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.
Dan Sniderman says
Thanks for posting this Richard. “Imagine” has alway been one of my favorites – and this recording is simply amazing.
jamil brownson says
thanks much for the website … i remember tikun as a brave, intelligent movement but have been out of touch for many years, so nice to double up — back in touch & identify a briliiant versiion of imagine, an idealistic view without which life would be heading into the gutter of earth history & extinct species … but such beautiful faces (both noa & khaled) to go along with a cover that i have played over & over without knowing who the female voice was, at first i thought ofra haza, but now i know .. & yes, i have to admit that i could look at noa as long as i can listen to her ….
on another issue … deep conversations with iranian jews seems to bear out the bush conspiracy to tar iran anti-semite while in reality the policy & public are anti-zionist not anti jewish … as well the question is aptly raised, why not carve out a homeland in europe, since both holocaust happened there & jewish culture is sooo european, even the american side, which of course is anglophone/eureopean waves of immingrants on top of racist genocide of native americans & african slavery … do self-respecting jews really want to identify with american racism & genocide
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for the kind words about Imagine & the artists. But you can’t really be serious about sending Jews back to Europe can you? Are you forgetting a little event that happened oh, about 70 yrs ago or so? And where would such a homeland be? Which other peoples would we Jews displace? No, that’s a non-starter full stop.
Israeli Jews and Arabs will have to resolve this conflict in the Middle East w/o the distractions of proposals like yours I’m afraid.
As long as it could be life-threatening to sing the original verse ““Imagine…no religion too”, as long as fighting people avoid to talk about the influence of religious chauvinism on conflicts, there is no chance for peace.