Wednesday 19 August 2009

Lebanese hills alive with Palestinian music

Lebanon's Beiteddine International Arts Festival held in the Chouf mountains may be a few hundred kilometres distance from the Palestinian city of Ramallah, but getting there has been a lifelong dream for Amal Nazzal.

Nazzal, a 21-year-old Palestinian singer, had never left the Occupied West Bank before and had only known of Lebanon from films and news coverage.

But on Wednesday night she joined the Palestinian Youth Orchestra (PYO) in a performance before a packed audience at the festival, 45km south-east of Beirut.

The 70-person East Jerusalem-based PYO is an international group of professional Palestinian musicians currently living in Palestine, Israel and various countries in the Diaspora.

Formed in 2004, the PYO has been financed by Palestinian private donors and arts foundations.

It was the biggest orchestra Nazzal has ever performed with and a far cry from singing with her choir at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, where she is currently studying international business.

"When I was in Palestine it was a dream to come to Lebanon, an impossible dream. Music for me - particularly since I sing - is one of the greatest channels to send your message out, specifically the pain," Nazzal says.

"Unfortunately, as Palestinians our nation has been through much and to sing, to perform, we can release all this pain and joy through music."

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