Video: Palestine-Hong Kong hip-hop collaboration “Gaza Open Your Heart”

I’ve long been a fan of Palestinian hip-hop duo Revolution Makers, brothers Osama and Mohammed Elsusi, ever since I heard them perform live in Gaza City in 2013.

Their latest video is a collaboration with Hong Kong musician Barry Lam.

Switching between English, Arabic and Chinese – with English subtitles throughout – “Gaza Open Your Heart” is musically upbeat.

But the lyrics reflect the harsh realities of Gaza under siege, especially since Israel’s summer attack.

Giving up on Gaza

I found this lyric a poignant reminder that the siege of Gaza, where half of the 1.8 million residents are aged 18 or younger, destroys the possibilities that the rest of the world takes for granted:

My dreams are so modest, and it’s no sin if they are realized. The sin is to kill the dreams that you can achieve.

That’s enough. I’m done. For my dreams always turn into dust. I am emigrating because I need to live, to dream, to fly.

But I promise to remember you [Gaza], and you will always be in my heart, and I’ll always ask God to protect you.

Since Israel’s assault that killed more than 2,200 people and left much of Gaza devastated with, as yet, no significant reconstruction, more people than ever are trying to leave the besieged enclave.

Along with thousands of people from Syria, African states and other regions, hundreds of Palestinians have as a consequence died, or been murdered, at sea, trying to reach Europe.

Revolution Makers honestly capture the despair many feel in Gaza.

Gaza hip-hop duo Revolution Makers, brothers Osama and Mohammed Elsusi (via Facebook)

Solidarity in Hong Kong

I asked Barry Lam how he got connected with Revolution Makers. He told me that during Israel’s attack on Gaza, he began learning what was happening by reading news from Gaza resident Farah Baker, whose Twitter account became an important source of information for journalists and many other people around the world.

Lam said that reading Farah’s postings about her home “being like a tomb, like hell, without electricity and food,” moved him to start looking for more information.

He was inspired to compose a song “Dreaming in the Darkness,” which he dedicated to Gaza.

Lam tried to send it to Baker, and through the process of searching for her on Facebook, connected with other people in Gaza, including Mohammed Elsusi.

That is where there long-distance musical collaboration began.

Lam says that his peers in Hong Kong do not know much about what is happening in Gaza and he hopes that his music could help make people there concerned about such a “lonely” place with such “limited support.”

Lam’s words in “Gaza Open Your Heart” reflect his personal faith and optimism and we cannot “wait for leaders” but must work across boundaries “person to person.”

Hong Kong hip-hop

I was curious about the place of hip hop in Hong Kong. It is “not the main genre there,” Lam told me, but “rappers such as MC Yan and Farmer are famous and they make good quality music.”

Hong Kong rappers address topics including politics, love, livelihood, night life and the government.”

“We, in Hong Kong, are facing political problems, just like everywhere,” he said.

“The huge amount of combinations of Chinese characters give the lyrics unlimited possibilities to develop, so Chinese rap can be ‘ghetto’ or elegant, and it is not easy to compose,” Lam explained.

He also says the music coming out of Gaza is “amazing” and inspiring.

“They use the folk idioms, their music languages, they are all new to me.”

Lam talked about hearing online a Gaza youth musical ensemble. “My tears came out when I listened,” he said. “They played something that can never be found in Hong Kong – folk tunes passed from father to son – strong cultural roots which are neglected in Hong Kong.”