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Gaza’s MCA rapper: An 11-year-old’s message to the world | News



For Abdulrahman al-Shantti, becoming an internet sensation feels “really good” because it allows him to spread his message of what growing up in the Gaza Strip is like.

“I want to tell the outside world how the Palestinians live in Gaza and how we as children are supposed to live like normal people but don’t,” he told Al Jazeera.

The 11-year-old rapper shot to fame earlier this month when one of his cover songs on his Instagram page went viral and, at the time of writing, has earned him more than 92,000 followers.

The video, which features a song by Palestinian rapper Waheeb Nasan, shows Abdulrahman standing in front of his classmates, effortlessly rapping in American-accented English without missing a beat.

“First of all, this is our country, let me tell you how it goes,” he raps. “We want peace and we want love/people pray and teach who don’t.”

The song, which itself is a cover version of Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again, netted him praise from famous music artists around the world, from US artist DJ Khaled to Canadian signer Masari to the UK’s Akala and Lowkey.

Abdulrahman, who goes by the stage name MCA, first took a liking to hip-hop music when he was nine years old.

“I started rapping for fun at first,” he explained. “I memorised Eminem’s song I’m Not Afraid and that’s when I found out I’m good at rapping. Ever since then I started to write my own original songs and memorised covers for famous rappers.”

When asked about his favourite artists, he gushed with enthusiasm.

“Oh man, I have so many!” he said. “Eminem, Tupac, Mike Shinoda. I was searching for rap songs on YouTube and came across Changes by Tupac and I really liked it. So I checked out more songs from him and listened to Dear Mama, The Rose and really liked his style.”

Abdulrahman al-Shantti uses a mobile phone as he stands by a window in his family home in Gaza City [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

His father Saleh says Abdulrahman, who is also a big NBA fan, is completely self-taught.

“He learned everything from the internet on the phone,” he said. “He was born and raised in Gaza, and has never attended a language institute. He keeps a schedule where he practices new songs, day and night.

“All of this talent is from his determination and hard work and practice,” he added.

Hip-hop as a ‘voice of the people’

Saudi hip-hop guru and radio host Ahmad Dennaoui – better known as Big Hass – came across Abdulrahman’s Instagram page and shared it on his social media channels.

“I actually did a live Instagram interview with Abdul before he went viral,” he told Al Jazeera.

“It’s really amazing to see the love MCA has received so far and it’s crazy to believe that just 10 days ago he had 800 followers and now he’s crossed the 90K number.”

Saleh, who takes videos of his son rapping with his mobile phone, said he is proud of Abdulrahman, whose original lyrics talk about experiencing three Israeli offensives during his 11 years on Earth.

“His own songs talk about where he lives and the conditions of the Gaza Strip from his own perspective,” he said. “Through his videos, he wants to show the world places in Gaza.”

In one of his original songs, Abdelrahman raps about life in Gaza, which he has only known under a blockade that is older than he is.

“Since the first day of my life I have already seen three wars/And it won’t take very long for me to see another one,” he raps. “On the beach of Gaza – sands, fresh air and sea/It’s the only opportunity for the people to feel free.”

Big Hass said it was not surprising at all that such a prodigious talent chose hip-hop as a medium to convey his message.

“I find it refreshing that MCA found hip-hop to express his ideas and talent,” he said. “Hip-hop has always been the voice of the people.”

The genre has spread across the Arab world, he continued, starting from the North African countries before making its way to the Levant and the Gulf states.

“I am loving the diversity of the Arab rappers,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to cover, support, and document Arabic hip-hop since 2007 and it’s been amazing to watch it grow.”

Palestinian hip-hop groups – such as DAM and the now-defunct Ramallah Underground – paved the way for other artists to flourish or have short-lived rap careers.

From Gaza, rappers such as the duo Revolution Makers – all use Arabic in their lyrics, but Abdulrahman wants to focus on rapping in English for now as it offers a wider audience and more opportunities, according to his father.

“That is not to say that he will not rap in Arabic, just maybe in the future when he has mastered English,” Saleh added.

For his cover songs, which feature Waheed Nasan, Linkin Park, Kris Kross, Mike Shinoda’s Fort Minor, Tupac and Eminem, Abdulrahman chooses locations in Gaza City that he believes fit the song.

He said he wants to continue rapping and is working on an album.

“I have maybe five songs so far,” he said. “In the future, I want to go to the United States and meet my musical influences and visit studios. I also want to learn how to be a better songwriter.”

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FDC activists win Bank of Uganda pig case by simply keeping quiet




FDC activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja

Buganda Road Magistrate’s court has acquitted two opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja of common nuisance charges.

FDC deputy chief administrative officer Ojobile and Mayanja have been acquitted by the grade one magistrate Fidelis Otwao on charges stemming from their protest held in November 2018 when they carried pig heads to the central police station (CPS) in Kampala protesting the rot in the Bank of Uganda that had reportedly resulted into the closure of a number of commercial banks in the country for many years.

According to them, corruption at the Central bank had been the sole ingredient for the closure of commercial banks in Uganda over the years because it reportedly mismanaged them and made erroneous decisions that led to their closure.

With fresh pig heads tied around their necks and stinking blood oozing across their white T-shirts, Mayanja and Ojobile walked through the streets of Kampala to the police in a protest that was spearheaded by their pressure group known as the Jobless Youth.

One pig head had a placard bearing the name of the former and late BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile and the other of his former deputy Louis Kasekende.

The protest at CPS came a few days after another that was staged at the Central bank where two piglets were dumped bearing the name of Juma Kisaame (a Muslim), the former managing director of DFCU bank. 

As a result, the duo was arrested and taken to Buganda Road court on charges of common nuisance and the prosecution adduced evidence from five witnesses who included police officers and Muslims who were reportedly angered by the protest.

According to the witnesses, the actions of Mayanja and Ojobile were annoying to the people whose names were mentioned and tagged on pig heads, and the smell that was coming out of the fresh pig heads was most likely to result in injury to a considerable number of the public by affecting their health, and the protest affected businesses since some shops allegedly had to close to see what was happening outside due to their commotion.

But when Mayanja and Ojobile were asked to defend themselves over the allegations, the duo that didn’t have legal representation chose to keep quiet as their defense and let the court make its decision based on what the prosecution witnesses had testified to.

In a judgement read today Friday by Otwao, he indicated that the evidence from the prosecution witnesses is wanting because none of the people alleged to have been annoyed by the actions of the activists testified in the case or recorded a statement with police.

According to Otwao, the testimonies were based on what the witnesses were feeling as individuals and that there were no abusive statements on the pig heads that the prosecution had indicated which would cause annoyance, save for putting the names of people only. 

As such, the court has ruled that such testimonies cannot be relied on to convict a person because the prosecution has failed to prove that there was common injury, danger to the public or destruction of property.

Consequently, the magistrate has acquitted the duo and directed that each of them starts the process to seek a refund of the Shs 500,000 that each had paid to be released on bail.

The activists have welcomed the ruling saying that the court has recognized that the citizens have a right to protest peacefully.

The pig protests have been commonly used by activists who subscribe to this group known as the Jobless Brotherhood which has since rebranded to the “Alternative”.

In 2016, their members including Luta Ferdinand who is now facing trial in the court-martial on different charges, and Joseph Lukwago were arrested for dumping piglets at parliament protesting the Shs 200 million given to each MP for buying personal cars.

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Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in a single day | Death Penalty News




The death penalty applied for a range of charges in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom’s modern history.

Saudi Arabia has executed 81 men over the past 24 hours, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian national, on charges including “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs”, state news agency Saudi Press Agency said, in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history.

The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported in the kingdom in 2021 and the 27 in 2020.

“These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” SPA said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS [ISIL], al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.

Some travelled to conflict zones to join “terrorist organisations”, according to the SPA.

“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process,” it said.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the report added.

Saudi Arabia’s last mass execution was in January 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent opposition Shia leader who had rallied demonstrations in the kingdom.

In 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shia, in a mass execution across the country for alleged “terrorism”-related crimes.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights records have been under increasing scrutiny from rights groups and Western allies since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

It has faced strong criticism of its restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and the implementation of the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors.

Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security according to its laws.

SPA said the accused were provided with the right to a lawyer and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.

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Nigerian student in Ukraine: 'Mummy we keep hearing bombs'




Hauwa’s son Suleiman is a Nigerian student in Sumy – she says the family are fearful and anxious.

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