Beats and Critique: When Music and Emotions Merge in Palestine

It was around 1946 when the quantity of Jews immigrating to Israel significantly started to rise. Then formally Palestine, but for many who stick to their guns, the correct denomination of the land was then already Israel. About thirty percent of Palestine’s population consisted of Jews who came from all over the world. It took only two years to almost triple their share.

As many of us know, this has caused conflicts and insecurity among citizens throughout the years. It is this realisation of insecurity and injustice that sets us, human beings in a critical position. Critical, in the double meaning of the word. If we are aware of the fact that a decision can change our fundamental rights, we find ourselves at a point of crisis, where we must intervene and speak up. The second meaning is entwined with the first one because critique as a critical evaluation or analysis can be made when we recognise the fact that something isn’t quite right.

Critique is a wonderful thing, no matter in what form it presents itself. It shows that every one of us believes and hopes that there is a better world for everyone. Of course I might be a little utopian and naïve here, but based on John Rawls and his veil of ignorance, you could ask yourself the hypothetical question: ‘What decisions would I make for myself or for others if I know nothing about my life plan?’

A specific form in which critique unfolds itself is art. For thousands of years, art has been a political act that sheds the light on societal problems. Not only does it have an aesthetic beauty, but it is also filled with the beauty of critique. As Theodor Adorno puts it: ‘Every work of art is an uncommitted crime.’

In order not to write down a whole book for now, I wanted to focus on music as an art form. I’ve mentioned before that the Middle East has been dealing with a lot of political instabilities. There are lots of bands, of a wide range of genres, who embody Adorno’s quote. They give a small glimpse – roughly three minutes – of dark, for many of us barely comprehensible, times. They’re in that critical situation where they have almost nothing to lose. So they fight with music. They criticise the society they live in, hoping for a better future.

Alternative indie, hip-hop, rock, psychedelic, electro artists are not very hyped in the Middle East, where strings and percussion are more common. They are nevertheless interesting to approach. Fish Samak for example, a Palestinian band founded by Jowan Safadi, describe their style as ‘Free Live Arabic Rock from the deep dead sea’. Jowan Safadi and his band aren’t afraid of controversy. Safadi even got arrested in Jordan for his critical lyrics. One of the band songs is named In The Arms of Occupation. Lines like ‘Look how the spring turned out to be an autumn’ and ‘For a moment I felt safe in the arms of an occupation’ are a painful, yet truthful description of life for many.

Another Palestinian band, who in my opinion is very much underrated, is Bil3aX. It’s difficult to label them with one specific genre. With songs regarding the political and social situation in Palestine they create this melancholic, yet kind of joyful atmosphere. Their song Sabyeh as a perspicuous example.

These artists and many more show a glimpse of how things should be by criticising them. The situation they find themselves living in show us that home can be beautiful and ugly at the same time but that it’s nevertheless important to express yourself and advocate the unfree status quo.

Written by Sara Elloukmani

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Sara Elloukmani is 20 years old and studies Sociology. She’s a film enthusiast who loves reading, politics, music and art. She also has a warm heart for nature.