INDIO (United States), April 15 — Saint Levant, the Palestinian-French-Algerian-Serbian rapper who’s found viral fame online, made his Coachella debut over the weekend, bringing eminently danceable beats and Palestinian solidarity to the stage.

The 23-year-old played a set scheduled for a time conflicting with the highly anticipated No Doubt reunion but still packed the desert festival’s Gobi Tent, where he played both his hits and newer work to a sea of fans, many sporting keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags.

“There’s so many people we wanted to see at the same time — but this was a hundred per cent where we were coming,” Mustafa Arch, a 32-year-old Syrian-Lebanese festival-goer, told AFP after the set.

“Free Palestine — we’re so happy to be here, this is probably the best day of the weekend for us. We’ll continue to represent the whole weekend,” Arch said.

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Israel’s assault on Gaza that began after the October 7 Hamas attack has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced many more.

Some 1.5 million people have taken refuge in the southern city of Rafah, according to the United Nations, which says Israel is blocking food aid convoys as a famine looms.

“Coachella, my name is Saint Levant and I was born in Jerusalem and raised in Gaza,” the artist told the crowd to cheers. “As I hope all of you are aware, the people of Gaza have been undergoing a brutal, brutal genocide for the past six months. And the people of Palestine have been undergoing a brutal occupation for the past 75 years.”

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“It’s not just me on the stage — it’s the whole Arab world on the stage.”

‘No going back’

The artist born Marwan Abdelhamid spent many of his childhood years living in the Gaza Strip.

In 2007 he and his family fled to Jordan, where he lived for approximately a decade before moving to California, where he is now based in Los Angeles.

Saint Levant’s trilingual rap track “Very Few Friends” went viral after he released it in November 2022, and 2023’s “From Gaza With Love” has also found a growing fanbase.

During Saturday’s set he performed the new works “Deira” and “5am in Paris;” he released the latter just a few days ago.

“It’s about exile,” he told his Coachella audience.

“A feeling that us Palestinians know a bit too well.”

The artist said he would also soon release a broader project called “Deira,” named after a hotel built by his father which was bombed in recent months.

Speaking to AFP after the set, 43-year-old Yara Brenton called it “incredible” to see a fellow Palestinian onstage.

Saint Levant’s performance follows last year’s show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella.

“I remember coming to Coachella ages ago, there was nothing like this. I never saw myself represented in anything popular,” said Brenton. “It means a lot, and it means a lot to see so many younger people enthusiastic about it too.”

She voiced praise that Saint Levant was outspoken about the Palestinian cause onstage, saying that “a few years ago, this wouldn’t have been okay.”

“There are a lot more people who know about Palestine” today, Brenton said.

“And there’s no going back, I think, from this awareness.” — AFP