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Interview With Gatas Parlament

22 November 2004 No Comment

About a year ago I got a stack load of hip hop material from Norway. One of the artist was a Norwegian trio by the name of Gatas Parlament. I got in touch with Don Martin and we chatted about the group, politics and the future…

I think for me learning about other cultures through hip hop has been educational and made me think outside of this box that most people put themselves into. Its been said that revolutionary hip hop has long died but these guys vowed to bring it to you. They even have legendary Bay area rapper Paris leaving a note of encouragement on the album. Let me hand this over to Gatas Parlament to finish the sermon.

“Gatas Parlament has from start been a political and controversial trio, Attacking everything from monarchists and racist political leaders to American imperialist who control over Norwegian foreign politics.”

Tell me who is Gatas Parlament and who makes up the group?

Gatas Parlament consists of Elling Batman Zedong, Aslak and Don Martin, a red revolutionary rap group rapping in Norwegian. We’re all from the east side of Oslo – the capitol of Norway. It’s located between some hills and some woods, as is the rest of Norway. Norway is located on the Scandinavian Peninsula up north in Europe.

The group was formed in 1993 right, at that stage what was the political situation like and what was the objective of forming this group called Gatas Parlament?

Well, the political situation of the world was, as you know Reaganomics. Post-Gulf war and all that ultra-right shit of the 80-ties. In Norway we where coming up to the second referendum on whether or not to join the European Union (the first was in 75) and there was big campaigns for and against. The pro campaign was ran by the ruling political parties, the business owners association and over class media. The no side consisted of regular people from all over Norway. I think that both these things helped politify the environment we where in.

I been mentioning Gatas Parlament the whole time I forgot there is a lot of us out here that don’t speak the Norwegian language break down the name for us and why it became so symbolic in Norway?

Well, it means “Parliament of the street”. We don’t deal with politics in the way that we want to be a political party and sit around drinking martinis with other political bureaucrats. We fight for ordinary people like ourselves and against the economic system that is shattering the world for most of us, wherever you happened to be born.

I been hearing a lot about the scene out there what’s happening on your local front now and what has been some of the evils that’s been happening on your scene?

Well, naturally there has happened a lot the last twenty years since hip hop first fell into Norway. It’s a bit difficult to summarize. At first the Norwegian rap scene was in English, Gatas Parlament was actually the first in Norwegian. 

Now it’s bilingual with a majority in Norwegian. We have had a strong graffiti scene here in Oslo, which has been under a lot of pressure and at constant all out war with the authorities. But graffiti prevails. There used to be only a few dedicated breakdancers, but the last few years that has grown into a scene as well.

Hip hop is the voice of millions of people around the planet how powerful do u think the hip hop voice has become and what’s your view point on the amount of misinformed hip hop heads that’s feeding off bullshit that’s being fed to us through the medium as well?

That’s two large and very different questions. I think that hip hop has a very strong voice. I have never been to Colombia, but I saw a documentary about Colombian hip hop and it seemed to me that over there hip hop is still the means for poor youths to express themselves and uplift themselves, rather than to boast ignorance, claim wealth they don’t have and backstab each other. I think that mainstream media and popular culture is one of the most important ways of upholding and controlling our world order, and that anything that refuses to be controlled by the large corporations can have positive effects and be powerful if they realize it and use it the right way. That’s some of what we are trying to do, become a media that doesn’t rely on big business approval.

I got a copy of “Holdning over underholding” in my music crates that was released through Tommy Tee productions in 2001 comparing that to the new album would you say there is a difference in the production style and message that you guys are relaying?

I left the group winter 1998/1999 and was doing other stuff until after Holdning was released, so one change is that I’m back. The first album was produced by my man Jester from Alarm Clock Connection, while the new album has beats from Jester, Definite, Tommy Tee and me. It think this album is a lot more intense than the first, and it runs in allot of different directions since we’re 4 producers with quite different style of beats. The new album is also more explicitly political, and a lot of it concerns the war.

What’s your political stance and why did you choose to relay politics in your messages?

Well, I think that every rapper should address the topics that concern her or his mind. It’s not like we only do political songs, but we’re socially conscious people and I think it’s really hard to look away from the fact that we as a race – the human race – is fucking each other over so thoroughly. And there is no need for it. Most people don’t have shit or shit to say while and extremely small minority runs the whole cake. The world is crazy unjust, crazy racist and crazy sexist. We’re those kind of people who refuse to accept this and just move on, because we know that the world is man made. So the problems that we have are manmade, and can be man unmade.

Are you still with Tommy Tee productions?  What’s the response been like for your last album and when can we expect a new release from you guys?

We’re happy with being on Tee Prod. We’re happy with dealing with people who not only understand us but agrees with the music, our behaviour and most of the message. The response I think has been good. We have a strong support base and people dig it.

I just checked out the music vid with Promoe.  Is it easy to get your music video’s played? 

Our videos are played allot on Svisj which is a channel you can vote on videos by SMS. MTV never played us, and some of the videos are a bit strong for channels like ZTV (which is like the Scandinavian MTV). We don’t get much airplay from the big radio stations, seeing as we don’t exactly fit into their pop-blabla standard either musically or lyrically. But still we get things across to people.

You have had some South African contact before me tell me what was it working with Tumi and have you guys released the tracks that you did?

I’m also in a crew called Alarmclock Connection that consists of me, Jester, Definite, Shepherd, Germs, Viballistic and Pariah. Most of the Alarmclock stuff is in English, and I’ve released records in English. This summer we where booked to do a show or two with Tumi and the Volume and a workshop where we made a track together. During this Tumi ambushed our group and demanded to be a member. We had no other choice than to accept, off course, since he’s an excellent MC and very nice guy. We recorded two tracks with him in Jesters studio, at least one of them is coming out on the Alarmclock recorded planned for winter 2004.

You are under investigation by the U.S government.  Can you expand on that for us?

Yeah. Here’s what happened. There was a Norwegian campaign called “Tellhim.no” that was raising money for a whole page ad in the Washington Times aimed at telling the president and the rest of the readers that the Norwegian people didn’t support his war, even thought our government does. 

They raised their money, got the ad, and off course nothing what so ever happened. So we did a satire campaign in our music video for the track we did with Promoe called “Antiamerikansk dans” (“anti-American dance”) which is about the US global dominance. The campaign was called “killhim.nu” (kill him now) and wanted to raise money for a hired assassin or bounty on the head of George W Bush, seeing it as self defence for the rest of the world.

A week before the video was actually even finished, the campaign website leaked to a local newspaper in a really small town on the peasant countryside where we did a show, and the next thing it was all over the news. The American embassy in Norway doesn’t share our good sense of humour and filed charges against us.

 Norwegian police – who as any branch of our government – does whatever the Americans tell them to, closed our site down and stated publicly that they where investigating us for “threats against a foreign head of state” with a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison and large fines. Secret service is said to be on the case, what ever that means. Presently, we still have not heard from the “investigators” and this Friday we decided to move our site and put it up again. So the ball is rolling..

In your eulogy what would your last words be to the hip hop community in Africa or let’s change it from Africa and say globally?

I know too little of African hiphop to speak to it. But I think that hip hop used to be the voice of average youths trying to make a better living for themselves and have fun. I know that it is like this in some parts of the world. I really hope that this bullshit plastic, bling-bling, pop, expensive-cars-that-noone-really-has, uh-yeah-turn-my-mic-up fad will end. To all of you who like us are still a part of the active, intelligent and positive movement hip hop I wanna say peace and keep it up! …

And I would really like to know more about African hip hop! I run a rap radio show called Goodshit Radio every Monday and we would be happy for anyone mailing us saying what’s up wherever you live. Mail us at our site! Even though we speak in Norwegian you might enjoy the music in the show, which can be heard using Winamp 5 or similar from http://www.gatasp.no/goodshit.m3u



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