Nai Al-Barghouti asserts her Palestinian identity through music

Deena Adel, Saturday 27 Aug 2011

Palestine is often associated with images of occupation, violence and a humanitarian crisis. Amidst the darkness, young musician Nai Al-Barghouti emerges as a delightful reminder that art can never be silenced

Nai Al-Barghouti

As part of the cultural organisation, Al Mawred Al Thakafi’s, Hayy Festival, the young talent Nai Al-Barghouti took El Genaina Theatre by storm on Thursday 25 August. It was Barghouti’s first solo concert outside of her hometown of Ramallah, and her first time in Cairo.

“Tonight’s concert is a real treat,” Basma El-Husseiny, founder and director of Al Mawred El Thakafy, told a packed audience. “It’s not often that a star is born. I’m not talking about stars in the commercial sense; the kind of stars we see on television every night that are fabricated by production companies, but a real artistic star.”

“An artist who is sophisticated, highly educated, well-trained, and has a very strong sense of political and social commitment,” El-Husseiny adds. “All this, and she’s not even 15 years old yet.”

The young lady who walks on stage encases talent and maturity beyond her years. At 14, Nai Al-Bargouti is already an accomplished musician, having completed her musical studies at the National Conservatory of Palestine in Ramallah in April 2011.

She won the first place in the Palestine National Competition of Music in 2006 and 2008 and ranked second in 2010. Al-Barghouti has composed six musical pieces for the flute. In addition to playing the flute and composing, she has a powerful and distinctive singing voice. She also participated in the ceremony of UNESCO in 2008, and the Parisian Jazz Festival in 2010 as part of the Maqamat Al-Quds group.

Barghouti worked for several months under the supervision and guidance of the well-known Palestinian musician Khaled Jubran, who also arranged the songs in Thursday’s programme.

The programme included some of the most beautiful songs from the Arabic music repertoire, such as Monyaty AzzaI Stibari by Sayed Darwish and Raj’eenya Hawa by the Rahbani brothers. Barghouthi also performed Inn Kont Assameh (If I Forgive), by Mohamed El Qassabgy, which she dedicated to the legendary singer Om Kolthoum, who has greatly influenced to her.

Alternating between playing the flute and singing, Barghouti took the audience on a musical journey, back to the days of golden Arabic music and rich composition.

Her flute sound is expressive and round. Her voice has substance and maturity, yet it is her youthful lightness that revitalises the well-visited standards. Her refreshing take on timeless classics left the audience in a musical trance.

After her two first songs, Barghouti was visibly more comfortable on stage as she introduced her next song, Yamma Moweil el Hawa. “I’d like to dedicate this song to the captives of Palestine and Arabs everywhere,” she says strongly. “For freedom.”

Many artists have covered this compelling tribute to a free Palestine, but Barghouti’s cover took the song to new levels, drawing from her own experience of being taken hostage during an Israeli army raid recently. Her raw emotion gave everyone goosebumps, elegantly yet powerfully giving voice to resistance and freedom fighters.

Barghouti’s Palestinian identity continued to shine strongly throughout the program, especially as she performed Fayrouz’s Shaware’ El Quds (Streets of Jerusalem). “I dedicate this song to Occupied Jerusalem,” she asserted.

“I am a girl. I’m a musician. I am a student. I have a family that loves me. But I'm Palestinian, and at the moment that is a lot more important to me than all the rest,” the ninth grade student wrote in a published piece about her experience of Israeli invasions on her home.

“I am human, first, and Palestinian, second. Being Palestinian is in my roots. They can kill me; they can steal my land, as they’re already doing, continuously. They can cut our olive trees, as they often do! They can take away everything, but never our identity, our dignity, or our hope to be free. They can never shut me up.”

With each song, Barghouti continued to absorb the audience a little more, until eventually the crowd was swaying, clapping and singing along. She announced that she was about to perform her last song when an audience member, much like a young child being dragged away from an enjoyable playground, yelled, “No! Why?”

Barghouti took a minute to make a short touching speech of thanks to the band, her mentors, and her parents. “I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for you,” she told her mother and father who were gleaming with pride.

“This song is dedicated to the great people of Egypt, who gave us hope for the liberation and advancement of the Arab Nation,” said Barghouti in her final words. As she commemorated the night with Sayed Darwish’s Belady Belady (My Country, My Country), the audience stood to salute their national anthem.

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