RIFKA ALAMYA | 21 AUGUST, 2019
‘A Cloud Reflecting a Swarm of Beings… A Tyrant’s Fear of Songs’
Haidar Eid’s new album reviewed
I think if this wasn’t a nonprofit album, it would not have caught my attention. What about the songs? Their lyrics, singer and time contexts? What if the singer of this musical project was not a professor in the English department at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, policy advisor at Al-Shabaka, and the author of Worlding Postmodernism: Interpretive Possibilities of Critical Theory and Countering The Palestinian Nakba: One State For All?
What if that man was not Haidar Eid, that breaker of the academic stereotype? The activist, researcher, organic intellectual who spares no effort in fighting for justice for Palestine and for a world full of freedom, first my friend, and then my partner/husband?
How can he not be Haidar? The one who persistently fights to break the stereotype promoted by the Israeli occupation and the Arab Zionists about the Gazans, by linking them constantly with death, poverty, starvation and terrorism?
It seems that all these factors have come together to create special characteristics for the album titled Tyrants’ Fear of Songs.
Although my testimony may not be perfect, I think I am the most suitable one to review this work of art.
I insist on documenting my personal impressions as an eyewitness to all the stages and phases of the album’s development, at least for our two daughters who have been humming and singing these songs that will take part in shaping their aesthetic, political and social consciousness (which cannot be separated according to their parents’ perspective).
Any art that separates the individual from struggle and public concern, and perceives life through a wishful and utopian lens, is anachronistic and does not express the contemporary era.
Nor does it have future foresight.
Amidst the controversial question of the relationship between art and politics, we stand on the side of peoples’ agonies and hopes, especially because we have been frustrated and disappointed by artists and intellectuals who witness the reality of their people. We think artists and intellectuals have more responsibility than other people to be committed to their causes, no matter what the price might be.
Sayed Darwish, the singer of popular revolutions in Egypt, would not be so present in our collective consciousness if he had not sung ‘Rise up, Egyptians, Egypt is calling you’. Sheikh Imam wouldn’t have left any impact if he had not sung the anti-colonialist and anti-authoritarian poems of Ahmed Fouad Negm. Vitor Jara, the Chilean singer who was assassinated by a fascist government, Johnny Clegg and Miriam Makeba from South Africa would not have been icons and inspiring figures for their peoples if they had not taken the side of their peoples.
In the light of the campaigns by which apartheid and colonialist Israel tries to whitewash its racist and terrorist face by using art and culture, we are in urgent need, more than before, to document our ambition as Palestinians, to get rid of Israeli apartheid and end the occupation and all the multi-tiered forms of oppression committed against us.
This documentation has the noble aim of shaping the individual and collective consciousness of the Arab and Palestinian youth in general, and the Gazan youth in particular.
Those youth have grown up under a medieval siege and a political division, and have been enduring the consequences of these, with implications for their mental health and resilience.
They have witnessed three massive wars, and are now taking part in the peaceful Great March of Return on the eastern fence of Gaza, while carrying their hopes and dreams.
The title of the album, Tyrants’ Fear of Songs, is inspired by Mahmoud Darwish’s poem ‘On This Earth!’
Apartheid Israel, like any other colonial power, fears most the survival of the heritage, civilisation, art, culture, history, memories, and the national culture of the people they occupy/colonise, as the late Frantz Fanon argues.
It took more than two years to complete this project, which our small, volunteer but persistent team put their hopeful touches to, thus rendering the appalling siege a motivation for creativity.
It consists of two original songs as well as a revival of some songs of the first Intifada, and some Arabic songs of resistance of the second half of the 20th century.
The album was recorded in studios with the help of talented Gazan youth.
The songs are arranged as follows:
A medley of resistance songs that were sung previously by the late Egyptian singer Abdulahilm Hafez. They document Arab resistance, and the growing national progression in the 50s and 60s of the last century. These songs are ‘My Country’, ‘Your Son says Oh Hero’ and ‘I Swear by its Sky and Soil’.
‘Watany’ (My Homeland): an original song with original lyrics inspired by Mawwal’s ‘My Lord’. It expresses the domestic Palestinian reality, especially after the bloody events of 2007. It also expresses the great attachment of Palestinians to their land.
‘BDS’: a song composed by the Palestinian singer ‘Walid AbdusSalam’ during the first intifada. Our team contacted him and got permission to re-record the song with a little change in the lyrics in accordance with the ideas dedicated to the BDS movement.
‘We Authorise You’: another original song.. I am honoured to be the writer of its lyrics. It was composed by Mashareq studio in Gaza. It consists of three stanzas dedicated to the martyrs, prisoners and the wounded whom we authorised to lead our liberation march. They dedicate their blood to feed our just cause.
‘A New Day’ is a song that was launched 51 years ago when the late Abdulahilm Hafez sung it after the declaration of the 1967 defeat. The late Egyptian Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi wrote its lyrics and it was composed by Baligh Hamdi. It expresses frustration and sadness along with an expression: that the will does not accept any defeat and insists on resistance.
This song constitutes a milestone in the history of the art of resistance. Our team made a video clip for ‘A New Day’ to reflect the current reality of occupied Palestine.
‘Oh Jerusalem’: a medley of two songs that were sung by George Qurmuz who was the icon of the Palestinian intifada. Recently, it was revealed that this is not his real name and that nobody knows his real name. He suddenly disappeared. This song is dedicated to him.
Sheikh Imam medley: this consists of two songs which are ‘If the sun sinks’ and ‘Bitter words’. They were sung by Haidar with the participation of Marwa Eid, his niece. It expresses the Gazan sadness as well as the bitter feelings of a lost future. ‘Bitter Words’ responds, to express the role of the intellectual in creating hope.
‘Yemen’: a song originally by Marcel Khalifa that was dedicated to Yemen, its workers and children.
‘Semsemiya’: one of the resistance songs in the streets of Suez in Egypt against the Tripartite aggression of 1956. The Egypt of Nasser expressed the Arab hope of independence and dignity in the post-colonial stage. It was also an expression of the revolutionary spirit at the time.
‘From Zarnouqa to Gaza’: this medley consists of two songs originally sung and composed by the late Nubian singer Ahmed Mounib. We dedicate ‘Om Al Rahat’ to Zarnouqa, the dreamland from which our families were ethnically cleansed in 1948, before they moved to Gaza the resilient city, to which we dedicate the second part of the medley, ‘Speak up’.
This song is to motivate Gaza to continue to revolt against apartheid, occupation, siege, and all attempts to demonise it.
When art, politics, culture and history come together to create a musical mix constructed by the people of the besieged Gaza strip, the black slaves, the oppressed, the lame ducks as opposed to the normalisers and the treasonous, the breakers of all conspiracies, the Gaza of Razan Alnajjar and Yasser Murtaja, then you cannot help seeing blood, tears and suffering in every single song.
And then you will understand why tyrants fear songs.
Tyrants’ Fear of Songs is available for sale here: https://haidareid.bandcamp.com/releases
All revenue from sales of this album is dedicated to supporting BDS activities in Gaza.