Tonight KBCS broadcast Peter Graff’s The Old Country, one of the station’s finest world music programs. Peter asked Richard Isaac to spin his Israeli disks for the hour and he brought in some extraordinary music. I pride myself on knowing something about contemporary Israeli music, but Richard’s collection is quite superior to mine.
Isaac devoted an entire section of his show to Israeli peace music. There isn’t as much of it as we’d all like to see, but it exists and what there is of it is quite vital. I’ve written before here about David Broza’s astonishing B’Libi. Isaac introduced me to yet another wonderful collaboration between an Israeli and Arab musician for the sake of peaceful co-existence. The Israeli megastar, Noa joined with Algerian rai star, Khaled, to cover John Lennon’s Imagine (hear it). For this occasion, the Israeli and Algerian musicians wrote a new verse for the song which responds specifically to the Israeli-Arab conflict. John Lennon smiled when he first heard this song wherever he is in the cosmos. It matches perfectly the spirit of the original (lyrics translated by me):
Imagine a world without fear
A world without hate
In which we can live together
A world of love
We’ll build a future for the two of us
In the same place
The cover begins simply with Noa’s virtual replication of Lennon’s original arrangement. But Khaled adds a wonderful element by introducing the trilling Arabic vocal style and a Middle Eastern string orchestra with a distinctive oud arrangement. All of this takes the song in a distinctly eastern direction. As I said, Lennon would’ve been proud.
What some may miss is Khaled’s singing of the Lennon verse: “Imagine…no religion too.” During the 1990s, other rai performers were murdered in Algeria for singing lyrics like this one. Though the Algerian civil war appears over, Khaled still shows great courage in singing these words and opposing the strictures of Islamic fundamentalism.
This is a piss poor video of Noa and Khaled singing the song live. It entirely omits Noa’s Hebrew verse. It’s worth hearing even though just about everything about the video stinks.