The members of the hip-hop group Katibe 5, who grew up together in a refugee camp in Lebanon, attract Palestinian, Lebanese, and Israeli fans alike as they rap about living conditions within the camp’s walls and the continuities between their struggle for peace and justice and that of others around the world.
As part of the Cultures of Resistance feature film, director Iara Lee met up with the group to film one of their free-style sessions and to hear their ideas about how they fit within a tradition of politicized hip-hop. Watch this short film that we made from the footage, and look for Katibe 5 in the feature film.
In 1989, Public Enemy’s single "Fight the Power" exploded onto American airways and quickly became one of the greatest songs of hip-hop history and a timeless resistance anthem. The single became a testimony of the ongoing struggle against racism, oppression, and exclusion. While many critics argue that the commercialization of rap has since severed the genre’s the political lifeline, new artists from around the world have carried on its subversive tradition. The Palestinian group Katibe 5, which appears in the Cultures of Resistance feature film, is but one example of this new generation in hip-hop.
The members of Katibe 5 see their music as a continuation of Public Enemy’s legacy. The five members, now all in their 20s, have been making music together since their early teens. They grew up in Beirut’s Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp, where over 16,000 refugees reside in an area less than a square mile. The overcrowded camp, which Katibe 5 calls "a small prison," leaves many of its residents with little ambition or hope for the future.
Relations between Palestinian and Lebanese communities are tense. As the Lebanese army continues to battle Palestinian militias, camp residents have been vilified. However, Katibe 5’s fans come from both communities, and their music strives to validate the experiences of their Palestinian fans and to change Lebanese perceptions of the camp’s residents.
The group’s sound is an eclectic mix of American hip-hop, Arabic poetry, and political commentary. They say, "We are part of a revolution - a musical revolution. It's happening here and all over the world. We're the adverb. We come before the verb. We're preparing people for action."
The group adds, "We have a responsibility not just to reflect this life. We're not just Palestinian refugees speaking about our problems, or our lives in the camps, because the problems we face are not only a Palestinian problem. All over the world there are people who are oppressed, people who are incarcerated, people who are suffering."
Click here to visit their page at their record label's website.