PalMusic UK Spring Newsletter 2020

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During this unprecedented turn of events, as the world experiences, voluntarily, a fraction of the continuous enforced lock-down on Palestinians, a show of solidarity and a message of hope is sent out to you, our cherished readers and supporters, into the intimacy of your homes, with a medley of Palestinian traditional songs and lyrical classical music, serenading you with a balm for anxious times, and an offering of connectivity in isolation.
Covid-19 has thrown the world into uncharted territory, and the unknown seems to widen and deepen by the day. Predictably, this pandemic has brought out dramatic stresses in people’s lives, as well as tragic loss of life, but it has also revealed the best in humankind. Generous contributions from our supporters, and gratuitous kindness remind us there is love to be found in the world.
As we struggle together to survive the contagion, Albert Camus’ hopeful words from his novel La Peste (The Plague) resonate most profoundly: “We learn in time of pestilence that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”
From PalMusic’s committee, we send you wishes of safety and health to you and your families, to the elderly and the young, to parents and their children, to your neighbours, friends and foes, and for those celebrating Easter, many warm seasonal greetings.
Heba Zaphiriou-Zarifi
Chair of PalMusic UK

FOCUS: Iyad Sughayer

Those of you who managed to attend our recent concerts with Iyad Sughayer in Oxford and Brecon, will know what a wonderful treat it was to hear him play up close and personal. It is regrettable, if unavoidable, that the concert at St George’s Bristol was cancelled in light of the coronavirus emergency. By way of small compensation, here is a video of Iyad playing some of the same programme he was set to play in Bristol.

We are enormously grateful for the generosity of donations made at these concerts. Furthermore, this generosity has extended to the concert in Bristol, despite it being cancelled – with many ticket buyers declining refunds in favour of donating the ticket price instead. What wonderful supporters you are, thank you!

Iyad’s recent concerts have promoted his debut release on BIS, Khachaturian Piano Works. A review by Julian Haylock on BBC Music Magazine, March 2020, gives both the performance and recording five stars. He says,

Much of the music in this recital is both technically and musically challenging, yet Sughayer sounds entirely at one with its impassioned elegance, scorching intensity and coruscating musical patterning… he captures the music’s essence with such a close sense of recreative identity that it feels on occasion as though he could be composing it as he goes along. An outstanding debut.

PROFILE: Khalil Khoury

Khalil Khoury is a Palestinian Qanun, Oud, and Arabic percussion player, as well as a composer and arranger. His passion for music began at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) at the age of seven, where he started studying music. Khalil completed his diploma at the ESNCM in 2012 at the age of 16. A year later, he commenced his professional career in music and was offered a teaching position at the conservatory, where he still works. Khalil participated in a series of international training programs that focus on both music theory and performance in order to gain experience and develop his skills. This started in 2010 after he was selected among three musicians from Palestine to take part in a music retreat with the internationally renowned Palestinian Oud player, Simon Shaheen. Khalil won first prize for his unique Qanoun playing in the 2006, 2010 and 2012 editions of the Palestine National Music Competition. In 2015, Khalil performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. He has since featured in international tours and concerts all over Europe and the Gulf States. In 2016, Khalil joined a five-city tour in the UK with the Palestinian singer, Nai Barghouti. The band presented both original material and arrangements of classic Arabic repertoire with an Arabic-Jazz sound. The tour ended with a concert at the London Union Chapel, one of the best jazz venues in the UK. Other performances alongside Nai Barghouti include the prestigious Aga Khan Music Awards, Lisbon, in March 2019, and in November 2019 at The Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam in a tribute to the iconic Fairouz. Khalil is involved with a wide range of local bands, and has featured on a series of albums by musicians, bands and music projects in which he participated as a multi instrumentalist, a coach and a composer. His main focus has recently been on recording and producing projects that feature local musicians in Palestine from his own home studio. Khalil completed his Bachelor’s degree in Oriental Music Performance at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance in 2018. Khalil was recently accepted to the highly selective advanced diploma program at the Abbey Road Institute in Amsterdam.

Jafra Solo | Khalil Khoury

The Law

Translated from its original Arabic, qānūn means law, rule or principle. It is the only musical instrument in the oriental takht (traditional Arabic ensemble) that can play all the notes of Arabic scales on open strings, and it provides a pitch and tuning reference for the other instruments.

The qanun is a type of zither instrument with a range of three and a half octaves. A thin trapezoidal soundbox, its ornamental ‘sound holes’ distinguish Turkish from Arabic qanuns depending on where they are placed. Traditionally, animal gut strings are stretched over a bridge supported on fish skin, and plucked by a turtle shell plectrum attached as a finger ring.

A transformative feature of the modern qanun is its levers, with four for each string. With 78 strings in total, that is a lot of levers! The levers enable microtonal adjustment in four quarters, reflecting the traditional Arabic Maqamat melodic system. Their addition brought the instrument into greater prominence by allowing a superior flexibility and control over these adjustments than was previously afforded by fingernails. Nevertheless, players must still think ahead and make adjustments to the levers with one hand while continuing to play with the other.

Instrument Appeal!
Bass Trombone

A talented trombonist and student at ESNCM’s Bethlehem branch has made a moving appeal to us for donation of a trombone. Seventeen year old Christina Anastas admits that when she first started playing the trombone, she did not much like the instrument, finding it too big to handle. Now she has grown to love it whilst also outgrowing the beginner instrument she was gifted. She says, 
I started feeling how music makes everything better, it can make new lives! I loved my instrument and started playing in orchestras and I was accepted to play with the magical Palestine Youth Orchestra and toured with them. I’m going to study music and continue this amazing way of my life.

Her teacher recommends that she progresses to a bass trombone. If you are in the wonderful position of being able to help her receive one, please get in touch with us at

A ‘lockdown’ treat from our PalMusic Scholar Quartet last summer –

1. Yuma Mwel il Hawa 2. Hal Asmar al Loun 3. Longa Riad 4. Yalla Tnam Reema by Fairouz
Tibah Saad – vocals and cello | Omar Saad – viola and tambourine | Lourdina Baboun – violin | Iyad Sughayer – piano
Recorded at Crediton Congregational Church, 28 June 2019, with thanks to Malcolm Cooke and Joy Moore.

Edward Said National Conservatory of Music & COVID-19

Hardly a week into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) responded to the preventative measures imposed by the Palestine Government and organised its education program electronically.

Driven by the belief in the importance of music education, the ESNCM has applied online teaching techniques to guarantee that the program continues in all six branches: Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramallah, Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and Nablus, offering individual and group lessons to its students.
Sadly, the outreach program has been put on hold and the Palestine National Music Competition has been postponed following the imposed lockdown.

Under the present circumstances, the ESNCM has installed software to enable quality teaching for the students, connecting them directly with their teachers. It has also made available a number of specialised music websites as resources for the students, to help them in their education and enrich their knowledge and skills in Western and Arabic music, as well as Jazz.

ESNCM strongly believes in the important role that music plays in the lives of people, especially children and youth. It is hoped that ESNCM’s decision to resume its main educational activities online, and present different styles of music to the Palestinian public, will help everyone go through the present human health crisis. Our hearts are full of hope that Palestine will overcome this major challenge wisely and safely, learning and benefiting from experiences that its people went through in past years of wars, Intifadas and political crises.

The ESNCM administration is fully aware that the Covid-19 pandemic will leave Palestinian society and the world with serious consequences. However, with our commitment, cooperation and solidarity, we hope that the Palestinian people and the whole world will overcome the challenges of this crisis with minimum damage and come out of it with a new vision for a better world, where Humanity and Mother Nature will be our pillars for a safe, and just world for all.
Sima Khoury, Executive Director, ENSCM

While the ESNCM is pleased to have been able to draw together a new electronically managed teaching program, which is proving to be very satisfactory for parents and students, other serious concerns have cropped up.

As the Covid-19 crisis has had quick repercussions on financial liquidity, the economic situation of the Conservatoire has been thoroughly shaken. Certain institutions have stopped disbursing funds, there is a lack of fees coming in, and ESNCM projects – which were to generate funding for running costs – have come to an abrupt standstill.

For the month of March , all staff were paid 50% of their monthly salary.

Lena Saleh, ESNCM Supervisory Board Member, PalMusic UK Trustee.

Here are some links to lockdown concerts from ESNCM staff and students for you to explore and enjoy.

The Holy City Performed by Daughters of Jerusalem (Banat Al Quds) and Princeton Girlchoir.
From the album Daughters of Jerusalem.
Video by Marianne Lystrup. Kirkelig Kulturverksted 2018
Music: Stephen Adams (Michael Maybrick) 1894
Lyrics: New 2018 version by Erik Hillestad

Common Ground 2020

In our January newsletter, we introduced Common Ground 2020, the Woodcraft Folk International Camp that was to be held in Kent from 1 to 11 August.

Ten students, their 2 ‘camp parents’ from ESNCM branches in Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and 4 delegates from ESNCM Gaza have been preparing for Common Ground. The students are 12 to 19 years old and, between them, play a variety of instruments: flute, violin, clarinet, buzuq, saxophone, guitar, viola and cello.

In the current context, it would be folly to send a child to sing, debate, dance, eat and play with 3000 others from all over the world, and Common Ground 2020 will be postponed to August 2021.

I would like to thank those of you who have contributed generously to fundraising events and to crowdfunding.
Agnès Baetens

Zaytoun News and Events

Have you checked out Zaytoun’s excellent news and events pages? It offers a broad coverage relating to Palestine from climate resilience to export bans.

A social enterprise and community interest company, Zaytoun aims to create and develop a UK market for artisanal Palestinian produce.

London Palestine Film Festival 2020

Submissions are now invited! 
If you are interested in making a submission for this year’s festival please follow the link below to complete the online questionnaire.
Thank you