Sana Moussa: A Contemporary Rendition of Palestinian Folklore
By: Rasha Hilwi
Published Thursday, December 22, 2011
Palestinian singer Sana Moussa’s work is a tribute to Palestinian women’s folklore and a celebration of indigenous traditions in the face of occupation and globalization.
HaifaSana Moussa was born in Deir al-Asad village, in the Upper Galilee of occupied Palestine, to a family that is steeped in music.
Her father, Ali Moussa, and siblings all have a special connection with music. But the eldest daughter has received the lion’s share of talent, for today she is considered one of the most prominent Palestinian artists.
Moussa released her first album Ishraq one year ago, before touring Palestine, Jordan, and Cairo in promotional concerts.
She performed for the first time in Haifa on Thursday night at the Al Midan Theater, in an event organized by the Ghair Intaj group, which has organized a series of events in Palestine.
The artist began her musical studies with the al-Armawi choir, led by musician Khaled Jubran. Her performances have involved Palestinian folklore ever since she became a professional singer.
Moussa began her career with the Homayon group — in collaboration with Palestinian musicians Nizar Rohana (oud) and Youssef Hbeich (percussion) — with whom she performed in various Arab and European cities.
She also recorded folk songs with new arrangements by Rohana and Hbeich. All that coincided with her pursuit of a doctorate in neuroscience, which she received right before the release of Ishraq.
The idea for the album Ishraq haunted Moussa ever since she was four. She recounts that she would sit next to her grandmother and watch her dye white fabric blue and sing parts of Safar Barlek (a folkloric song from Ottoman times).
The scene never left Moussa’s memory. When she chose singing as a profession, she decided to focus on paying tribute to the voices of Palestinian women, who often incorporated songs into their daily routine.
Ishraq’s 10 songs all address joy, separation, farewell, love, war, revolution, marriage, birth, lullabies, and loneliness.
The young artist gathered these songs in a search that lasted many years, in which she visited many Palestinian women. Her goal was to put together a sampling of Palestinian lives through their songs.
In recrafting the original songs Moussa tried to preserve the their original frameworks as much as possible. She also used the workshops she attended with Bishara al-Khall (violin) and Mohammad Moussa (oud) in order to create new arrangements.
In the beginning of Najmat al-Sobh ــــ the most popular song from the album — Moussa used the original voices of elderly Palestinian women, in addition to sounds of clay pot playing, ululations, and handclaps.
In her concert in Haifa, Moussa was accompanied by Mohammad Moussa (oud), Elias Habib (percussion), Suheil Nassar (qanoun), Faraj Suleiman (piano).
These are “simple and beautiful songs close to people’s hearts,” says Moussa.
Her album was released at a time when Palestinians suffered the daily humiliations of occupation, on the one hand, and an all-consuming globalization that ate away at local traditions, on the other.
In this context, Moussa says, “music is an assertion of identity, an insistence on presence and endurance.” This is what has distinguished her music for many years.
But the Palestinian public are now eagerly anticipating new work by Moussa, with lyrics and music composed specially for her.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.