Musicians for Palestine: 10 songs to listen to on the epic 13-hour Spotify playlist

The collective, formed by 600 artists, released a joint letter supporting the Palestinian struggle

Fro left: Songs by Zeid Hamdan, Dina El Wedidi and by Nadah El Shazly all appear on the #musiciansforpalestine playlist on Spotify. Supplied
Fro left: Songs by Zeid Hamdan, Dina El Wedidi and by Nadah El Shazly all appear on the #musiciansforpalestine playlist on Spotify. Supplied

An epic playlist has dropped on Spotify, featuring artists in support of the Palestinian cause.

Earlier this month, more than 600 musicians banded together to release a statement in support of Palestinian self-determination and condemning the latest attacks on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli armed forces.

Amid the signatories are a slew of international popular artists including singer-songwriter Patti Smith, rockers Rage Against The Machine and hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, as well leading acts from the Arab independent music scene including Lebanon's Zeid Hamdan, Egypt's Dina El Wedidi and Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti.

To highlight the message, a 13 hour playlist is available to stream on Spotify featuring nearly 200 of the signed acts.

While challenging, the curation of the 191 song collection is unfortunately nowhere near as focused the letter, with cases of sonic whiplash caused by tender folk songs crashing into club bangers and hip-hop anthems.

However, if you dig deep into the list, you will find tracks representing the vibrant sounds of the Arab world’s independent music community, with its eclecticism, creativity and affecting lyricism.

To make that job easier, here are 10 key songs from the #musiciansforPalestine playlist you need to hear and why.

1. ‘Hamdulilah’ by Narcy featuring Shadia Mansour (2010)

The playlist begins with one of Narcy's most renowned tracks.

A celebration of the Arab world with all its complexity and spirituality, the Iraqi rapper salutes his heritage, family and the bonds connecting Arab communities at home and abroad.

2. ‘Sokoun’ by Dina El Wedidi (2015)

A doyen of the Egyptian independent music scene, the works of singer and guitarist Dina El Wadidi are often seeped in metaphors and intimate production.

Translated to Stillness, Sokoun is a rallying cry for resilience.

The key to reach that state, El Wedidi says in her lyrics, is through self-acceptance: “Shake away the dust of the memories from your clothes / And also declare that what killed you was your poisons / And return to the same quietness and content yourself with your stillness.”

3. Raj’een by Nai Barghouti (2021)

A track directly addressing the latest conflict, Nai Barghouti lays bare the enduring determination exemplifying the Palestinian struggle.

Addressing her homeland as "mother," Barghouti promises "her children" will return "carrying determination and love, carrying the resilience of the land."

4. ‘Dorak Jai’ by Wegz

Hopefully the inclusion in the playlist attracts more attention to one of the region's most electrifying artists.

Egyptian rapper Wegz is one the leading lights of the Arabic trap music scene and Dorak Gai remains a landmark of the genre.

More than dense production and urgent synths, the track found regional notoriety because of its not so subtle attack on Egyptian superstar actor and singer Mohamed Ramadan.

Translated to ‘Your turn is soon,’ the duo’s beef stem from Wegz reportedly blaming Ramadan for stealing his idea for a music video for a soft drink brand. Ramadan has yet to respond in kind.

That said, with both artists continuing to score huge streaming numbers with each new release, everybody is a winner.

5. ‘Aoede’ by Mashrou’ Leila (2015)

The opener to 2015 album Ibn El Leil, Aoede encapsulates the appeal of Lebanon's indie darlings Mashrou' Leila: there are pulsating bass lines, stabbing strings and singer Hamed Sinno’s vocals skirting between the sensual and mournful.

6. ‘Palmyra’ by Nadah El Shazly (2020)

Taken from 2020's critically acclaimed debut album Ahwar, Egyptian singer Nadah El Shazly bemoans the destruction of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

The quirky production, however, is not as mournful with a snaky keyboard riff riding over frenzied percussion akin to drum n' bass.

7. ‘Ahwak Hiba’’ by Zeid Hamdan featuring Hiba Mansouri (2012)

A keen collaborator, Zeid Hamdan and takes a backseat here to compose and produce this soulful number sung be fellow Lebanese indie artist Hiba Mansour.

From its accompanying dreamy video to the languid arrangements, everything about Ahwak Hiba is nostalgic with lyrics reflecting on a former flame leaving Mansouri "crushed by exhaustion"

8. ‘One Time’ by Sons of Yusuf (2017)

A perfect introduction to Gulf hip-hop by one of its pioneers. Kuwait’s Sons of Yusuf's One Time is seamless blend of the modern and traditional.

The production is primarily made up of Gulf percussion and claps, while the sibling duo paint vivid and witty images – through Arabic and English lyrics – of Gulf youth in an increasingly globalised region.

9. ‘Zamilou’ by Bu Kolthoum (2018)

Syrian producer and rapper Bo Kolthoum jettisons the zanier sounds of previous works for this tender folk tune, paying tribute to the strength and resilience of Arab women.

Over a brooding guitar arrangement, Bu Kolthoum celebrates the everyday determination and challenges Arab women, particularly mothers, experience in raising families amid fraught societies: “We were raised in the blackness of our homes, and you lit our skies with stars.”

10. ‘Kouni’ by Huda Asfour (2018)

The title track of second album from the Palestinian singer-songwriter, Kouni is a solid primer to her exciting work that marries traditional oud arrangements with western music styles such as jazz and folk.

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Read more:

11 Palestinian independent musicians you need to listen to right now: from The Synaptik to 47Soul

The 11 best Arab independent musicians you should be listening to right now

I think everything I do makes sense:’ get ready to discover Palestinian singer-songwriter Rasha Nahas

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Updated: June 1, 2021 10:32 AM

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