Record Labels Amplifying the Sound of Palestine
Amidst the disparate shards of Palestine and its sprawling diaspora, these record labels burgeon as potent vessels, empowering Palestinian artists to voice their resilience through eclectic sounds
Across the fragmented shards of Palestine and its scattered diaspora, a vibrant musical revolution hails, spearheaded by a community of pioneering record labels that are not only amplifying the nation's diverse sounds but also unifying the very essence of its cultural identity.
Through their dedication and passion, these labels have provided a platform for Palestinian artists to express their creativity and showcase their message and music, and in doing so allow the world to experience the vibrant and authentic soundscape of Palestine…
Founded in Ramallah, Palestine’s trailblazing hip-hop label BLTNM (a nod to the Dubai-based label Platinum Records) is the brainchild of three Palestinian creatives, producer Al Nather, rapper Shabjeed and audio engineer and visual artist Shabmouri. The collective is now looking to expand their sonic identity, dipping their feet into various genres and sounds such as leftfield bass and trap, Arab neo-synth wave and Arab-futurism.
Rooted in the lived experiences of their generation, BLTNM curates lyrically raw tracks with hard-hitting high-end productions, providing their artists with a platform to grow beyond the borders of their community, into the global arena. Some of their most famous tracks include Shabjeed’s ‘Amrikka’, ‘From Ramallah to Jerusalem and Back’, Daboor’s ‘Inn Ann’ and more.
Their latest release, ‘Fi Ta5’, is a hip hop track by Daboor and is produced by Al Nather. With its powerful lyrics, skillful melodies and striking black and white music video, ‘Fi Ta5’ is a BLTNM staple, already collecting 500,000 views on YouTube in just a few months.
‘Tawleef’, which translates to ‘synthesis’ or ‘to synthesise’ in Arabic, sought to establish an alternative, self-sustaining platform and artist space specifically catering to local Palestinian artists, particularly women. Due to the occupation and its restrictive policies, artistic and cultural production is perpetually stifled. Tawleef emerges as an initiative that seeks to unite and centralise fragmented voices across Palestine, constructing itself as a solid base for Palestinian to flourish, collaborate and gain recognition despite the occupation.
Their recorded video series ‘3al Balkoneh’, features both local and international talents, with Ramallah’s landscape serving as the backdrop. Tawleef has also produced various albums such as singer Maya Al Khaldi’s debut album, ‘Other World’, which is out now on all streaming platforms.
Majazz project is an archival record label based in London, reissuing and remixing vintage Arab vinyl and cassettes. The label was created by Palestinian actor and filmmaker Mo’min Swaitatm, who once strolled through the streets of his hometown Jenine when he came across a shuttered music shop. Tracking down the shop owner, he spent the following weeks rummaging through archives of cassettes and music, which painted an incredibly animated picture of Palestine in the 80s. Enthralled by his discovery, Mo’min purchased five suitcases full of tapes, which he brought back to London to digitise and re-release.
Receiving funding from Jerwood Arts, Majazz Project was able to fulfil its potential as well as unearth and revive lost musical archives and auditory history. One striking discovery of Mo'min’s is an album recording of a wedding in Jenin in the 90s, with music by Ahmed Al Kelani and his band, a popular singer from the North of the West Bank who covered Iraqi music and Palestinian ‘street’ songs. The recording was compiled into a seven-track album and uses the original album cover art.
Having occasionally crossed paths online where they would exchange their music, Palestinian rapper She’rab and Syrian producer Smoketable decided to join forces to create their debut rap album, ‘She’rab and Smokable’, which eventually led to the formation of Sefr Records. Their label, which exists entirely virtually, has nevertheless asserted its sonic identity - powerful hip hop beats with heavily sampling, ambient soundscapes and contorted rhythms.
Due to geo-political travel restrictions, none of the artists on the rosters nor members have actually met each other, but the founder duo believes that “the ‘home’ of the artist is only inside.” Although Sefr Records is bound by physical restrictions, its soundscape is not, and the founders constantly strive to defy the confines of genre, ensuring all their releases to be unpredictable in their sounds.
Their latest release, ‘7afifi’ featuring rapper Emsalem and produced by Smokable, is a testament to that genre-bending philosophy, blending dreamy vocals with a grungy atmosphere.EXIST RECORDS
Exist Records is a Palestinian-focused label founded by producer and promoter Chafik Chennouf, and Palestinian DJ Odai Masri, whose tragic death in the summer of 2023 truly left a void in the Palestinian music scene. Odai, also known as DJ ODDZ, was also the manager of Harara Records, a pioneer in the Palestinian music scene who worked hard to promote Palestinian sounds across the world.
Their newly released album, ‘No ComplY - A Gaza Skatepark Fundraise Compilation', assembles various friends of the label in support of Skate Gaza, a skate park near Gaza city. As cases of PTSD continuously rise in the strip, the skate park offers a refuge for skaters to indulge in a few moments of emancipation. All profits from the release is distributed to the Skate Gaza team, in an effort to expand the Skate Parks mission.They have partnered with 7hills Skate team in Amman, who will be providing skating equipment to the team in Gaza, as well as providing free lessons and skills training for the Skate Park team and children.
Based in between Haifa, Ramallah and Berlin, Harara Records was founded by the late DJ ODDZ and is considered the first electronic record label in Palestine. Their mission: “Represent the reactions to the void that has been pretending to face the oppression and the injustice on our planet. Freedom Fighters who drive the booth, the floor where we are loudly scream, the crowd where prophets exist.” Beloved resident DJ ODDZ collaborated with Italian DJ and producer Bonime on an analog four-track EP called ‘Acid Martire’ in 2018.
Bizer Bateekh - which translates to ‘Watermelon Seeds’, a reference to the image of the watermelon as a substitute for the Palestinian flag due to their shared colours, and its subsequent use as a symbol of Palestinian liberation - marks Palestinian music group Sabreen's inaugural initiative in collaboration with the Jerusalem Art and Production Consortium- Preserving Palestinian Culture Together (ASAS), a project supported by the European Union. Following a public call, the panel chose five talented artists from Jerusalem to create distinct songs and visualisations for each participant. These audio-visual projects involved extensive collaboration with local Palestinian talents, including producers, musicians, videographers, and fashion designers.
Sabreen plays a vital role by offering comprehensive mentorship in music business education and branding. The distribution of the songs by the five artists is managed by Levantine Music, an independent music publisher and label serving the Middle East and North Africa, under the umbrella of the Sabreen Association. Their roster includes artists such as Amany, Margo Misleh, Karma, SIlwadiii, whose participation in Bizer Bateekh has enabled their music to reach new heights.
‘Hayer’ by Ahmad Mizro and produced byJeries Babish is Bizer Bateekh’s latest release, a singer and songwriter from Jerusalem who received formal training at the Edward Said Conservatory.
Amplify Palestine is a newly established music label that falls under the umbrella of the larger campaign of the same name. Amplify Palestine seeks to promote voices from artists who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On April 7th, Amplify Palestine released its first VA compilation ‘People of Eternity: BDS Mixtape Vol.1’ to raise funds for the Palestinian activist group, Adalah-NY. Now available on all streaming platforms, the album features 16 tracks from artists who support the Palestinian cause.
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Dec 03, 2023