Sebastian Abbot, WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), April 24, 2011
Libyan rebel fighter Jaad Jumaa Hashmi cranks up the volume on his pickup truck’s stereo when he heads into battle against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
He looks for inspiration from a growing cadre of amateur rappers whose powerful songs have helped define the revolution.
The music captures the anger and frustration young Libyans feel at decades of repressive rule under Gadhafi, driving the 27-year-old Hashmi forward even though the heavy machine gun bolted on the back of his truck–and other weapons in the rebel arsenal–are no match for Gadhafi’s heavy artillery.
“Everyone has his own way of fighting, and my weapon is art,” said Faraway, a geology student, during a recent recording session in a small room on the fourth floor of an aging apartment building in downtown Benghazi. The room was equipped with little more than a microphone, stereo and computer.
Faraway, who like many rappers in Benghazi is known by his nickname, “Dark Man,” and Madani, aka “Madani Lion,” form the core of Music Masters, but the composition of the group has changed over time. One of the rappers quit just after the uprising started because he feared being targeted by Gadhafi’s thugs, Madani said. The group recently added 24-year-old Rami Raki, aka “Ram Rak,” who grew up in Manchester, England.
Roughly a dozen rap songs recorded since the start of the rebellion have been put on CDs with rebel-inspired album covers and are available for sale in downtown Benghazi. One cover has a drawing of fighters on a captured Gadhafi tank flying the rebel flag.
Al-Briki, aka “SWAT,” works as a garbage man, and Winees, known as “A.Z.,” is a small-time businessman. Both have the tough-guy vibe of gangsta rappers and expressed admiration for Tupac Shakur, who was shot and killed in Las Vegas in 1996.
“He’s a real rapper. He’s a thug,” Winees said.