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- Posted on Mar 16th 2010 12:10PM by James Meyers
I-Voice, or Invincible Voice,is a hip hop-duo that comes to SXSW from the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon. The group, features Yaseen and TNT, has caused quite a stir among both sides of The Palestinian issue for their willing ness to tell things as they see it, regardless of consequences. They will be playing their first show in America at SXSW.
How would you describe your sound to some one who has never heard it?I-Voice's 100 percent Arabic sound is an authentic brand that we have labeled TaRap, a combination of rap and Tarab, traditional Arabic music. We fuse hip hop music over live Arabic instruments, such as the table and o'd, for an authentic Arabic feeling. Our musical evolution is about self-education. We love hip-hop. And we need to be educated to be good at it. Our love of reading history and politics has shaped the words that are often considered too sharp by our own community members. Our criticisms of local politicians, the media and NGOs stokes controversy, leading to threats against our performance of songs. Even when our songs aren't blasting blatant systemic injustices, the conveyance of the day-to-day nuance of growing up as refugees in Lebanon posits powerful delivery. Everything around us inspires us. We can pick up a pen and write about the street in front of us
What are your influences? These can be musical, social or political.
Our life in a refugee camp is an influence where everything is different than what people use to see and live. Our daily experience as Palestinian refugees is also an influence in the way other people treat us. And we been listening to hip-hop since 1998 and been influenced by many rappers like Slum Village, Boot Camp Click, Wu Tang Clan, 2pac, Biggie, Big Pun, Dead Prez and many others. And we also been reading many writers like Mahmoud Darwish, Edward Saed and Ghassan Kanafani.
How did you two get together?
Me and TNT live in the same 'hood. Our camp is so small. I start seeing him wearing baggy and he seems into hip-hop and he had the same thought about me. We was at the same school since all Palestinians in my camp went to the same school. It's the only one. We meet start hanging out together and listening to hip-hop. In 2001 we formed I-Voice.
What is the story behind the name Invincible Voice?
I-Voice stands for Invincible Voice, which is the invincible voice of our people. We talk about our issues which is the same issue for all Palestinian refugees, no one know about them but, by our music, more people are hearing about them. You know about I-Voice, that is great for me. That means our voice is getting everywhere. And also when you say I-Voice, it sounds like Eye Voice which mean that we say what we see in our eyes and not fake things, which this is the real hip-hop. And I is me, so I-Voice is my voice.
Can you describe what life is like in the refugee camps and how that has affected your music?
When you hear the themes that we address and see the backdrop that inspires our writing, you will understand why there is no shortage of material to keep us flowing. There is certainly no shying away from voicing disgust at the dire state of camp life in Lebanon. Aside from daily survival amidst poverty, recurring political clashes between Palestinian parties further complicate the difficult living conditions. Our songs are not only relevant to youth, but to anyone passionate about Arab unity, inter-Palestinian politics and the Palestinian cause. As Palestinian refugee in Lebanon there is around 75 job I can enter. I can't own a home outside the camp. I can't be a taxi driver.
Do you consider yourselves entertainers or do you focus more on politics and social commentary?
We start doing music because of our love to this music. When I am making a song about my life in the camp, it's expressing my feeling and when you take your feeling out then you are feeling much better. Most of my music is about politics and social life but we also make music to entertain but we always have a message and idea for the listener.
Is there a large rap community in Beirut?
The hip-hop scene in the camps is much bigger than it is in Beirut but there is many other groups are going there. Hip-hop culture is not there yet but by the time it's getting there.
What are you looking forward to at South By SouthWest? Did you have any trouble obtaining performer permits or entering the United States at all?
When we heard that we are accepted in SXSW, we was shocked but I knew that the visa will be a little bit hard. U.S. is the mother of hip hop. SXSW is one of the biggest shows where most of my influences performed. It will be a pleasure for me to show the U.S. what I been doing and how hip-hop changed my life. We performed in Egypt, Spain and we are getting bigger and bigger. So I think it is easier now to get visa to the U.S., but still its a little but hard. But not impossible. It need more time but am sure if we prepare well we will get it.