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The Muslim voice pushing through

The politically conscious hip-hop group The Brothahood ask ‘Why?’

Five Muslim spoken-word/rap artists born in Australia with Lebanese backgrounds, The Brothahood are smashing stereotypes with their album Lyrics of mass construction, and tracks like ‘Why?’ When I accidentally stumbled across them a few months ago I was asking myself why haven’t I heard of these guys? All of Australia needs to turn off their televisions and listen:

Now if a wake up one morning and grow myself a beard /
people start talkin and getting themselves scared /
but – Mr Goldberg he lives down the block /
when he grows a beard no-one ever gets a shock /
why when my sister walks properly dressed /
she wears a headscarf they think she’s oppressed? /
then you got the nuns dressed in black and white head to toe /
but no-one questions them – why – i dont know

Hesh, Ahmed, Moustafa, Jehad and Timur work full-time jobs, live on opposite sides of the city in suburbia and struggle to find time to come together, but when they do, they produce raw and confronting material that challenges the propagandist mainstream newsfeeds the Australian public sees every day. They may not have flashy video clips but the content is honest and allows the Muslim voice in Australia, commonly silenced by fear, to be heard.

Only recently introduced to their work, by the Nothing rhymes with RRR podcast, my initial reaction was: why aren’t these guys funded by an arts council? Why do these guys have to struggle to create? Governments complain of the racism in Australia but do nothing about it. Why not start by funding people like The Brothahood and other diverse voices from different backgrounds? Only through art can we appreciate the many cultures we have in Australia.

The Brothahood began their career years ago as spoken-word artists performing with a beat boxer and have since incorporated music in their performances. Their track ‘The Silent Truth’, a response to the Cronulla riots, was featured on Triple J’s Unearthed in 2007:

I can feel ya eyes on me but i aint in the wrong /
keepin to yourself scared that my beard hides a bomb /
tensions climbin higher than that ape king kong /
label me a thug coz i’m from Lebanon /
butcha WRONG, im like any other aussie /
try to ride a train but u always gotta stop me /
coz of 9/11 now you all wanna wanna drop me /
little do you know that your thinkins kinda sloppy

But The Brothahood don’t only write about issues faced by Muslims in Australia. My favourite track is ‘Act on It’, which voices anger over the state of Israel and the suffering of Palestinians:

It was born on injustice, theft and murder /
Driving Palestinians out further and further /
Now don’t get me wrong Judaism ain’t to blame /
But we must understand that Zionism ain’t the same /
Now I know you’re mad at me, blunt brutality /
The Z ain’t got no links to Jewish spirituality /
Huh, now you wanna twist, call me terrorist /
Yes, I’m anti Zionist, Expect me to resist

This Thursday morning, 15 July from 9–9:30, I’ll be interviewing Jehad from The Brothahood on 3CR’s Spoken Word program (855 AM). We’ll be discussing spoken word, lyrics and politics. You can also listen online at www.3cr.org.au

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Koraly is a widely published Cypriot-Australian writer and performer. She is the author of the controversial Love and F**k Poems. Koraly received an Australia Council ArtStart grant. She presents on 3CR radio and has a residency at Brunswick Street Bookstore. Her 2013 La Mama show is Exonerating The Body. She is mentored by Christos Tsiolkas.

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Comments

  1. Good on you Koraly.

    Most (though not all) arts bodies only fund ‘safe’ ‘ethnic’ artists. Not supposed would-be terrorists like myself or the Brothahood.

  2. Awesome post, Koraly. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with The Brothahood before reading this, but just went and purchased their album from iTunes. You’ve made my day.

  3. And of course, the governments are the ones generally propagating the racism, which is why they don’t put the money where their racist rhetoric is:

    I do understand the anxiety and indeed fears that Australians have when they see boats intercepted. It does make people anxious. I can understand that, I really can.

  4. More voices of young Muslim musicians – in this case punk rockers – can be heard (and seen) in the excellent doco TAQUACORE at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.

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  7. Wow… This is fantastic, thanks for posting it! I don’t know what it is that stops this from getting into mainstream markets – perhaps the distinct lack of “ho”s and “bitches”…

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