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'Daughters of Jerusalem' sing out

Dec. 18, 2018 2:07 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 20, 2018 10:08 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Growing up in the middle of the field of tension between beautiful visions and brutal reality powers the music now released by this Palestine girls group.

The "Banat Al Quds" (Daughters of Jerusalem) are 25 young Palestinian women from families with deep roots in Jerusalem. They all study at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and live in East Jerusalem. Now they are releasing a CD where they also perform duets with the American Princeton Girlchoir and the Oslo based Norwegian Girlchoir.

In spite of the oppression these young daughters of Jerusalem suffer under, they have a power of expression that exudes joy and courage. Their songs present both a vision and a lament for their ancient city. They sing and play khanoun (table harp), oud, cello, percussion and double bass.

For many parts of the world Jerusalem is a metaphor for heaven. In the Bible the city is called "Mother of Peace," and so many stories are connected to the city that nobody can relate to it neutrally. The city is a holy place to many religions, and the Biblical idea of "The new Jerusalem" has imbued the concept of utopia with meaning for billions of people.

However, the situation in today's Jerusalem is a sore contrast to this ideal. Jerusalem is now a city of conflicts where parts of the population are living under intolerable pressure, where walls and check-points divide the city, and where injustice prevails.

Jerusalem could have been a living ideal for today's world, a place where all religions and faiths could live in peaceful coexistence. This vision seems to be highly remote at present, and actions by politicians who actually have the power to do something about the situation do not contribute much that is constructive, to put it carefully.

On the new album by "Banat Al Quds" (Daughters of Jerusalem) most of the songs are related directly to their city. Two of them are written by the well-known Palestinian artist Rim Banna, others are older, including the monster hit "The Holy City" by Stephen Adams from 1894. The CD's producer, Erik Hillestad, has given this song new English lyrics dealing with today's situation in the city. The American Princeton Girlchoir also contributes on this song. This is a powerful act of solidarity from young women in a country Palestinians usually do not experience as a constructive contributor on the path to peace and justice. The Norwegian Girlchoir also joins in on one of Rim Banna's songs.

The "Daughters of Jerusalem" choir was founded and is conducted by Suhail Khoury, who is the director of Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, and who also wrote all the arrangements for this record. The album is released by KKV with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Suhail Khoury has collaborated with KKV since 1992.

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