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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."