The 15th of May was the 68th anniversary of the Nakba-The Catastrophe. Where the Palestinian people were forced from their homes, whether by occupation or by murder by those who wanted to build a Jewish state.
Habibi Restaurant put on an evening of events to commemorate the day. I was a little reticent in going after how harrowing the week before had been with Dr Abueliash, but my friend from Liverpool, Elaine was coming down for it, so I had to go.
We arrived at 5pm prompt as was on the Facebook invite but as I should have realized, nothing starts on time and it was gone 6pm before the events started as people started to trickle in and soon the Bedouin tent was full.
The first act on was Phil Monsour, an Arab-Australian singer whose style was very reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s. Flying into a cold, rainy London from a warm Brisbane played havoc with his voice, but his set was heartfelt and passionate even though I wasn’t sure if his voice was going to make it to the end of his set. http://www.philmonsour.com/
Some of his songs really resonated with me and as such I bought his CD. This is my favourite and will probably be the anthem of my trip.
Next up was Palestinian Poet Rafeef Ziadah. I have to say, I am not really a fan of ‘angry’ poetry with a message. Some of her poetry was hard hitting and uncomfortable…but that is because it is true and comes for her experiences. Before all of them she would tell us what inspired her to write this particular poem, so we, the audience could really hone in and understand it. It worked! There was stunned silence with many of of poetry when she finished. She performs with such raw emotion and passion, it is hard to not be affected. The last piece she performed was ‘We Teach Life Sir.’ This she wrote after being interviewed after the bombings of Palestinians in Gaza which killed hundreds of people. She was asked why ALL Arabs taught their children to hate. She was so angry at such a sweeping statement, especially being asked it live on air, that she wrote this poem. Please watch it to the end. It isn’t easy…but I find her mezmerising.
Raast are a collective group of musicians who bring a modern twist to traditional Arabic songs and music. They certainly got people up on their feet and dancing, with all the Palestinians doing their traditional dance. The mood was lifted and the rest of the evening involved much laughter and merriment and before we knew it, it was gone 11pm. (It was supposed to finish at 10pm.) Hey, but anyone who knows anyone from the Arab world knows that time and punctuality isn’t a strong trait!
I have included a video Elaine made with images from the evening and another track and poem from Phil and Rafeef. Enjoy.