Pioneering Palestinian producer Muqata’a champions his culture while pushing hip-hop toward the fringes | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Pioneering Palestinian producer Muqata’a champions his culture while pushing hip-hop toward the fringes 

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click to enlarge Muqata’a

Muqata’a

Raouf Haj Yihya

Palestinian producer and rapper Muqata’a is the godfather of Ramallah’s underground hip-hop scene. In 2007, while recording under the name Boikutt, he cofounded hip-hop collective Ramallah Underground, which lasted just two years but toured internationally and collaborated with the Kronos Quartet (“Tashweesh” on Kronos’s 2009 album Floodplain). Since then, he’s been pushing hip-hop to its transgressive fringes as Muqata’a, which roughly translates to “disrupt.” His November instrumental album, Inkanakuntu (Souk/Discrepant), shares as much with outre dance music and rhythm-focused experimental compositions as it does with oddball beat-scene productions. As he told the Guardian last year, he makes his tracks from samples of Arabic classical music and field recordings he captures walking around Ramallah (occasionally at Israeli military checkpoints). This process allows him to honor his Palestinian heritage while building a modern artistic language that confronts the injustices endured by his people. The effect is empowering and aggressive, as befits someone trying to make himself heard above the din of oppression; it’s also reflective and hopeful. But on Inkanakuntu, any one sound is a tiny fragment in a larger kaleidoscope. On the triumphant “Taqamus Muqawim,” which feels like it could surprise you at any moment, Muqata’a intercuts an aggressive field-recorded vocal with rocket-powered bass drops, hard-as-nails drums, a woozily distended synth loop, and animated shards of samples. Inkanakuntu came out shortly after international party promoters Boiler Room released Palestine Underground, a mini documentary about the company’s first Ramallah event, which took place in June 2018. Muqata’a performed there along with Palestinian dance DJs from Haifa, Israel, and in the documentary they speak about how music has helped foster a community among Palestinians even as the Israeli government has separated them with a wall. The beat collages on Inkanakuntu capture that collective euphoria, allowing a world that may only have heard the Palestinian story to feel it too.   v

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