10 songs, 1 hr 20 min, 14 min reading time.

Friday, 27 March 2020, I was due to run Bethlehem half marathon part of The Palestine Marathon. From the website: “The Palestine Marathon’s mission is to tell different stories about Palestinians and their lack of freedom of movement, while also adding value to the Palestinian tourism sector & economy.” Unfortunately it has been postponed, but I did do prior reading to get a better understanding of Palestine. All I do is talk about and research music, so the below is a first attempt at what I learnt about Palestinian music from the past few months.

Author: Jake
Image: Ahmad Al-Bazz (Activestills)
Open Shuhada Street protest, Hebron, West Bank, 28.2.2020

“Palestinians, Israelis and internationals march in the West Bank city of Hebron calling to open the Shuhada street, February 28, 2020. The protest was held to mark 26 years to the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, in which Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in the city. After the attack, Israeli forces closed off Shuhada Street to Palestinian residents.”

Activestills collective was established in 2005 by a group of documentary photographers out of a strong conviction that photography is a vehicle for social and political change. The collective views itself as part of the international and local struggle against all forms of oppression, racism and discrimination. It is composed of Israeli, Palestinian and international photographers, operating locally in Palestine/Israel and abroad.

Spotify link

Deezer link

1) Wasif Jawhariyyeh

Wasif Jawhariyyeh was an oud player, famous for his post 1904-diary: “The Diaries of Wasif Jawhariyyeh”. It spans over six decades from 1904 to 1968, covering Jerusalem’s turbulent modern history, including four regimes and five wars. He played for all parts of the high society in Jerusalem during his lifetime. His diaries also reveal a time when the Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Christians could all live together. Unfortunately none of the streaming services seem to have any recordings of his work. Perhaps his time was just before the widespread introduction of recording equipment.

2) “ألف ليلة وليلة” – Umm Kulthum

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, large numbers of Arab Palestinians were forced into refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The most popular recorded musicians at the time were the superstars of Arab classical music, especially Umm Kulthum. Umm Kulthum’s songs were on an epic scale lasting way over 30 minutes in length. This particular track is 41 minutes long! She would also do these songs during her live performances which meant her setlist consisted of just three mammoth songs. Recently, Monday 2 March 2020, A Musical Tribute to Umm Kulthum was put on at a sold out London Palladium.

Label: Mazzika Group

3) “Ya habibi taala (Mon amour, viens vite)” – Asmahān

Asmahan, was a Syrian-born singer who lived in Egypt. Her voice was one of the few female voices in the music world to pose serious competition to that of Umm Kulthum, considered to be one of the Arab world’s most distinguished singers of the 20th century. Her mysterious death in an automobile accident is the reason she is included. Pages 549-550 in Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore detail an epic tale of espionage involving Asmahan during World War II, centred around Jerusalem and the King David Hotel that could make for a very good movie or documentary.

Album: “Le coeur sesames raisons” (2005)
Label: Buda Musique

4) Sol Band Gaza

Sol Band was formed in 2012 by a group of young music lovers from Gaza. The band has participated in many different festivals, concerts and cultural projects and events. Sol produces its own music, most recently three singles ‘Alooli’, ‘Khaleek’ and ‘Rafi Rasi’. I first heard about the Sol Band from the book “Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation“. In particular the short story by Dave Eggers titled “Prison Visit” which explores life in Gaza, where he got to speak to the members of Sol Band.

5) “بعده فيي روح” – Tamer Nafar

Tamer Nafar is a Palestinian rapper, actor, screenwriter and social activist. He is the leader and a founding member of DAM, the first Palestinian hip hop group. He grew up in poverty in Lod, a mixed Arab-Israeli city in Israel. Tamer discovered hip-hop at age 17, when he began learning English by listening to Tupac and translating his lyrics to Arabic using an English-Arabic dictionary. This track is a recent one, released on March 26. He was also the star and co-writer of Junction 48 a 2016 Palestinian/Israeli drama film directed by Udi Aloni. It was shown in the Panorama section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award.

The following music from Tamer Nafar to Dead Prez were discussed in the short story “Hip-Hop is Not Dead” by Porochista Khakpour, again in the Kingdom of Olives and Ash book mentioned in the Sol Band description.

Label: Levantine Music Group

6) “Emta Njawzak Yamma” – DAM

DAM is a Palestinian hip-hop group. Based in Lod, Israel, DAM was founded in 1999 by brothers Tamer and Suhell Nafar and their friend Mahmoud Jreri. Their songs are largely about racism and poverty. The group’s name is the Arabic verb for “to last forever/eternity” and the Hebrew word for “blood”, but can also be an acronym for “Da Arabian MCs.” DAM has released more than 100 singles and three albums: “Dedication”, “Dabke on the Moon” and “Ben Haana Wa Maana”, as well as an EP: “Street Poetry”. DAM’s lyrics are largely protest-driven, and their songs centre around fighting oppression, Israeli occupation, racism, poverty, drugs, and women’s rights.

Album: “Ben Haana Wa Maana” (2019)
Label: DAM

7) “”El Kofeyye Arabeyye” (feat. M-1 of Dead Prez)” – Shadia Mansour

Shadia Mansour, also known as “the first lady of Arabic hip hop”, is a British Palestinian singer and MC who sings and raps in Arabic and English. Much of her music focuses on Middle East politics. Mansour was born in London. Her parents are Christian Palestinians originally from Haifa and Nazareth. Influenced by Arabic performers such as Fairouz, Umm Kulthum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Mansour began singing at Palestinian protest rallies as a child and became known in London’s Palestinian community for performing classical Arab songs of protest.

Single: “El Kofeyye Arabeyye” (2010)
Label: Shadia Mansour

8) “Hip Hop” – Dead Prez

Dead Prez, is a hip hop duo from the United States, composed of and M-1. They are known for their confrontational style, combined with socialist lyrics focused on both militant social justice, Marxism, and Pan-Africanism.

M-1 is also a political activist for many black and left-wing causes. In July 2009, M-1 accompanied the Viva Palestina convoy, delivering humanitarian supplies to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In 2010, M-1 was featured on British-Palestianian rapper Shadia Mansour’s single “Al Kufiyyeh 3arabeyyeh” (“The Keffiyeh is Arabian”) in her response to the “Israeli Keffiyah”, an attempt by Zionists to rebrand the garment as an Israeli attire.

Album: “Let’s Get Free” (2000)
Label: Loud Records

9) Kutiman

Kutiman, is an Israeli musician, composer, producer and animator. He is best known for creating the online music video project, ThruYOU, a self-titled album, and the viral on-going series “Thru the City” including his “Mix Tel Aviv” piece.

In June 2011, Kutiman was chosen as the “Artist of the Season” for “The Jerusalem Season of Culture” and he created the video “Thru Jerusalem”. This piece differs from his past mixes, as he himself approached and shot the musicians, rather than finding them on YouTube. Although Kutiman filmed the musicians himself, he did not provide any guidance or direction and mixed the footage himself. In July 2011, the song won First Prize in the global Call for Music Videos of Palestinian-Jewish Duos or Groups presented by the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue.

Single: “Mix Tel Aviv” (2018)
Label: Siyal Music

10) “Long Live Palestine 3 ft Frankie Boyle, Maverick Sabre” – Lowkey
“Long Live Palestine” – Lowkey
“Too Much” – Lowkey

Lowkey, is a British Iraqi rapper and activist based in London, England. He first became known through a series of mixtapes he released before he was 18. Lowkey is a vocal opponent of Zionism and is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He characterises Zionism as colonialism and ethnic cleansing. In February 2009, he travelled to Palestinian refugee camps around the West Bank area to perform fundraising shows to help rebuild the Gaza Strip but was detained by the Israel Police for nine hours at Ben Gurion International Airport and interrogated, while having his passport confiscated. Later in 2009, he travelled with M-1 of Dead Prez to carry out a humanitarian aid mission and bring medical aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip; this led to a collaboration between the two on Lowkey’s second album “Soundtrack to the Struggle” (2011). He was detained for a second time in July 2010, en route to a number of concerts and musical workshops in refugee camps in the West Bank. After detaining him for twelve hours, an online petition was started and he was later released.

Album: “Soundtrack to the Struggle 2” (2019)
Label: Mesopotamia Music