Contrary to the popular Zionist belief “A land without a people for a people without a land”, there was a people already.
So, whose land was Israel founded on, and who are those people?
They are called “Palestinians”, and they’re still in some of the land. Surprise!
Because they’re the natives, the cruel history of the world dictates that they should have next to nothing, and to be treated in the most inhumane ways by the new arrivals.
Even with so little, the Palestinians have one thing in large quantities; HOPE. Against all odds, they still believe that they will get back what is theirs.
What was before Israel? What’s a better way than to explore a people’s culture, and a better reflector of a culture, than music? Let us dive into what the land of Palestine had to offer then, before 1948.
Researchers and historians have harshly neglected the Palestinian urban music in favor of the Palestinian folkloric music. So, this E-Book will focus more on the urban scene rather than the folkloric one, but because of lack of documenting and recordings, I’m not sure how much I can show you, so let us move on and see.
The first song will have the honor of being one of Umm Kulthum’s songs, the queen of Egypt, and I’m starting with her for her significance in the Arab music, as she’s the most popular singer in the Arab world. So, she’s a pretty good introduction to the urban Arab music, in addition to that it’s in a concert of hers in Palestine, Haifa 1931 is where she got the nickname “The Planet of The East”. In that era, a song was made to be a whole concert.
Enta Omri, 1964
Fat Al Mia`ad, 1967
Many other great singers and artists from outside came to Palestine to perform and record, such as the Syrian singer Farid Al Attrash. He first came to fame after recording a song called “Ya Reitni Teir” (I wish I’m a bird) in 1937 composed and written by the Palestinian artist Yahya Al Lababidi. The song was first sang by the Palestinian singer Fahed Najjar in 1933.
Yahya Al Lababidi composed more than 150 songs, but the most popular song of his is this one.
Ya Reitni Teir, 1937
I couldn’t find Fahed Najjar’s version, but I found a different song of his;
Qalbi Maa`ak Marhoun, Late 20s.
Farid Al Atrash recorded the song in “Honal Quds”, the first radio broadcast in Palestine, and only the second in the Arab world.
The radio broadcast spanned 12 years. It was first founded in 1936 then closed in 1948, and had a lot of limitations thanks to The British Mandate. Even with much limitations, it still produced a lot of varied music, and had a big influence on the Arab music scene, especially the Palestinian one.
There were also a lot of female singers that time, such as Mary Akkawi, Zahra Kana’an, Rajaa’ El Falastiniye and Lour Dakash. Because of the lack of documenting (or lack of publishing on YouTube), I only found a very short recording of Lour Dakash.
Aamanto B Allah, it’s probably in 1936 and not 1932 as written in the title
One of the singers that worked at the broadcast was Eliya Baida, who was exiled in 1948 and found the USA as the place for him to settle. He also sang “Ya Reitni Teir” before Farid Al Atrash, in 1935.
Ya Reitni Teir, 1935
Eliya Baida probably was the most famous singer on the broadcast, thanks to his special voice, and his specialty in “Mawwal”. Mawwal is “a traditional and popular Arabic genre of vocal music that is very slow in beat and sentimental in nature, and is characterised by prolonging vowel syllables, emotional vocals, and is usually presented before the actual song begins. The singer performing a mawwal would usually lament and long for something, such as a past lover, a departed family member or a place, in a wailing manner.” (Thank you Wikipedia).
Here is a bunch of recordings of Eliya singing Mawwal.
Ya Ajmal El Nas
Mijana wa A`taba
Another great Palestinian composer who had his own impact on Arab music is Riyad Al Bandak.
Emta Lhawa Yensef Habiben, sang by the Egyptian Soa`ad Muhammed
Weh Qalbi, sang by the Lebnanese Noor Al Hoda
Emsaho A`n Nathere Kahel Al Sohad, sang by the Lebnanese Fayza Ahmad
It’s time to bring up the folklore.
Even though I focused on the urban part of the Palestinian music, its folk part is the important one, the one that put the Palestinians on the map of the great historical music of the world. What distinguishes the musical atmosphere in Palestine is how deeply rooted it is, its testimony to the close relationship between the Palestinian people and the land, and its historical and demographic peculiarities since its settlement in Palestine. The intensity of the lyrical expression accompanying dance and music of many details of the social life of the Palestinian people is one of the indications of comparative anthropological studies of philosophy on establishing this cultural atmosphere through several centuries of civilized existence. The Palestinian folk music changes depending on the situation and what its people are going through at the time, making the songs a historical narration.
It’s sung in times of sadness and happiness, and to this day it is still sung by the great women of Palestine in weddings.
Nooh Ibraheem is an icon of the Palestinian folk music. He composed, wrote and sang. One of the most popular bands who sang many various Palestinian folk music are Ferqet Al A’asheqeen.
This song is by Nooh Ibrahim featuring the band, which is a Rathaa’ (a lamentation) about the three martyrs (‘Ata Lzir, Muahmmed Jamjoom and Foua’ad Hijazi) who were executed by the British forces in 17/06/1930 for their heroical role in Intifadat Al Buraq; the uprising against the Zionist invasion of Palestine in 1929.
Min Sijen A`kka, 1930
This song, named “We Used to Sing in The Weddings”, was sang during “The revolution of 1936”.
This song, called “Oh World Witness Us and Beirut”, is about the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982 that lasted six months, for the purpose of ending the Palestinian revolution.
You can see the martyr Abo Ammar clapping and smiling at 5:10
Nooh Ibraheem – Dabberha Ya Mister Del
Saving the best for last; Wasif Jawhariyyeh. He was a composer, oud player, poet and chronicler. He is best known for his memoirs, “The Diaries of Wasif Jawhariyyeh”, that spans over six decades from 1904 to 1968, covering Jerusalem’s turbulent modern history, including four regimes and five wars.