Friday, January 6

A YouTube video, a rapper, a mother and police

What do all of these have in common you ask? Well if the case is about Azerbaijan it is obvious. A rapper who made a video and posted it on YouTube is now seeing his mom (and relatives) round up by the police for questioning. Police is demanding the rapper takes down the video. The rapper says he won't budge.

Jamal Ali, is a young Azerbaijan musician who have had his share of torture, beating and arrest. In an interview I did with Jamal back in 2015 for a project called Freedom Beat, we spoke about his experience in the aftermath of the arrest and the humiliation he had to endure.

"They place a bag over my head, handcuffed me from behind, sat me on a chair and extended my legs onto another chair. They took off my shoes and then started beating me with a rubber truncheon over my heels. This lasted for about three hours the first time, then another two hours the second time", he told me.

Jamal was 24 at the time. This was in March 2012, two months later Azerbaijan was to host annual kitsch Eurovision pop song contest.

Had it not been for the Eurovision contest, Jamal fears he would have ended up in jail on a much longer sentence. He was released ten days later and warned not to make songs or sing about the president and the authorities anymore.

Shortly after the incident Jamal left Azerbaijan and moved to Berlin where he continued his work. And work he did. Jamal released this video [see below] on December 31, 2016.



Guess what the song is about? Of course it is about authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan, and how it goes after activists and more.

This time, because Jamal himself was not in the country, the authorities have gone after his family members, including his mother.

The family was told Jamal must remove the video. Jamal says he has not intention to do so.



Jamal's work either as an independent singer or throughout his years singing with various rap bands always focused on challenges average Azerbaijanis faced in the country- the poverty, illegal demolitions, the abuse of rights, crackdown on free speech and democracy and so on.

His gift to his fans right before his departure from Azerbaijan was a song called “Vermisel” [Noodles].

The song was about illegal demolitions, people left without homes ahead of the Eurovision song contest combined with what happened to him during his detention.
   

“Woke up in the morning

Had "vermicelli" [noodles]

At lunch I had same thing

I said enough is enough

And went out to do something


I was beaten for what I said

Shoved into the police car

They showed on AZTV [1st governmental channel]
and called us bandits


What? Am I not right?

My house is demolished

I'm homeless

No roof over my head

Is Eurovision what I need now?


Cameras are all over the place

Someone is watching us

Here is the message to them:
Saint middle finger



You call yourself citizen

"No stone left on stone"

The fountain you are proud of

Is made with your tax money


Dudes are working hard

It's 5 on records, 15 in their pockets

The dirt is eaten anyway

Why am I in charge for that?!


Dear Hajibala [Baku mayor]

What the hack you are doing, man?

If you have big passion for demolishing 

Go demolish "his" houses in Dubai


Cameras are all over the place

Someone is watching us

Here is the message to them:
Saint middle finger.” 

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