WXTJ Writes! By Isabel Xiao: 5 Palestinian Artists To Support

“The question that always drives my work is how art and beauty are created under duress, or in state of emergency.”

Ever since reading this quote from Madison Moore, assistant professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, I’ve begun to reflect more on the cultural and political context of the music I listen to, especially music created by marginalized people. In the context of war and colonialism, music becomes a tool to voice the struggles of the unheard, a universal language to document life under oppression and display resistance through an artistic lens. As more people around the world learn about the decades-long struggle of the Palestinian people, it becomes more important to shine a spotlight on the culture and music created from the dreams of Palestinian artists. Here are five Palestinian artists to listen to and support:

  1. Rasha Nahas

Nahas’ work combines elements of electronica, indie rock, and experimental music to create a unique sound that is enhanced by her sincere and free-spoken lyricism. Born in Haifa and currently based in Berlin, her music explores themes of self-discovery, belonging, and home, as well as her identity within the Palestinian diaspora. Her most recent album, “Amrat,” released in 2023, blends R&B and psychedelia with her indie rock roots to produce a softer, dreamier sound in an atmosphere of emotional vulnerability. Recorded in occupied Golan Heights in 67 Studios, named after the year Israel occupied the area in 1967, “Amrat” is sung entirely in Arabic, unlike her first studio album, “Desert,” which was in English. In an interview with Clash Music, she expressed a sense of connectedness with Arabic speakers in the audience during her European tour, stating: “[These are] people that look like me, listen to the same music as me, people that speak my language. When I speak about missing home or longing for my family, they know what I’m talking about, because they feel that. We share a similar context because we’re both abroad in the diaspora.” 


  1. Bashar Murad

From a young age, Bashar Murad’s passion for music had helped him express his experiences growing up in occupied East Jerusalem. The son of Said Murad, the founder of pioneer Palestinian fusion group Sabreen, Murad’s rich musical background contributes to his own brand of uplifting outspoken pop, frequently tinged with political messages and Palestinian pride. Murad also occupies a unique space in the Palestinian music scene as one of the most prominent openly queer pop artists. The convergence of his Palestinian and queer identities fuels his desire to break stereotypes through his music, resulting in a vibrant sound that highlights messages of Palestinian pride and liberation. Murad’s desire to cross cultural boundaries and fight for global equality and peace is a significant contributing factor to his art, as his music often incorporates sounds from around the world. His EP, “Maskhara” mixes Latin and house beats with Arabic instrumentation, while his single “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” is an uplifting blend of American gospel and Europop-esque dance music. Murad’s music echoes many young Palestinians who dream of peace, equality, and acceptance in their homeland and within the diaspora. He speaks on his relationship with his heritage and his art in a 2023 interview with Teen Vogue, emphasizing his belief in “turning ugliness, which there is so much of it here, into beauty.”


  1. Kamilya Jubran

Widely known as the “godmother of Palestinian indie music,” Kamilya Jubran is one of the most well-known figures in the alternative Arabic music scene, having been one of the members of Sabreen alongside Murad’s father. With a career spanning nearly four decades, her messages of freedom and cultural expression have been present in her music from the very beginning. Jubran’s sound is also made distinct by her mastery of traditional Palestinian and Arabic instruments like the oud and qanun. Combined with her incredibly precise sense of timing and improvisation, passionate vocals, and stripped-down composition, Jubran’s music can very much be described as an experience, transporting the listener to the depths of her mind and echoing the sounds of her homeland. Perhaps the most compelling work in her discography is her 2010 album “Wameedd,” a collaboration with composer Werner Hasler. Jubran’s rhythmic, microtonal vocals and the distinct, fretless sound of her oud are combined with Hasler’s minimalist electronic beats and synth playing to create a tapestry of emotion and passion. Every note and beat feels intentional, and her choice to experiment and incorporate modern elements with traditional Arabic sounds makes her one of the most unique musicians I’ve ever heard. Jubran elaborates on her experimentation on her website: “While composing, I thought of the beautiful ensemble of tunes and moods from those places where my life began. And, nourished by their ancient roots, I freed them to confront and collide with those of more recent places which have shaped my life.”

  1. Mohammed Assaf

Perhaps the most famous artist on this list, Mohammed Assaf is best known for being the winner of Season 2 of Arab Idol, and has gone on to receive widespread popularity in the Arab music world. Assaf’s performances have often included Palestinian patriotic hymns encouraging self-determination and freedom, and he has also been praised for his renditions of classic Arabic love songs. Board member of Gaza Association for Culture and Arts Jamal Abu Qumsan has stated Assaf “has struck a chord with Palestinians by singing classic Arabic songs that deal with issues other than war and struggle … To many here, that kind of music offers them a sense of stability.” However, Assaf has stated on the Palestinian Maan News Agency, “I can’t differentiate between my art and my patriotic attitude.” For his final performance on Arab Idol, he sang “Ali al-kuffiyeh,” an original song that encouraged Palestinians to raise their kuffiyehs and unite against injustice and violence. The same year, he was named a goodwill ambassador for peace by The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Assaf’s determination to use his platform for freedom and justice combined with his strong vocal technique and stage presence makes him an important representative of Palestinian advocacy and culture.


  1. Sama’ Abdulhadi

Dubbed “Palestine’s techno queen” by famed club promoter Boiler Room, Sama’ Abdulhadi’s skills behind the turntables have gained her widespread attention and love from not just the young people of Palestine, but from dance music lovers all around the world. Her music career began with her studying sound design in Beirut, and she fell in love with techno music after hearing a set by Japanese DJ Satoshi Tomiie. After moving to Cairo to work in sound engineering, Abdulhadi grew her career by DJing across the Middle East, eventually resulting in her viral Boiler Room Palestine set, which gained 13 million views on YouTube. She is also the founder of Union Collective, a group of DJs working to provide a platform to highlight electronic artists across the country and teach Palestinian youth the basics of beat matching and mixing. Her experience in the underground electronic music scene echoes the experience of many other marginalized people who seek refuge through music and community. Down in the comments of her Boiler Room video, many expressed their surprise at the fact that she and other young Palestinians were able to dance and party openly despite the ongoing occupation. In an interview with Trippin, Abdulhadi states: “I think this is why Palestinian parties are so fun. Because you always find people who really want to dance and really need a release and want to get on it, because they don’t know when the next party will be – it might be in five years – so they have to make this one count.” 


When the world turns its attention to Palestine, people often only think of the destruction of the land and the displacement of its people. But as we remember the martyrs and honor those who have passed, we must also remember their joy and hopes for the future. We cannot simply label Palestine with suffering and war, we must preserve and remember the stories, art, and culture of its people, whether that’s the community and kinship of the underground techno scene, the classical sounds of traditional Palestinian instruments, or the queer Palestinians who dream of acceptance and freedom. We cannot afford to forget that the only difference that separates us are the circumstances of our birth, and we must remember to never stop fighting for a Free Palestine.


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