‘Rebel Music,” a new series from MTV World, showcases young people in six countries around the globe putting themselves on the front lines to make social changes through art and music.
The series, executive produced and given its visual identity by artist Shepard Fairey, gives Millennial Americans a glimpse into the lives of creative, activist youth in Egypt, Afghanistan, Mali, India, Israel/Palestine, and Mexico. The Israel/Palestine episode premieres on mtvU on December 9.
“We see the headlines about a country in conflict or undergoing revolution and we forget there are young human beings with aspirations living there,” says Nusrat Durrani, MTV World’s general manager and senior vice president, as well as the series’ creator and executive producer.
“We noticed that a lot of countries in the news have stories around youth that are not being told,” he continues in a phone interview with The Times of Israel. “Many of these countries have huge youth populations and many of the movements in those countries are being driven by youth. For instance, we filmed in Egypt during the second revolution there earlier this year.”
In the Israel/Palestine episode, some of the musicians aren’t really all that young, but what matters to MTV is that they are young at heart and idealistic about the power of musical collaboration across political lines to change the status quo.
The episode features both known and lesser-known names in Israeli and Palestinian music. Kobi Farhi of Israeli progressive heavy metal band Orphaned Land (which has been around since 1991) is shown consulting with Abed Hathout of the Acre-based Palestinian-Israeli rock band Khalas (as in “enough” to the conflict) about Arabic lyrics. Khalas, with its Jewish Israeli bass player Rooster Tuning, is also shown performing on the same stage with Orphaned Land.
“We’re coming from Israel. It’s a multicultural place. Lots of history. Lots of conflicts. Lots of bloodshed. We’re living in the most inspiring place on earth. Why shouldn’t we take motifs from this place and put it into our heavy metal music?” notes Farhi.
Viewers also meet Maysa Daw, a 20-year-old hip-hop singer from Haifa. She explains that she is a Palestinian who has an Israeli identity card.
“I’m Palestinian, not Israeli,” she asserts.
“Rebel Music” follows Daw as she and fellow musician and activist Walaa Sbait put on a concert for Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley.
There’s also a plug for 58-year-old Israeli pop star David Broza’s soon-to-be-released “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” album. The album, produced by Steve Earle, features 14 tracks recorded by Broza and a variety of Palestinian and Palestinian-Israeli musicians in single takes in a recording studio in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
In “Rebel Music,” we see Broza jamming with young Mohammed Mughrabi of the Palestinian hip-hop group G-Town. As Broza visits Mughrabi at the Shuafat refugee camp, the two speak of the power of music to bring people together.
Durrani makes clear that the series is not meant to be political. With each episode lasting only 30 minutes, “We’re not trying to solve or even unpack the issues,” he says.
“We really had humble goals,” Durrani explains. “We couldn’t possibly bring in all views. The point of ‘Rebel Music’ is to show artists finding common ground, and to bring new information, good news and inspiring stories to our young American audience.”
But those more in the know about the Palestinian-Israel conflict than the average American 20-something, will still catch a whiff of the political. At one point in the episode, stuck in between the uplifting scenes of Israelis and Palestinians rocking out together, are sound bites from Palestinian artist and activist Hafez Omar, Palestinian academic Omar Barghouti, a founder of the BDS movement, and Palestinian rapper Mohammed Antar. Citing the threat of “normalization,” they all oppose any type of artistic collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians.
It’s likely most viewers won’t catch this nuance and will focus on the episode’s main message about building bridges with music and rocking on toward peace.
“If there is just one thing in this world that can make us unite, it’s just music,” says Hathout as he and his friend and fellow rocker Farhi sit together smoking water pipes.