News / Arts & Entertainment

Arab-Israeli Singer Bridges Cultures Through Music

Mira Awad in concert (Photo by Nanni Fontana)
Mira Awad in concert (Photo by Nanni Fontana)
Adam Phillips
Arab-Israeli songwriter and pop star Mira Awad began her weeklong run at New York’s Metropolitan Room by singing a traditional tune from the Arab village in northern Israel where she was born in 1975 to a Palestinian father and a Bulgarian mother.
 
“It comes from the belly. It doesn’t come from thinking," Awad said of her music. "It doesn’t come from a planned way of singing like opera or like the Western kind of singing which is very calculated. This is much more passionate like flamenco, like these things that come from the blood. Like we say: 'We have hot blood.' It’s not by accident.”
 
There is a different sort of heat in the soulful Europop songs Awad’s fans are most familiar with. All My Faces is the title song from her 2011 album.     

“It only tackles the level of my womanhood, but it’s like that about everything," Awad said. "We all have many faces. No one is one thing. That’s boring. We are all made out of many many many many layers.”     

Listen: Arab-Israeli Singer Bridges Cultural Gap Through Music
Arab-Israeli Singer Bridges Cultural Gap Through Music i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Awad says this Western, unabashedly sensual style of music would raise eyebrows in her hometown, although the village is relatively modern compared to many Palestinian communities in Israel’s Galilee region.  

“But nevertheless, it’s an Arab culture and still it is very patriarchal and the father decides for the family, the man decides for the woman," she said. "A woman is expected to, OK, go study, go work, but choose family life eventually, and I didn’t. I wanted a career. I wanted to go follow my passions. The word ‘passions’ is scary one in the culture I come from. A woman having passions is scary. It’s a woman you cannot control.”
 
Awad’s history of protest and activism began at the age of 16, when she began started to play in her own rock and roll band. The neighbors would often gossip when she’d get picked up in the village by her band mates, all of whom happened to be male, for the drive to Nazareth to rehearse.

“It was very difficult for them to understand how come my father is letting me do that and they even started to interfere with the upbringing [saying] ‘Take hold of your daughter. Put her in her place,’" Awad said. "So actually that is the place I started from protesting, to have an equal say, to have any say at all,  about my own life and to choose differently if I liked to, as a woman.”

Awad left the confines of village life as soon as she could and enrolled at the university in Haifa, a city unusual in Israel for its mixed Jewish and Arab population. Awad had never defined herself in ethnic terms, because everyone she grew up with was Arab.

But on campus, her fair skin and green eyes did not fit the common stereotype of what Palestinians look like. Jewish students thought she was also Jewish, and felt free to express their true feelings about Arabs in her presence.

“I suddenly started to realize how much racism there is against Palestinian citizens of Israel and I’m hearing this and my blood was boiling in my veins,” Awad said.
    
Although Awad is well known in Israel and Europe for her songs about life and love, she is perhaps best known for her songs about peace, justice and equality. In 2009, she and Jewish Israeli singer Noa were chosen by the Eurovision Song Contest to sing her song There Must Be Another Way about forging peace between their two peoples.
 
But Awad says her hopes go far beyond Israel and Palestine.  

“I believe we have to go together as a human race and try to figure out how we share the resources of this poor planet that we’re on,” she said.      

These days, one of Awad’s favorite instruments is a friend’s cracked flute she saved from the trash. She says she has learned to honor life’s imperfections – that, like the poet  Leonard Cohen, she believes that “there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

You May Like

Ferguson Grand Jury Expected to Reconvene

It remains unclear whether jurors will reach a decision by midweek Thanksgiving holiday on whether to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."