became a popular head-wear by the Bedouins and then later on it was nationalized by Yasser Arafat. So I wear a sudra with a Magen David to get people to think."
"In Yemen there are documented photos," he continues. "Way before people in our heritage were wearing this. It can be taken as a misconception by many people that it is Arabic and called a keffiyah, but it's called a lot of other things."
SHI 360 was born in Haifa as Shai Haddad. His mother was born in Morocco and his father was born in Tunisia. The family moved to Canada when he was approximately 11 years old. Consequently SHI raps in Hebrew, English and French. When he was 25 years old he returned to Israel permanently. He has appeared together with the prominent Israeli rapper Subliminal and recorded with TACT Records. Shalom Haters is his fourth full length album.
Another track off the new CD is called Protocols of the Elders, a parody of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Jewish book first published in Russia around 1897. "It takes that whole conspiracy theory and makes a mockery out of it," says SHI. "The first verse describes the actual protocols and the fallacy in them. The second verse takes a sarcastic, approach saying 'we did it.'"
Another new track is a hip-hop version of Avraham Stern's Chayalim Almonim (Unknown Soldiers), an anthem of the Jewish underground from the 1930s and 1940s.
SHI has been on tour in many college campuses across the United States and Canada working with such organizations as Taglit-Birthright, PresentTense, Shemspeed Music, Alternative Action and others. On many tour dates he has performed alongside Killa Priest, a non-Jewish African-American rapper affiliated with the popular America hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. He describes the scene on campus.
"As soon as schools heard that there was a rapper coming from Israel, students unions and Muslim student groups got together and did some ugly things like burning flags and interrupting the shows. Many actually came and had a good time. My music and lyrics are not against anyone. I just give out information that I study before. I don't just copy and paste things that I hear. I encourage people to think for themselves instead of being victims of the media. The message is unity and dialoguing instead of, 'you guys are bad and we are good.'"
SHI says he doesn't see his lyrics as being negative and wants to promote a message of unity and dialogue. He says that because he is from Israel is is automatically labeled "a Zionist rapper, and Zionist is a bad word," he says sarcastically.
"It's the supercool thing today for artists to get engaged in social action and they don't even know what they're getting into." The musician says the concept of a boycott goes against the concept of art. "If you ask me, art represents freedom."
SHI's next move is finishing off his new Hebrew language CD. "we see the same thing here within Israel," he states. "People from within are tearing this strong and wonderful nation apart. Don't be afraid to think. If you have a doubt about something, don't let the media feed your brain, go out and feed yourself."
Ben Bresky is a music journalist and host of the Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast on Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio. For show archives click here.