Palestinian music is an organic part of Arab music, and more specifically, of the music from the
Music Prior to the
Information about music in Palestine, including information about Palestinian musicians, prior to the twentieth century, is quite scarce; this is a period that deserves further research. More is known about Palestinian music in the first half of the twentieth century, in large part thanks to the memoirs of
From the end of the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, several western Christian missionary schools had been founded. These schools brought western classical music and the practice of writing musical notation to Palestine, which paved the way for the development of written musical composition in the country. Franciscan monks were among the first to teach music to Palestinian children and youth to prepare them to perform in church services. One of the first Palestinians to study under the monks was
Established in 1936, Radio Jerusalem played a critical role in fostering musical production during the British Mandate period in Palestine (1920–48). Radio programs were broadcast in three separate divisions, Arabic, Hebrew, and English. The British-owned radio soon became a hub for musical production and attracted musicians from Palestine and neighboring Arab countries, who came to broadcast or record their works. Most musicians at the time did not read musical notation, and so music was circulated through the oral tradition.
Music after the Nakba
Most of the Palestinian musicians who were forced to flee their homeland as a result of the Nakba in 1948 found refuge in neighboring countries, where they continued their musical lives. Al-Khammash moved to
A New Kind of Music after 1967
Palestinian musical output changed significantly after 1967, when Israel occupied the rest of Palestine. A new kind of music emerged in opposition to the new occupation, and what became known as “committed songs” gained prominence alongside the national anthems that had been popular before.
In the early 1980s, the musical group Sabreen, with
Although most of the music emerging from the Palestinian areas occupied in 1948 bore resemblance to the music from the Arab world, important musical figures emerged who made original contributions. Musicians who gained prominence in their communities include
The first intifada, which began in late 1987, did not initially inspire new kinds of music. Musicians primarily created music by combining well-known folkloric songs with new lyrics, which spoke to current conditions and called on people to rise up against the occupation. Nevertheless, the surge of popular revolution left its mark on Palestinian musicians, who felt the need to start laying the foundations of a future free nation. Towards this end, in 1991, preparations to establish the first music conservatory in Palestine began, and in 1993 the National Conservatory of Music opened. Later renamed the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, it functioned under the umbrella of
Shortly after the National Conservatory was founded, several other music schools were also established. The most important among these is the Magnificat Institute in Jerusalem, which is affiliated with the Franciscan Order. The Magnificat Institute could be considered an extension of the work the monks began with Augustin Lama in the early twentieth century. Other important schools include the Al-Kamandjati Music Center in
The Twenty-First Century: New Beginnings
Since the early 2000s, young Palestinian musicians have been influenced by new types of music, particularly rap and hip-hop, which both have origins in America. There are many bands that perform this kind of music with Arabic lyrics, the most well-known of which is the group DAM.
With the music schools and the emergence of many professional musicians, many exceptional composers of non-commercial music have risen to prominence in the twenty-first century, including oud virtuoso players
National initiatives like the Palestine Youth Orchestra in 2004 and the Palestine National Orchestra in 2011, both created by the National Conservatory of Music, have also made substantial contributions to the music scene in Palestine and elevated it to the global level.
After the accumulation of experiences drawn from a variety of musical influences over more than a century, it is possible to sense the emergence of a new Palestinian musical personality. These experiences are connected by a common vision and a common sound that listeners can identify as an Arab sound with its uniquely Palestinian dimension. It is a sound seeking to establish its own personality, distinct from commercial Arab music: an Arab musical and cultural voice with a clear Palestinian character.
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