Friday, January 09, 2009

In case you need a Gaza soundtrack

Gaza has never been known as a central node in Palestinian cultural life, but here are a few musical offerings, from Gaza, and related to Gaza.
1. L’Ensemble Musical de Palestine, founded in Gaza in September 2004, plays traditional Palestinian folk tunes as well as numbers from the Arabic modernist canon (Sayed Darwish, Muhammad Abdul Wahhab, Umm Kalthoum). They have a very fine CD, called Gaza, available for downloading from iTunes,, and emusic, released by the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation. Highly recommended.

2. You can listen to the Gaza rap group P.R.-The Palestinian Rapperz, on their myspace page. Their composition and flow are quite good, and they make interesting use of Arabic instruments in their mix. I have no idea how they are surviving the current onslaught. They were scheduled to perform at Al Helal Center, Gaza, on January 15.

Here's an article about them from Time magazine; there are more on their myspace page.

PR are featured in Jackie Salloum's documentary about Palestinian rap, Slingshot Hip-Hop.

Check out the Gaza rap group RFM too, on their myspace page. You can listen to the group and watch videos.

3. Here's an article about how well-loved Israeli popular music has been in Gaza, specifically music performed by Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern background, or Mizrahim. Particularly well-loved was Zehava Ben, an Israeli Jew of Moroccan background, who actually performed in Gaza sometime after 1994. Also mentioned is Dodo Yasmine.

In the 70s and 80s and into the 90s, when Gaza Palestinians in large numbers worked in Israel, in construction and agriculture and the like, it was not unusual for them to make friends with Israelis they worked with, and particularly Mizrahim, who after all are essentially Arab Jews. Since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, turning Gaza into a virtual prison, such connections of culture and friendship have become increasingly tenuous. But they are important to remember such ties between Gaza Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and especially Mizrahim.

4. I mentioned a couple Gaza-themed songs in an earlier post (Muslimgauze's "Curfew, Gaza," from the album Zul'm, and Shackelford's "Hamas Rule" from Soundboy Punishments.

I've found a couple more worth mentioning. From the Salt Lake City metal/sludge/grindcore band named Gaza, there is the track "Kasam Rocket," off the EP East. I presume (without knowing, really) that the names Gaza and Kasam Rocket are meant as provocations rather than any sign of support for Hamas. Then there is the experimental/dub track, "#1 in Gaza This Week," from the group Elders of Zion, off the album Dawn Refuses to Die (2002). (Download the track from Amazon.) It's very wild, dissonant and explosive. The album was released to coincide with the publication of band member Joel Schalit's book, The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition.

From Checkpoint 303, a collaborative project of "tunisian sound cutter SC MoCha" and "Bethlehem based palestinian sound catcher SC Yosh," there is the track "Gaza Calling" (download here). It features a phone call of a Gazan, trying to reach the United Nations, trying, in vain, to get some help. (Sound familiar?) Read electronic intifada's report on Checkpoint 303 here, and check out their webpage for more music and more info.

And then there is this brand new one, a rap number called "A Song for Gaza," from a rapper who seems to be based in the UAE, called Illuminarcy. Download it here. I love the blog's photo, which is a drawing of Umm Kalthoum saying "Bus al-wawa," (Kiss the booboo), which was a hit for Haifa Wehbe. Cracks me up. I like the sentiment of Illuminarcy's song but don't love the song itself. But you decide.

So....adjust your personal soundscape to the current crisis. Let me know if you think of other songs I should add.


Birdseed said...

Just yesterday I noticed two Gaza-themed tracks (not very good ones, mind) dropping on DesiDrop, a site for Indian and Indian-diaspora pop and hip-hop.

And I know it's not very helpful, but my muslim friend tells me the most popular music in the occupied territories right now is the lovable cuddly genre of Hamas Anasheed. Should be plently on the tubes, it's surprisingly modern and Hollywoodish in style.

from AR said...

A song composed and performed by Michael Heart called "We Will Not Go down." You can check it out:

anomalousnyc said...

I have more than 60 cds by muslimgauze - his entire musical output was more or less dedicated to Palestinians. References to Palestine are quite common in the cover art, liner notes, the names of the albums, as well as individual song titles.

The album "Alms for Iraq" for example features a cover image of two bare feet standing next to sandals - one is inscribed "USA" and the other "Israel." Inside there are several images from the intifada, some quotes extolling the virtues of resistance to oppression, and comments like "meanwhile the oppression of palestine continues unabated." Individual song titles include "Izzedin al qassam", "yigal gun amir" and that sort of thing.