David Grossman’s Sticker Song: Israeli Novelist’s Foray into Hip Hop
David Grossman displays bumper sticker slogan opposed to foie gras: “How much evil can one swallow?” (credit: Rina Castelnuovo/New York Times)
Samuel Freedman has written a fascinating article, Honk if You Love to Sing Bumper Stickers, about the new song, Shirat HaSticker (“Sticker Song”). Famed Israeli novelist and essayist, David Grossman, has written (or should I say compiled?) it for the Israeli hip hop group, HaDag Nachash (“The Fish Snake”). The article begins memorably:
Several days after Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in 1995 by an assassin opposed to the peace process, the Israeli author David Grossman was driving through a forest preserve just outside this city. He noticed a car stopped on the shoulder of the road and slowed to see what might be the matter. The motorist, he saw, was scraping off a bumper sticker that said, “Rabin Rotzeach” (“Rabin, Murderer”).
At that moment Mr. Grossman, a novelist and essayist, fathomed the peculiar and intense importance of bumper stickers in Israel, where sometimes an entire car can be pasted with them, endorsing any cause from Palestinian statehood to the expulsion of Arabs to the coming of the Messiah. He began to scribble down examples, enlisted friends and family members to do the same, and ultimately collected 120 slogans, united only by their brevity and certitude.
I find myself intrigued by artists who attempt to break down the walls of genre and style in order to open people’s hearts and minds to new ways of seeing reality. Grossman, a highly educated and cultured Israeli with strong left of center political views, writes in a dry, refined and almost clinical style. That’s why I find it so interesting that he’s attempting to meld his art with such a new and unlikely artistic style: hip hop. More power to him.
What I find tremendously interesting is Grossman’s use of a common everyday social phenomenon, car bumper stickers, to make a much broader point about the fractious and fractionated nature of contemporary Israeli society. Also, he chronicles the debasement of Israeli values due to the continued occupation of millions of Palestinians through a corresponding linguistic debasement represented by the lyrics closing stanza which emphasize the terms used to intimidate and brutalize the Palestinians:
Liquidate, kill, expel, mislead
No Fear, subdue, quarantine, punishment of death
Lay waste, destroy, rout, eradicate
It’s all your fault, Haver [Friend]
The closing line especially wounds as it blames Yitzchak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who died trying to negotiate his way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for all the subsequent violence and mayhem that has followed his death. This is an especial calumny to Rabin’s name and memory, but unfortunately par for the course as far as Israeli political discourse.
Give a listen to Shirat HaSticker. If you’d like to buy the album, Chomer M’komi, click the album cover above and you’ll be taken to an Israeli (English language) site offering it for sale. The Hebrew lyrics and my English translation follows:
מאת דויד גרוסמן
דור שלם דורש שלום
כמה רוע אפשר לבלוע
מדינת הלכה – הלכה המדינה
כמה רוע אפשר…
לחסל, להרוג, לגרש, להטעות
–lyrics from Shiron.net
|[Bumper] Sticker Song|
Lyrics: David Grossman
A whole generation demands peace
A State based on halacha is no State at all
Liquidate, kill, expel, mislead
–translation: Richard Silverstein
Thanks for Hanan Levin of Growabrain.com and Yonathan of Dutchblog Israel for their help with some of the more colloquial Hebrew expressions in the lyrics.
HaDag Nachash will be performing on Ocotber 20th, 21st and 23rd in the San Francisco Bay area on their first U.S. tour. See IsraelCenterSF.com for further details.
WARNING: This mp3 blog spreads the wonder that is traditional music. By all means come, listen, enjoy, then follow the links to buy the music & support the artists featured here.
8 thoughts on “David Grossman’s Sticker Song: Israeli Novelist’s Foray into Hip Hop – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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I love Shirat HaSticker. I have one question about the translation on this site. The lyrics that I have state that the last line is “Everything for You, Friend” NOT “It’s all your fault, Friend”. I hope that you research further into this, because there is definatly a big difference.
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The last line, Hakol Biglalcha Chaver, means “Its all Because of you, friend” also translated as “its all your fault, friend” placing the blame for the situation on Rabin (a take off of Shalom Chaver)
a comment regarding Becky’s comment about the translation of “ha col beeglalcha”. That acually means “evertyhing is because of you, friend.” Beeglalcha=because of you.
this is interesting
tamid bi ahava
In poetry translation context is all. And in the context of these lyrics the phrase can be either positive (“it’s all due to you”) or negative “it’s all because of you.”
The bumper sticker phrases alternate between right-wing and left-wing points of view. This phrase seems couched in the voice of the hard right which blamed Rabin for what it termed his “treachery.” That’s why I felt justified in translating “ha-kol biglalcha” as “it’s all your fault.”
when the connotation is positive, it would be “bezchutcha”. “biglalcha” is pretty much always a blame.
So which does it mean?
1. Judea, Samaria and Gaza are here!
a. Actually means that they are near and not on a far off planet (and not “within the Green Line) as is liked to believe in the “Tel-Aviv” bubble. This was the original connotation of the sticker.
2. Na, Nah, Nahman, the faithful
a. Actually means Nahman of Uman (the city in the Ukraine where he is buried.
b. Also, the line “They call me Nachman and I stammer” refers to the same Nahman and should be “My name is Nahman and I stammer.”
3. The “sticker phrases [do not] alternate between right-wing and left-wing points of view.” If anything, they are more identified with right-wing or religious points of view. At least 30 of the sticker phrases are right-wing or religious whereas only 9 can be identified with the left of centre point of view. The rest can go either way or are totally unrelated (e.g. “Let the animals live”).
4. The line “Peace please, thank you for security” is ironic and should actually be “Kudos for the Peace, thanks for the Security.”
5. Finally, I don’t really get the debate regarding “biglalcha.” One has to work extremely hard to squeeze it into anything other than negative connotations. If you need support you can check out the way the line is delivered in the video. The only issue here may be regarding who the “friend” is. That is, though the sticker reference is clear, the inferred person can be either Itshak Rabin or Yigal Amir.
6. Pleasant Pesah!