11 August 2008

Monday's mp3: Remembering A Friend to Earthquakes

I had different ideas for what I was going to post today, but the passing of Mahmoud Darwish over the weekend redirected me. I was introduced to Darwish fairly recently, and not through reading his poems but through musicians Reem Kelani and Marcel Khalife.

Born in Western Galilee, Darwish published dozens of books of both poetry and prose, and was known for his powerful poetic imagery about identity, struggle, and religious themes. He wrote in Arabic, so I haven't (can't!) read the original, but translations of his work can be found, such as this one by Ben Bennani.

Psalm Three

On the day when my words
were earth...
I was a friend to stalks of wheat.

On the day when my wordsMahmoud Darwish on SoundRoots.org
were wrath
I was a friend to chains.

On the day when my words
were stones
I was a friend to streams.

On the day when my words
were a rebellion
I was a friend to earthquakes.

On the day when my words
were bitter apples
I was a friend to the optimist.

But when my words became
honey...
flies covered
my lips!...

For a musical introduction to Darwish, check out Marcel Khalife's album called, simply, Taqasim. Its three long, wordless movements are Khalife's attempt to "try to reproduce, as only music can, the esthetical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual resonance of Darwish's poetry. ... I will 'encode' his poetry in a system of rhythm, melody, and harmony."

Reem Kelani included a song with Darwish lyrics on her album Sprinting Gazelle. "I wrote the music to this poem in 1992 for a BBC Everyman documentary called 'See No Evil' on the tenth anniversary of the massacred in the refugee camps of Sabra & Shatila in Beirut. [Darwish] wrote the original poem in 1967 to convey the Palestinian sense of loss at the time. ... In this poem, Darwish borrows the chorus line from Palestinian folklore, thus juxtaposing colloquial Palestinian with the classical Arabic of the main verses. Each time the chorus is performed on this rendition, it is done with a different variation. This is reflected in the English subtitle of this song [Variations on Loss]."

[mp3] Reem Kelani: Mawwaal

from the album Sprinting Gazelle
more info at www.reemkelani.com
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