Palestinian heritage revived at Citadel Music Festival

Osama Fatim, Monday 13 Aug 2018

Dalal Abou Amna lit up the Salah El-Din Citadel's stage Thursday with a medley of Palestine's folkloric classics

Palestinian singer Dalal Abu Amna, during her meeting with Palestinian ambassador to Egypt (Photo: courtesy of Cairo Opera House)

Palestinian singer Dalal Abou Amna was the star of Thursday night's performance at the Citadel Festival for Music and Songs in Salah El-Din Citadel in Cairo.

For over an hour, Dalal accompanied by Setti Company performed Palestinian heritage and folklore songs in addition to a selection of old Egyptian songs.

The performance was aimed at reviving and introducing Palestinian musical heritage to an Egyptian audience.

Dalal announced on stage that saving that heritage amid Israeli attempts to destroy all that is Palestinian is a mission for her and Setti Company — an ambitious goal that was successfully achieved.

By her words, the audience was set to listen to revolutionary and resistance songs. But what followed were songs about love, the Diaspora, and peasant life.

Dalal began with a familiar tune, Laya w Laya, on the love of a young man for a girl, asking her to answer his greetings. This song set the tone for the show: beautiful music talking about issues other than war. She followed with Ala El-Rozana, crowd becoming curious about the lyrics and the context of the song.

El-Rozana was the name of a tree where two lovers used to meet before the young man was taken by the Ottoman army to serve against his will. His love sings that she will be waiting for his return. While the dialect of Palestine is not understood by all Egyptians, the music makes up for it.

Two further songs encapsulated the essence of the performance: Bayaa El-Tofah, a song carrying double meanings about fruit, and at the same time flirting with girls, politely talking about their beauty, and Hadi Ya Bahr Hadi, talking about the those who left Palestine by sea for work, and their loved ones that await their return.

The Palestinians in the crowd sung the songs with the band and gave the performnance a joyful atmosphere. The songs brought back memories of a lost land, the memories of the tales of grandmothers, from where the company name, Setti (meaning grandmother in Arabic), comes.

Dalal then sang a fusion between the Palestinian song El-Sayadeen and Teleet ya Mahala Nourha of Sayed Darwish, attracting the crowd’s attention to the closeness of the music in both songs, in spite of their different times and contexts.

The finale was a dabka dance performance by El-Falooga Dance Company, to the lyrics of three of the most famous dabka songs: Ala daloona, Migana and Ya Zareef El-Toul. The last is a folkloric song describing a girl’s flirtation with the boy she likes, asking him not to forget her if he meets other girls.

Dabka always gets a crowd animated, the world over, and this show was no exception.

The crowd, reaching more than 5,000, displayed solidarity with the Palestinian cause when Palestinian and Egyptian flags were raised by many, and by artists on stage at the end of the performance.

When a Palestinian event like this happens within the context of festivities in Cairo, it is a chance for Palestinians living in Egypt to gather and meet each other. Songs about the Diaspora on stage were felt off stage, with families and friends singing together for the dream of returning home one day.

The 27th edition of the Citadel Festival was inaugurated 2 August and continues until 17 August.

Every night two singers and their bands perform for the festival crowd. In addition to Egyptian bands and singers, participating artists hail from Mexico, Panama, Tunisia, Syria and Palestine.

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