Palestine’s BLTNM thrills Amman crowds with Arab rap

Palestine’s BLTNM thrills Amman crowds with Arab rap
(Photos: Raw Materials)
On a warm, late summer night just outside Amman, beams of light danced in the sky to a heavy bass-lined rhythm while Palestinian rap thundered across the horizon, bedazzled by the glow of the capital.اضافة اعلان

Behind Amman’s ID Hall walls, crowds gathered on October 6 to witness Palestinian music collective BLTNM perform in Jordan for the first time since 2019.

Organized by Raw Materials, a music and arts collective based in Amman and London that was co-founded Kareem Masri and Anas Foudeh, the performance featured BLTNM artists Shabjdeed, Daboor, and Ramadan, with Al Nather commanding the atmosphere on the decks.

BLTNM, formed in 2015, also functions as an independent record label based in Ramallah. Co-founded by veteran music producer Al Nather, along with DJ, art director, and producer Shabmouri and rapper Shabjdeed, the collective’s goal is to become the most prominent platform for Arab artists to create and release music “without succumbing to the creative compromises often demanded by big labels”, according to the BLTNM website.

“The plan is to make our culture the mainstream culture,” the record label’s website adds.

The collective has become influential both within Palestine and the Arab world because of the group’s focus on appealing to an Arab audience rather than a western audience.

“We’re really excited to be hosting BLTNM … in Jordan,” Masri, told Jordan News before the concert. “We have extensive experience organizing events like this in both London and Amman, but this will be the first of many events we will organize to promote Arab artists in Jordan.”

Masri’s excitement was matched by that of the 3,000-strong audience. The modest-sized, open-air venue was perfect for the vibe, evoking both music festivals and intimate concerts. And no matter how far away from the stage, you could see the artists clearly and felt like they were personally interacting with you.

Local producers Big Murk and Toumba’s introductory DJ sets electrified the audience, and the buzz in the crowd amped up with every track artfully mixed and fused together, starting a party that was destined to go on late into the night. The crowd, a mix of different backgrounds and nationalities, was linked together by the thrill of electricity in BLTNM’s unique sound.

“Shabjdeed is an icon,” said Qamar Mahasneh, a long-time fan of the artist. “I’ve never seen an artist of this scale, who is so influential in the rap scene, in Jordan before.”

“I can’t wait to see the man, the myth, the legend, in person,” she added.

Shawda Aziz, a British holidaymaker in Jordan, attended the concert after hearing the collective’s music for the first time only a few days before.

“It sounds very influenced by alternative rap, techno, and drill,” she told Jordan News at the event. “I listen to a lot of music from the UK rap scene, and I can tell that there’s definitely a UK influence in the production. But there’s also a cultural, an Arab sound, very strong influences.”

Asked about her thoughts on the music and sounds, she laughed and said: “I wouldn’t be here completely unplanned — two days into my holiday — if I didn’t like it.”

The crowd was worked up, waiting for their entrance. Shabjdeed and Al Nather descended onto the stage to deafening roars from the audience. Dressed in a piercing white Adidas tracksuit and white Real Madrid football shirt — simultaneously enough to make him blend in and stand out — he reflected the visual vibe he inspired in his audience: everyone was dressed as relaxed and as casually as possible. No one was there to impress; all were there to have fun.

And Shabjdeed and Al Nather did not disappoint. Bringing the energy they have spent years curating, the one they are very much known for, the artists showed that they were there for a good time, to live their best life: unapologetically Palestinian, unapologetically brazen, and unapologetically themselves.

Shabjdeed not only performed his signature solo tracks throughout his set — Mantika, NKD GLG, Jaw Ard, Ko7ol w 3atme, and Arab Style — but he hypnotized the audience, engaging both fans and haters while laughing, joking, and making fun. The artist’s energy infected the crowd, and the song lyrics inspired the liveliness — to be expected, since Shabjdeed is not slow to tease concert-goers who do not jump along to the beat.

It was during chants of “Boom Bakh, Boom Bakh” that Shabjdeed introduced Daboor. Striding onto the stage with both head and Palestinian flag held high, Daboor immediately launched into a striking performance of Inn Ann to the delight of the crowd, which immediately matched and returned the energy four-fold, demanding the song be re-sung over and over. This is unsurprising, as Inn Ann went viral on social media, and was considered an unofficial anthem for Palestinian youth during the May 2021 offensive on Palestine. The song’s music video garnered over 51 million views on YouTube.

Shabjdeed’s final introduction to the crowd was BLTNM’s newest member, Ramadan, who officially debuted with the collective a little over two months ago. Instead of a conventional introduction, Shabjdeed instead performed Ya Balad. As he called out the lyric “Ramadan”, met by a rejoinder from the audience, “Ma Bijish Bi Balash” (“it won’t come for free” in English), the three rappers dubbed by the collective’s website as “BLTNM’s Jerusalem-based rap trio” launched into their three tracks: Ramadan, Ma Bijish, and Bi Balash. The fact that Ramadan was new to the group seemed to go unnoticed by the crowd, who rapped along with the performer as if he had been in the collective from its early days.

BLTNM is known for setting standards in the global Arab rap scene, and expectations for the concert were high. And, as usual, the collective did not disappoint.

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