أغنية "تحت الركام" لريزيدينتي وأمل مرقس تعكس التضامن بين بورتوريكو وفلسطين
7 juin 2024

Almost every Palestinian will tell you that there has been a substantial shift in the way that Palestine is featured in the media today. Never before have we seen Palestine popularized to this extent. Over the last eight months of genocide, we have witnessed an uptick in cultural resistance from artists of both Palestinian and non-Palestinian descent.

As artist and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone once said, “An artist's duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.”

Some of the most outspoken artists of our time — Puerto Rican rapper Residente and Palestinian folk singer Amal Murkus — have been fulfilling this duty. The two joined to create a powerful bilingual song titled, “Bajo los Escombros,” meaning “under the rubble” in Spanish. 

The song is the eighth track on Residente’s newest album, named “Las Letras Ya No Importan” [translated: The Lyrics No Longer Matter]. It begins with a striking blend of Arab instruments commonly used in traditional Palestinian music, such as the oud and the qanun, played by Amal’s son, Firas Zriek. The melody as well as the lyrics — with verses in both Spanish and Arabic — are filled with sorrow, yet immense strength and beauty. 

Residente posted a live performance of “Bajo los Escombros” to his Instagram account. He also captioned the video:

“I wrote this song out of pain. Between the bombings in Gaza. I see my son in every one of the massacred children. Through music, I try to manage the helplessness… I feel like I can't do anything else other than this. The truth is I don't understand the silence of many fellow artists; it makes me lose hope in humanity. As Leon Gieco once wrote ‘I only ask God that the war is not indifferent to me.’”

The video features rows of children adorning keffiyehs, like many of the musicians among them. They carry scorched toys and books, alluding to the destruction of children in Gaza. The youth of Gaza’s hopes and dreams have all been burned to ashes by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and American bombs that have dropped nonstop since October of 2023. 

The manner in which Residente raps his verses are a clear indication of how distressed he is about the genocide taking place in Gaza. His lyrics are an ode written through the Palestinian perspective. He captures the unwavering resilience of Palestinians in the face of a genocidal regime seeking to erase an entire population of children, women, and men.  

“De aquí nadie nos mueve
Ni el capitán, ni el general, ni el sargento
De nacimiento no tengo visa, pero tengo mi acento
Y aquí me quedo hasta el último suspiro del viento.”


“No one’s moving us from here
No captain, general, or sergeant.
Born here, I have no Visa, but I have my accent, 
And here I will stay, until the wind's last sigh is spent.”

Residente describes the brutality of the IOF and their agenda to hunt down and indiscriminately kill Palestinians:

“El invasor es un puerco, la clara
Porque aunque yo levante las mano', dispara”

“The invader is a pig, please understand, 
because even if I raise my hands, he’ll shoot”

In the chorus, Residente describes the cowardice of the Occupation Forces who execute Palestinians, while they themselves hide behind armored tanks. He acknowledges the martyrs beneath the rubble who have yet to be found, as well asthe horror stories from Gaza that will never be heard, because the Israeli Zionist regime has murdered so many witnesses.

“Bajo los escombros están los festejo'
Del que dispara de lejo'
Del que apretó el botón rojo
Y no se atrevió a mirarme a los ojos
Bajo los escombros se reescribieron
Las historias que no se han contado
'Tán los libros que nunca leyeron
Los soldados que nos bombardearon”


“Under the rubble are the celebrations
The one who shoots from afar
The one who pressed the red button and didn't dare look me in the eyes
Under the rubble they were rewritten|
The stories that have not been told
There are the books that they never read
The soldiers who bombed us…”

I learned about Residente, his politically informed music, and his influence on the Latin music industry back in 2020, through my family members who still reside in Puerto Rico. 

My grandparents fled from our village on the outskirts of Ramallah due to the Zionist military occupation after the 1967 Naksa. They emigrated to Ponce, Puerto Rico. My mother and most of her siblings were born and raised on the island, until they returned to Palestine in the early 1980s. To this day, one of my aunts and her family continue to reside in Puerto Rico, continuing the long-standing ties our family has cultivated on the island. 

Throughout the years, my family would compare the Palestinian struggle to the Puerto Rican one. Two of the world's longest-standing colonies, both under the boot of American imperialism. Two nations that have been denied freedom for centuries. Our oppressors are linked: from financially supporting one another, to sharing tools of oppression. This makes our freedom intrinsically connected to one another.

Throughout history, similar tactics have been used to subjugate the people of both Palestine and Puerto Rico, such as the Puerto Rican Gag Law and Israel’s ban of the Palestinian flag. As Palestine undergoes its 76th year of Israeli occupation and a genocidal bombing campaign, Puerto Rican history reminds us of the U.S. military occupation and bombings of Vieques, Jayuya, and Utuado.

With millions of us from both nations having been exiled due to colonialism, never given a chance to live in our ancestral lands, we hold onto the same dream. That is, to return to our liberated homelands. The frustration that Palestinians and Puerto Ricans feel are part of the same struggle.

Both Residente and Amal have long been outspoken throughout their careers, criticizing Zionism, misogyny, and other forms of societal oppression. It makes perfect sense as to why these two would collaborate and use their voices to center Palestine. The threat of backlash or censorship does not intimidate either of them. In fact, both artists have experienced censorship throughout their careers. 

Residente and his siblings “were censored for four years in their native Puerto Rico after the 2009 Grammy Awards,” when Residente criticized the then-governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, on television, for his poor management of the country. 

In a 2021 interview with Feminism In India, Amal Murkus recalls her first encounter with censorship, “We were doing a play in Nazareth, and in the middle of rehearsals, we were informed that we could not continue with the play. After negotiations with a lawyer, a compromise was decided on: we could sing, but not act. In protest, two actresses went on stage with tape on their mouths.”

It is clear that attempts at censorship will never dim Amal’s passion for speaking out for what's right. We can hear that same determination with her verses in “Bajo los Escombros.” In the latter part, of the song Amal sings:

يا شعبي لا تيأس، صوتك عالي”

يا بلادي لا تبكي، دموعك غالي

يا غزة يا عزة يا بنت الموج

يا غزة


“Don’t despair, my people; your voice is loud
Don’t cry, my homeland; your tears are precious
Oh Gaza, our pride, daughter of the waves
Oh Gaza”

“Bajo los Escombros” does more than simply reflect our current climate. It refuses to normalize the heinous actions being committed by the Zionist occupation. This song carries a message that there is no business as usual. When such atrocities are being committed, it is everyone's duty to take a firm stance in rejecting the Zionist agenda. 

In an interview with El Pais, Residente said, The urban genre fights over bullshit. Nobody says anything about Palestine. That's why I don't want to belong to that scene.” He complains that no one made an effort to mention Palestine at the last Latin Grammy’s gala, “No one made a single mention of Palestine. There were some who told me: ‘Well, René, I just don't know what to say.’ And I answered them: ‘What do you mean you don't know, cabrón?’ It's so serious that we should stop playing. What do we have left of humanity? All of this frustrates me."

Residente’s reaction and attitude towards his peers and the music industry is refreshing, especially in a world that continues to attempt to justify silence and neutrality in the face of an extermination campaign. Artistic and cultural resistance is born to combat society’s absurdity.

When we continue our daily lives after witnessing incredibly disturbing imagery, the only way to not feel completely hopeless is to center Gaza. This song reiterates that as Palestine remains at the forefront of our minds, it should continue to be our focus in all that we do. 

Amal’s 2021 interview reaffirms the importance of resisting through art and music: “I think music gives people morale. It gives you strength. You can cry with this. You can scream with this. You can protest with this. And no censorship can stop music. Art will always have victory over censorship.”

Seeing this remarkable display of solidarity as a Palestinian with familial ties to Puerto Rico has been invaluable to me. Songs like these rejuvenate hope and affirm that Palestine will only continue to garner more support. They also remind us that art can masterfully reflect our tragic present, coloring the global fight for justice. 

Yasser Manna
نجوم منتخب كرة الطائرة إبراهيم قصيعة (يمين) وحسن زعيتر (مواقع التواصل) استشهدا بقصف إسزائيلي على مخيم جباليا.
Ayham al-Sahli
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