Palestinian Music and Song
Expression and Resistance since 1900
Publication Year: 2013
Drawing from a long history of indigenous traditions and incorporating diverse influences of surrounding cultures, music in Palestine and among the millions of Palestinians in diaspora offers a unique window on cultural and political events of the past century. From the perspective of scholars, performers, composers, and activists, Palestinian Music and Song examines the many ways in which music has been a force of representation, nation building, and social action. From the turn of the 20th century, when Palestine became an exotic object of fascination for missionaries and scholars, to 21st-century transnational collaborations in hip hop and new media, this volume traces the conflicting dynamics of history and tradition, innovation and change, power and resistance.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright
The story behind this anthology on Palestinian music and song commenced in the fall of 2007, following a number of meetings between Stig-Magnus Thorsén, a musicologist from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden; Heather Bursheh, a music educator from Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah; Ahmad Al Khatib, a Palestinian ʿūd (lute) player and teacher based in Sweden; and...
This anthology is the result of a three-year
project that would not have been possible
without the generous grant from the Swedish Research Council, to whom
we are greatly indebted.
The project leading to the publication of this book was run within the framework of a cooperation agreement between the Department of Music and Drama at the University of Gothenburg and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology...
Note on Transliteration
In our transliterations of the many Arabic words in this book, we have opted to use the Library of Congress transliteration system as a general rule, which uses the diacritical symbols ā, ī, ū, ṣ, ḍ, ḥ, ṭ, ẓ, ʿ, and ʾ to represent various letters/sounds in Arabic, and contains detailed guidelines about usage. The full guidelines can be found on the Library of Congress website. There are, however, certain exceptions...
Introduction: Do Palestinian Musicians Play Music or Politics?
While theoreticians, philosophers, and empirical researchers may debate the ontological and epistemological relationships between culture and music (see Middleton 2003), the importance of music in the lives of humans and human collectivities cannot be denied. All human groups around the world and throughout human history have had music in one form or another, and music has been a fundamentally...
Part 1: Background
1. Palestinian Song, European Revelation, and Mission
Rachel Beckles Willson
One of the earliest—perhaps the very earliest—publications of Palestinian song is a book of 360 pages produced in Germany in 1901 titled Palästinischer Diwan (Palestinian Diwan).1 The collector and editor was German theologian and linguist Gustaf Dalman (1855–1941), who went on to become one of the leading commentators on Palestine in the early twentieth century. At first glance the volume...
2. A Musical Catastrophe: The Direct Impact of the Nakba on Palestinian Musicians and Musical Life
Nader Jalal, Issa Boulos, Heather Bursheh
Along with having worked at the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and more recently founding and running Nawa, the Palestinian Association for Cultural Development, Nader Jalal has spent most of his adult life interviewing and collecting stories from Palestinian musicians and their families and colleagues, amassing an enormous archive of previously unrecorded information...
3. Negotiating the Elements: Palestinian Freedom Songs from 1967 to 1987
The study of Palestinian music making during the second half of the twentieth century poses various challenges due to the complex ramifications of al-Nakba (the catastrophe) of 1948. Aside from the natural changes that occur in any given musical culture over time, abrupt political and social transformations such as this have been a driving force of change in Palestinian musical culture. In this chapter...
Part 2: Identity
4. Identity, Diaspora, and Resistance in Palestinian Hip-Hop
Since the late 1990s Palestinian hip-hop has developed as a national and cultural phenomenon. Politically charged hip-hop, with its spirit of resistance, has become the soundtrack for pro-democracy movements around the Arab world, from the streets of Palestine and Tunisia to Cairo. Palestinian hip-hop artists today are recounting the Palestinian cause and struggle via their art, telling the story of a...
5. Transgressing Borders with Palestinian Hip-Hop
Janne Louise Andersen
rapper Hussam Ikbarey enters the studio Taht al-Ard
in Nazareth, he looks all teenager—tall, skinny, and shy. “Hussam, spit
the Tech N9ne [pronounced Tech Nine] track you memorized,” his producer,
Anan Kseem, says, referring to the American
rapper from Kansas City—one of
Hussam’s blue eyes focus and he starts rapping. There are no pauses, no...
6. Performing Self: Between Tradition and Modernity in the West Bank
Upon my return to the United States from the West Bank, friends, family, and colleagues all wanted to know how my research went, but those inquiries were often secondary to the more general (yet quite loaded), “What was it like?” Aside from the realities both they and I expected I would experience (the checkpoints, the soldiers, the wall), the message I wanted to communicate most of all was the...
7. Realities for a Singer in Palestine
Reem Talhami, Heather Bursheh
Originally from Shafaʿamr in the north of 1948 Palestine, but for many years living in Jerusalem, Reem Talhami has a successful career as a singer and actor in Palestine. She is currently in the process of producing an album, and in this interview Reem details her background and current life as a singer, as well as the process of producing an album from scratch in Palestine, from...
Part 3: Resistance
8. Performative Politics: Folklore and Popular Resistance during the First Palestinian Intifada
David A. McDonald
In the many Israeli and Palestinian historical accounts of the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising), the role of expressive culture has largely been characterized as epiphenomenal, a mere artistic reflection of larger determinate economic, political, and social forces.1 In this respect many have argued, perhaps unintentionally, that although the expressive media that emerged during this time was a powerful...
9. Hamas’s Musical Resistance Practices: Perceptions, Production, and Usage
Carin Berg, Michael Schulz
The Palestinian Islamic resistance organization Hamas (Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmīyyah) frequently uses and even produces music in order to unite, inspire, and strengthen Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Music is seen by Hamas not only as a form of entertainment and religious practice but also as a form of discursive resistance and a kind of weapon...
10. Palestinian Music: Between Artistry and Political Resistance
In this essay Palestinian music is used as a case study in an attempt to understand the use of music as resistance. The discussion and the cultural production that I met during recent travels in the country revealed to me richness not only in the music but also in the discussion about the music. I realized that the study of this specific case could be beneficial to a more general discussion. I think that everyone...
11. The Ghosts of Resistance: Dispatches from Palestinian Art and Music
Yara El-Ghadban, Kiven Strohm
In the summer of 2010 Palestinian artists Emily Jacir and Yazid Anani installed two billboards in downtown Ramallah as part of a public intervention called al-Riyāḍ. Visually mimicking the urban-development genre, the two billboards ironically questioned the erosion of a collective Palestinian political project through the building of gated communities (that look conspicuously similar to illegal Israeli...
Sylvia Alajaji received her PhD in musicology from the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. She specializes in music of the Middle East and is particularly interested in the intersections of music, popular culture, and politics in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and in the Armenian diaspora in Lebanon. She has conducted research in Lebanon, Rwanda, and Palestine. She is currently...