Friday, 6 May 2011

Shake the Dust

The amazing clip above is a preview from an upcoming documentary, “Shake the Dust which features hip hoppers from all over the world. Made by emerging film director Adam Sjoberg, the film tells the story of b-boys, and girls in poor communities from Uganda to Yemen to Haiti who all connect through the universal language of hip hop. Acknowledging the universality of music, Sjoberg writes of hip hop culture:
"although separated by cultural boundaries and individual struggles, are intrinsically tied to one another through their passion for break-dancing and hip-hop culture....“Shake the Dust” uses b-boying to show commonality and humanity in cultures that are affected by war, disease, and poverty. It seeks to paint a picture of the struggles the characters have– but only as a backdrop to the real story: one of hope and beauty."
Interestingly, there's a side story that developed out of making "Shake the Dust" in Yemen Sjoberg met up with some Somali hip hoppers who dropped some rhymes about the futility of war, their ancestry and forced migration.

For more on Yemen's b-boy crews, I recommend Tom Finn's article, on Sana'a's breakdancers. Apart from insight into how hip hop as universal livelihood and source of creativity for Yemen's youth, the different class mix and multi-cultural dancers stood out for me. The main group featured in this article is The Blast Boyz who are described as "a motley bunch of refugees and expatriates, harking from Canada, Tanzania, Iran, Somalia and America." This is an important thing to remember at a time when there's so much political focus on Yemen. It is often presented as a monocultural and monracial society and yet Yemen like many other Arab countries is visibly multicultural and thousands of years of interaction with countries on the Horn of Africa. Depending on what you believe, modern humans are said to have migrated out of Africa through Yemen and milleniums later, the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba (Makeda) ruled over the then south Arabia and parts of the East Africa. Presently there are at least 700 000 Somalis in Yemen as its one of the closest countries for people fleeing conflict or seeking a better life. Obviously, migrants are in the minority (23 million pop.), but they're some of the small everyday stories which are part of the current, mass anti-government protests which will hopefully topple Ali Abdullah Saleh. On the impact of the protests on hip hop and family life, Finn writes:
"Social stigma, the b-boys say, is the only thing stopping them from joining the ranks of protesters who have been camped outside Sana’a University for the past two months calling for Yemen’s ruler for the past thirty-three years, President Ali Abudallah Saleh, and his family to leave power. “My father would disown me, simple as that,” says Danny Al-Basry, another Iraqi considered one of the crew’s most talented members. “But if things get much worse here, I will have to join them.”
Like many others, the boys say they feel alienated by social expectations that are no longer achievable as a result of the deteriorating economic and political situation. For some of them, b-boying is not only a means of expression but also a vital way of escaping from these looming pressures as well as the monotony and tedium of everyday life in Yemen."

b-boy in yemen
fotocred: adam sjoberg
jacked from
fisttap @tomwfinn

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