Liberating Songs: Palestine Put to Music
This article surveys the history of songs about Palestine from 1948 to the present, examining how the changes in musical style and lyrics correspond to the changes in the exigencies of the Palestinian struggle itself. Tracing the primacy of revolutionary Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, the central role of Fayruz and the Rahbani brothers in the wake of the 1967 war, and the emergence of Palestinian groups and singers as of the late 1960s, the article provides historical and political analyses of these songs as central features of how Arab popular culture has dealt, and continues to deal, with the Palestine tragedy.
Joseph Massad is assistant professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. His book Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan was published in 2001. An earlier and shorter version of this paper was presented at the American Anthropological Association’s 2001 Annual Conference held in Washington, D.C., and will be published in Rebecca Stein and Ted Swedenberg’s edited book, Popular Palestines: Cultures, Communities, and Transnational Circuits, forthcoming from Duke University Press. The author would like to thank Nadia Abu El-Haj and Neville Hoad for their comments on earlier drafts, Muhammad Ayyub and Hasan Abu Haniyyah for sharing their encyclopedic knowledge about Palestinian musical groups, as well as the late Magda al-Nowaihi for her insights into the songs of the Nasirist period.