They’re the best of friends, but in the video, they holler at one another about the Israeli-Palestinian shared walk of pain and turmoil, that unyielding problem.
Their video, “Let’s Talk Straight,” has garnered more than 1 million views, a viral sensation. One man is actually Palestinian, the other an actual Israeli Jew, and both play much more fired-up men from their opposing sides of the divide.
“I’m not a racist, my gardener is an Arab,” Uriya Rosenman grumbles across a card table. At the other side is Sameh Zakout, hurling words back as an aggrieved Palestinian: “You don’t want to live next to me, but I built your house.”
Now, the rapping, anti-hate pair, called Dugri, are to appear March 21, 7 p.m., at the Kendall Theater, Cardinal Stritch University, 6801 N. Yates Rd., Fox Point. RSVP for the free event, sponsored by the Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, at MilwaukeeJewish.org/Israel75.
About 15 shows in eight cities are planned for their first American tour. Along with the March 21 Milwaukee date, other stops include Denver, Minneapolis and the New York City area.
Zakout said their show of live music and education is intended for English speakers. They often like to include a question-and-answer session with the audience, at the end. “Almost every time it’s the highlight of the show,” Zakout said.
What’s the point?
“We have the possibility to learn each other’s language, culture and narrative,” Rosenman said. “Acknowledge their pain, say sorry for the wrongdoings of the past and focus on building a collaboration, building a mutually beneficial future.”
The men say they don’t have a proposed resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian bind. Rather, they are holding up a certain kind of mirror to it, offering a perspective that can get lost in the din.
“If you scream ‘death to all Jews’ or ‘kill the Arabs’, somebody will raise a camera. Then someone is going to come and stand next to it and make the flames burn,” Rosenman said. “But if you are super chill and focused on self-fulfillment and providing for your family,” it goes unnoticed, he said.
“Our life, it is ridiculous. Our reality every day is (messed) up,” said Zakout, adding that the conflict portrayed in the “Let’s Talk Straight” video is “what we hear every day.”
The men say their video was popular among people in the region because it reflects reality, that it follows the American hip hop tradition of speaking to the masses.
The “Let’s Talk Straight” video is modeled after the “I’m Not Racist” rap video by American artist Joyner Lucas. It features a Black and white man, sitting in a similarly austere room, leveling similarly challenging words at one another. Rosenman was struck when he first saw it: “What an artistic way to convey a message.”
The duo did a second video, a “Let’s Talk Straight #2,” which the pair said is about their mutual catastrophe, that the two sides are in a loop together. They rap, “we are the young generation that pays the price,” while tied together back-to-back. The video then cuts away to the two friends laughing together on the beach.
The men say they have turned Durgi into a wider social project, performing live and seeking to “use music and education to give a voice to our young moderate communities.”
It’s a pained voice. Borrowing more from American culture, in “Let’s Talk Straight #2,” they also chant: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”