During the height of the Lebanon war, I was grasping for ways one might formulate an alternate, and more peaceful perspective on the conflict. I thought: “why not put together a radio show of Israeli and Lebanese peace music?” I got in touch with Richard Isaac, who’d produced an Israeli pop music show for KBCS’ The Old Country. He liked my idea and we presented it to Peter Graff and Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo who also liked the idea.
Richard and I have been mulling over our set list, collecting music, and soliciting ideas from Lebanese familiar with their nation’s musical traditions for some weeks. We’re about to go into the studio to record our program which will air on KBCS (91.3) on Sunday, September 10th at 7 PM. For those who don’t live in Seattle, you have the opportunity to listen to the live audio stream of the program at that time. I will try to upload the file to this site sometime after the program airs. [UPDATE: Here’s the audiostream}
Following you’ll find our very provisional set list and song introductions:
Bereshit: Hadag Nachash
The popular hip-hop group from Jerusalem, Hadag Nachash (“Snakefish”), weaves together the big political picture and the intimate personal perspective in the song Bereshit (“In the Beginning”). It’s unclear whether the group is talking about the past or the present, Arab or Jew, and that’s just the point. As the refrain says, “Ashes to ashes, the circle returns to the same place.”
The lyrics read, in part:
In Palestine the Land of Israel
at the beginning of the century
several tribes lived on the same land
they differed from each other in religion and language
they accused each other of causing all the trouble
they suspected each other and argued over borders
they cried many tears in a sea of victims
they learned nothing, nothing changed
In Palestine the Land of Israel
at the beginning of the century
it seemed that at any moment it would happen
and in seconds it was changing a door of unlimited possibilities
opened an atmosphere of hope and renewal
replaced desperation, for a short time
In Palestine the Land of Israel
at the beginning of the century
a man steps out of his house into his yard
sits under his fig tree
and thinks to himself how he loves his wife
how his eldest son reminds him of himself
how he’s sick of complaining all day
and how much he wants everything to work out
Peace in the Middle East: Subliminal/Shai 360/Ilan Babilon/Sivan/Gabriel Butler H
Israeli hip-hop superstar Subliminal collaborates with Israeli artists Shai 360, Ilan Babilon, Sivan and Gabriel Butler in this English,
French and Hebrew plea for peace and coexistence. The lyrics speak of the senseless wars, the suffering of mothers and children, and impatience and frustration with waiting for peace and coexistence between Jews and Muslims.
We need peace in the Middle East to stop this holy war
It’s a sin to kill in God’s name
So tell me what are we dying for?
Prachim BaKaneh: Subliminal/HaTzel/Sivan/Itzik Shamli/Gabriel Butler H
Israeli hip-hop superstar Subliminal teams up with HaTzel, Sivan, Itzik Shamli and Gabriel Butler in this updated version of Prachim BaKaneh (“Flowers in the Gun Barrel”), an Israeli peace song from the 1960s. The new lyrics speak of long struggles and painful losses, but also a determination not to relinquish the dream that one day there will be:
liberation for two nations from slavery to freedom
girls in the watchtower instead of soldiers
flowers in the gun barrels instead of artillery shells.”
Shalom/Salaam/Peace: Hadag Nachash
Hadag Nachash (returns with an) upbeat song in Hebrew and Arabic, “Shalom/Salaam/Peace,” describing how a peaceful country looks: the discos are full because everyone’s happy, people are doing tai-chi instead of waiting for a call-up from the army.
It’s possible here, too, not just in Paris or Nice or Addis (Ababa) or Amsterdam or Boston.
The lyrics borrow from a famous peace anthem of the 1960s: “Don’t say the day will come, bring the day, and in all the public squares, shout for peace!”
The song ends with a story told both in Arabic and Hebrew, about how happy people are in Australia among the kangaroos and koalas, how every peaceful place is great and how those places without peace are “crap.” “We should act like human beings, not like animals and show a little human kindness.
Shir LaShalom: HaBreira HaTiv’it/David D’or
The veteran group HaBreira HaTiv’it teams up with pop singer David D’or in this rousing, Eastern-flavored remake of a classic 1970 peace anthem Shir LaShalom (“Sing for Peace”). The song, which gained even more popularity for having been sung by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin at the massive peace rally at which he was assassinated in 1995, exhorts listeners “not to whisper a prayer but to sing for peace in a great shout… ”
Let the sun rise
To light up the morning
The purest of prayers will not bring us back
He whose candle was snuffed out
and was buried in the dust
bitter crying won’t wake him up
and won’t bring him back
Nobody will bring us back
from a dead and darkened pit
here neither the victory cheer nor songs of praise will help
So just sing a song for peace
don’t whisper a prayer
Just sing a song for peace
in a loud shout
Allow the sun to penetrate
through the flowers
don’t look back
let go of those departed
Lift your eyes with hope
not through the rifles’ sights
sing a song for love and not for wars
Don’t say the day will come
bring on that day
because it is not a dream
and in all the city squares
cheer only for peace!
Clotaire K’s songs transcend traditional religious and cultural boundaries and address the current Lebanese political climate. Taken from his stunning debut album Lebanese, this track, Beyrouth Ecoeuree, speaks about the war-torn heart of Beirut: ‘You have destroyed me, torn out my heart during the night / Under fire and hail of bullets, I survived this rain.’ Clotaire, who grew up in France, has created a unique blend of hip-hop and taarab (the Arabic music of ecstasy), incorporating oriental instruments such as the nay (Arabic flute), qanun, and oud, with programmed beats and rich Arabic vocals.
Lubnan: Clotaire K.
Lebanese hip-hop artist Clotaire K brings us a post-civil war lament in Lubnan (“Lebanon”), the title song of his hit album. Sung in English and Arabic, the song fairly bristles with anger at those who have brought destruction, sorrow and religious war to Lebanon and its people. The Arabic lyrics read, in part:
Those who brought destruction [like those throwing stones while living in glass houses] destroyed themselves with the war
The war that took thousands of children away
Perhaps the cycle is broken now…
My country, feverish, has endured people killing people
and people being killed
Yet, people are constantly coming and going and trampling through,
people who couldn’t care less…
What a waste they’ve made of Lebanon, what a waste…
Chad Gadya (hear “One Kid”):
Chava Albertstein is perhaps Israel’s greatest female vocalist in the tradition of the European chanteuse. In Chad Gadya, she takes a traditional children’s song sung around the Passover seder table and slyly turns a sacred song extolling God’s omnipotence and turns it into an indictment of the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian territories:
On all nights, all other nights I asked only Four Questions
This night I have another question:
“How long will the cycle of violence continue?”
Chase and be chased, beat and be beaten,
When will this madness end?
How have you changed, how are you different?
I changed this year.
I was once a sheep and a tranquil kid
Today I’m a tiger and a ravening wolf
I was once a dove and I was a deer.
Today I don’t know who I am.
B’Libi (hear “In My Heart”)
Israeli pop star David Broza and Palestinian, Wisam Murad, who founded the Palestinian contemporary music ensemble, Sabreen, collaborated on B’Libi. It is perhaps the first Israeli-Palestinian songwriting collaboration. The song is a meditation on the elemental values of land, blood, heart and spirit which both Israelis and Palestinians share no matter how fierce the violence and hatred between them. Though everything about this song speaks to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you will not see the word “peace” even once in the lyrics:
Adam [“a man”] is a man
Time is a mere moment
[In which] he builds his world
And it blooms in his garden
In my heart
In my body
In my spirit
In my breast
Is our land
Imagine (hear it)
John Lennon’s Imagine has been thoroughly reimagined by Algerian rai star, Khaled and Israel’s Noa as a song that comments profoundly on the Israeli-Arab conflict. Noa wrote this new verse specifically with this conflict in mind:
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
Lennon must certainly be smiling wherever he is to hear these new lyrics which so perfectly match the spirit of his own. Khaled gives the song a distinctive Middle Eastern air with his trilling Arabic vocal style and stringed orchestra with a distinctive oud arrangement. In his verse, he sings Lennon’s “imagine there’s no country…no religion too” and points to religion and nationalism as two of the most divisive forces in the region.
The Returnee (The Bridge- 1983)
The song is performed a capella by Oumaima Khalil, whose voice beautifully adorns this sad song. The music is by Marcel Khalife, one of Lebanon’s most distinguished composers and musicians. The lyrics are by a Lebanese poet from south Lebanon named Mousa Shaib. This poem is his reflection on his destroyed home village upon his return to it after the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
The producers would like to thank the following for their advice, encouragement and support in the making of this program:
dj earball says
Ah, what is it they say about great minds? I’m assembling songs of peace (though not limited to Middle Eastern) for tomorrow’s Spin The Globe on KAOS0fm (catch the stream starting at 10am Pacific via http://www.kaosradio.org). Thanks for the recommendations and background. Chava was already on my list, but I got a couple other great ideas from you. Thanks.
hi – i wish i can hear the show, is it possible to hear it somehow – a link or a recording or anything?
thanks – Kaya, NYC
Richard Silverstein says
Yes, kaya, you can hear the audiostream. Happy listening!
I thought I’d let you know about another great one who’s sound I describe as a Psychedelic trip from the Shtetl to the Middle East and Beyond. http://www.pharaohsdaughter.com. New album just came out and we’re having a concert at NYC’s highline Ballroom on May 14th. I hope you can make it! alex at oyhoo.com
I don’t understand very well. The message isn’t that clear. Nothing in concrete.
Some songs put Palestine and Israel in the same level. It is not like that. Suppose somebody come to your house occupied it and put you in the dark basement and go there and beat you every time you try to occupy your house again. Then somebody come and says “hey guys you have to try to live together in peace, you both share the place and end this conflict”. That make sense to you?
Nobody can put you in the same level of that one who stole your house, how you can allowed him to live there and to have peace with him when you know he took the place by the force? Doesn’t make any sense.
That’s why when people say things like “hey guys Israelis and Palestinians try to live together in peace” they dont know what they are talking about it. Especially knowing the endless list of abuses that Palestinians go thru every day of their lives.
Holger Terp says
I have just seen your good and inspiring site.
Some time ago I wrote an article on the song Aint gonna study war no more, down by the riverside.
It appears from my study that the good song was written sometime during or right after World War One as a blues workers song, if my interpretation of the first known recording of the song is correct.
I indexed nearly 600 recordings of Aint gonna study war no more, down by the riverside.
As it is one of the songs I like the most
‘Yesterday” is a pop song originally recorded by The Beatles for their album Help! (1965). According to the Guinness Book of Records, “Yesterday” has the most cover versions of any song ever written, while BMI asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone. The song remains popular today with more than 3000 recorded cover versions. Wiki
Some sources still assert that White Christmas by Bing Crosby or Greensleves has more cover versions.
I just had the idea, that is in this time with wars on terror and errors in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere (see the news), it would only take about 4000 musicians, groups and orchestras worldwide to make a song of peace a world record.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a single person, a group or symphony orchestra that does the recording, and the song can be recorded in any musical fashion from a acapella to street marching bands. The fantasy is the only limit.
Please broadcast this mail, and ask all involved to mail me a copy of the recording and documentation.
When the goal is accomplished the documentation will be turned over to the Guinness Book of Records.
The Danish peace Academy