Rapping in the Name of Interfaith Tolerance

October 2, 2006

Author: Rachel Breitman

Source: USA Today


Chicago actor and musician Yuri Lane mixes prayers for Middle Eastern peace into his rap verses.

The Jewish artist has brought his play From Tel Aviv to Ramallah to college campuses, community centers and theaters across the country. In collaboration with Egyptian-American DJ Sharif Ezzat, Lane uses "beatbox" music, created by his lips, hands, teeth and diaphragm, to portray an Israeli and a Palestinian who face off at a checkpoint between their homelands.

"My show is a modern retelling of Isaac and Ishmael," says Lane, 35, invoking the biblical story of the two sons of Abraham. One of the half-brothers became a patriarch of the Jews, the other an ancestor claimed by Muslims.

"I wish they could get together," he adds wistfully.

Maybe they can. As the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur intersect with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this year, interfaith rappers are joining forces to teach their audiences a lesson about peace.

Lane, whose album Yuri Lane: Human Beatbox will be released Nov. 1, joined Jewish and Arab rappers in New York City last month for a concert dubbed "Hip-Hop Sulha," an Arabic term for peaceful negotiation. A second concert is planned in December and a compilation CD is in the works.

Some of the performers, including Omar Chakaki, the Syrian-American lead singer for a group called the N.O.M.A.D.S, say they were inspired to rap by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.