How Palestinian Musicians Are Bringing Old Folk Songs To Life

Young Palestinians are reintroducing folk music using new musical instruments and styles, adding new topics in the lyrics such as unity, love and society.

Folk music, they say, is a reflection of contemporary society. A chronicle of the time. An oral repository of facts that might one day become documented history.

And Palestinian musician Kokym’s signature song, Zaffit El Tahrer, tells his country’s story in a searing tale of love and lament – a bride’s plea to her fiancé that she doesn’t want a ring, dowry or wedding dress but a ‘Free Palestine’.

For Palestinians living in the shadow of gunfire, music has been the balm to soothe their hearts and battered bodies over the years. He also provided an outlet for their pain and anguish.

Today, musicians bring old folk songs to life to tell and re-tell the stories of the past, in a style that would appeal to young Palestinians. “As a young singer, I understand young people, many of whom are unfamiliar with Palestinian folk songs. That’s why I want to present such music in a modern way, and at the same time using a local Palestinian dialect,” Kokym said. World TRT.

He is not alone in this adventure because other Palestinians also make music with the same objective.

music is life

Music is an integral part of Palestinian national and social events, with songs reflecting the everyday life of ordinary people. Just like folk tales, proverbs and riddles.

Throughout Palestinian history, singing – especially by women – has been an integral part of weddings and harvest seasons and even for something as mundane as washing clothes or fetching water from sources.

Palestinian folk music is rich in poetic creativity and expression and holds a special place in society with traditional Dabkeh dance and dress which are considered markers of Palestinian identity.

Some of the folk songs, essentially rural music passed down from generation to generation, exist in several versions and are marked by a simple, modal melody with narrative stanzas or verses.

In recent years, some Palestinian musicians have reintroduced some of the folk songs, either singing with a slight modification of the original melody or updating the lyrics.

READ MORE: SOL: A music group from Gaza reinventing Palestinian folklore

A different style

Kokym is one of the main musicians to introduce this trend.

“The older generation had a bit of trouble listening to folk songs reintroduced in a different style. But we need to connect folk with the new generation of Palestinians,” says singer and songwriter Kokym.

Kokym calls his music “Fallahi pop” where he uses the rural dialect of the al-Muthallath region, where Palestinian towns and villages are concentrated in Israel, to preserve a dialect that is slowly disappearing from circulation.

Kokym studied music in Istanbul at the Arab Institute of Music. “Being in this beautiful city and learning the music of great musicians, such as Maher Nanaa, has been a wonderful experience for me. I developed my own musical style. It’s a different style but my audience is growing,” says the singer whose music is mostly about unity, resistance, love, society and history.

Speaking of Zaffit El Tahrer, Kokym says the song came out of nowhere and he performed for the first time on a boat on the Bosphorus. “I was the DJ for a friend’s wedding on the boat. Suddenly the power went out and we started singing this song. The lyrics came randomly.

Love Under Occupation

Palestinian folk music has invariably reflected the moments of suffering that the Palestinian people have endured.

During the Ottoman rule in Palestine, Palestinian music reflected the values ​​that previous generations believed in. The songs had themes such as those showing zeal or lamentations and those sung during harvest seasons.

After the British Mandate of Palestine and the establishment of Israel, folk music turned more to struggle, exile, homesickness and the desire for freedom in songs like Hadi Ya Bahar Hadi. Some of his lines say “Keep calm, sea!” Our absence has become too long. Salute the land that raised us and salute the olive trees.

In recent years, another young Palestinian singer, Mohammed Assaf, has also revived some of the folk songs and used new lyrics for one of the most popular folk song types, Mawwal, which uses several verses characterized by the spelling longer than usual vowel syllables. Assaf mentions the letters of the Arabic word for Palestine, each letter represents a message whether it is about unity, detention or Al Aqsa.

“Today, the themes of our songs describe what Palestinians are going through. I am preparing a new album that will highlight the daily challenges Palestinians face. Kokym explains. “One of my new songs will be called ‘Now on Qalandia checkpoint’, highlighting the pain of two lovers who live apart.”

Qalandia is an Israeli checkpoint between the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“All of my songs are about a young man’s story, and all of my songs’ themes are related to Palestine,” adds Kokym, who set a classic folk song Ya Rayiheen Al Kudsto to music.

Kokym said, “I do samplings updating some of our folk songs. Ya Rayiheen Al Kuds is a song close to my heart. It has attracted a lot of attention from Diaspora Palestinians from Jerusalem. In the song, I walk through many places in the Old City that Palestinians in the Old City may recognize. »

In this song, Kokym refers to places such as Stoh El Khan, Khan Alzait and other historic shops that the people of Jerusalem relate to. He says, “I received many messages from Diaspora Palestinians who enjoyed such a song which reminded them of Jerusalem’s narrow alleys, shops and evoked nostalgic feelings.”

Kokym says his music is also heavily influenced by the city where he spent considerable time.

“I lived in Istanbul for six years. I studied visual design and music. Most of my music I made when I was in Uskudar. Seeing nature, old houses and bridges in Istanbul inspired all my music,” says Kokym.

READ MORE: The henna tattoo, a way to show one’s belonging to Palestine

Source: World TRT

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