Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Video Showing Our Work

We are proud to present the new video about Music Bus Goes Palestine made by Tamador Abu Laban:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Beautiful Message for Pretty from Halimah

Halimah, one of the MwB trainees, is deaf. She has recorded the message above in sign language for Pretty. Pretty is one of the youth leaders from Rwanda Youth Music, the MwB program in Rwanda. She has fallen ill and trainees from other MwB projects around the world have written letters to Pretty, wishing her fast recovery and sending her love.

The following text is an interpretation by Magedah and Fabienne:

"Hello. This message is for Pretty.
My name is Halimah. I am from Palestine.
I take the music training.
When I started, I wasn't happy and I was afraid, because I thought I can not do music.
But when I continued the music training I succeeded and I became happy.
The music training gave me more trust and I thank everyone that works in this music project.
I pray always for you Pretty that you will get better.
Don't be sad or worried.
I want to see a picture of you.
And I want to meet you, insha'allah, when you will be healthy again.
Bye, Kisses!"

Thank you Halimah for your beautiful message, and thank you Magedah for translating all the workshops into sign language! 

More messages from Palestine:
 letters from music workshop leader Amanda and rappers Nadim and Anan

Pretty reading the letter from Anan

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Music Workshop Leader Training PART 1

During the last two weeks many activities took place: we held another Music Workshop Leader Training in Bethlehem for 30 trainees, two samba percussion workshops in al-Ma'sara and Hebron, a workshop for 30 kindergarten teachers in Ghirass Cultural Center, and 11 music workshops in al-Azzeh refugee camp, Aida refugee camp, a psychiatric hospital and a center for children with cancer and other severe illnesses. Indeed, too many activities for one blog post! Today I share some pictures from the Music Workshop Leader Training with MwB trainer Christiaan Saris and Fabienne van Eck, pictures from the other events will follow later.

Chris, thank you for your great commitment! We are all very inspired by your beautiful work.

Imagination exercise: walking like a very old man...

Who is giving a secret sign to stop or start clapping?

Warm-up with Chris: taking a shower

Percussion with sticks

Car Dance

8-4-2-1-1-1-1 Dance
Thank you Sineen and Ahmad for making the pictures and thank you HLT for the beautiful training space.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Samba Trainer Wanted!

Looking for a change? Looking for a challenge?
Do you drum to a Palestinian beat?
Are you ready for a life-changing opportunity?

A samba trainer
We are looking for a professional percussionist with samba experience to coach beginner samba groups in Palestine. The position is voluntary with expenses (flight, accommodation, food, local transportation) covered for two months, starting in January 2013.

to teach talented young Palestinians…
You will work with young people who have drive and ambition but no opportunities. Many young people in the samba groups have suffered emotional trauma, and almost all are deeply affected by the on-going occupation.

as part of a community music project in Palestine
Music Bus Goes Middle East is a project of Musicians without Borders and Holy Land Trust. It uses community music to address problems in the conflict-ridden society in Palestine. Our music and nonviolence training projects and activities for children are enormously successful throughout the West Bank. In 2012 we expanded the project with rap and samba activities for youth. We are now looking for a samba trainer to guide the groups in improving their musical skills.

and make a difference!
Do not underestimate the challenge. You need to be able to maintain control of a roomful of young men and women (age 16-24). Palestine can be a challenging place to live and work because of the ongoing occupation, poverty and cultural issues. You will need to be able to inspire the youths as well as coach them, and display a high degree of cultural sensitivity.

How To Apply?
Please send us your CV and a letter explaining your motivation before December 1 2012. Short-listed candidates will be contacted and invited for a Skype interview with the local project manager.

More Information
For more information or to apply please email

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rapping it up for a better future for Palestinian youth

For the first time: support our rap project by downloading a song written, produced and recorded by the young rappers and the teenagers who participated in their workshops.

It is somewhat incongruous in a country where a conservative dress code rules and women's voices are often ignored, to walk into a room where a group of young girls are learning to rap. Yet this is the case. Today I am at an after school group where teenagers come to learn rap in workshops run by young Palestinian rappers. As I arrive to photograph the session I am confronted with a tableful of Palestinian pre-hipsters all working on their beats. These are kids with serious attitude! All of the five girls and two boys meet my eye assertively, and welcome me with broad smiles.

These seven are one of four top teams chosen from a set of workshops bringing together groups of 20 or more to learn about rhythm, beats and creating lyrics. Apparently when they began the workshops very few of the kids had come across rap music but they were soon converts. As Nadim, one of the project volunteers tells me; rap holds a greater affinity with the youths than music they have come across before. Where most of the music they were listening to focuses on patriotism and love – themes which the kids have little experience of – rap is often about individual feeling and expression.

The project brief is for the teens and tweens to create music about what it feels like to be a Palestinian child. Many (who are from Dheisheh Refugee Camp) write about their experience of being a refugee. Most write about the wall. The phrases “I wanna be” and “I wanna do” form a regular relief throughout the lyrics. And that is one of the things that makes rap appeal so much to these youngsters. As a form of self-expression favoured by disenfranchised groups the world over, it is natural that Palestinian youths should gravitate towards rap music as a voice for their feeling.

I wander round taking pictures as the young people work on their raps, there is a general air of concentration and much pencil chewing. The beat they have been asked to put their lyrics to plays in the background. In front of them are sheets of paper with beautifully calligraphed Arabic script forming refrains. The volunteers go from group to group helping out with lyrics though they are keen not to direct the rap itself. Occasionally one of the little huddles breaks out into song as they test out their newly formed artistry.

After about an hour, raps are finished and rappers are starting to get bored of being snapped so it is time to show the group what they have come up with. From the performances it is evident that the rappers are very confident young men and women. Nadim tells me afterwards that this has not always been the case; he has seen the confidence of his protégés grow exponentially throughout the project. He notes with some sense of regret that their confidence has maybe grown a little too much now.

Early evaluations of the rap workshops have shown the same terrific changes in the teens that we have seen in the younger children who have been effected by the Sounds of Palestine workshops. The rappers all report an increased feeling of self-esteem, better teamwork, healthier interaction between boys and girls, improved reading and writing skills, increased musical skills, and increased ability to express their feelings and thoughts positively.

The rappers are very keen to become self-sufficient and continue to run workshops. Last year Music Bus Goes Middle East was lucky enough to receive enough backing and the invaluable voluntary assistance of Joel Tarman to create and build a studio in Dheisheh refugee camp for the rappers to use. One fundraising strategy could be to rent out the studio to other Palestinian groups for a small fee. Another is to start selling the music they produce. They are particularly keen on this route because it gives Palestinian youths a voice which can be heard the world over. You can support the rappers by following the project on this page. All proceeds from song sales go to the rap workshops via Musicians without Borders.

As I leave I come across two of the students with extremely guilty looks on their faces. A fine column of smoke emanates from their back as they giggle, thinking they are undiscovered, with all the arrogance of youth. It seems teenagers the world over are the same.

Text and photographs by the volunteer Heather. Thank you Heather and thank you all the Palestinian rappers that coach the kids!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Partying in Palestine!

We are thankful for having the volunteer Heather Garlick with us for three weeks, helping with the urgently needed fund raising and documenting. Thank you Heather!

The children of the Bugs of the Future kindergarten are having a party! It is the last day before they finish school for the Eid celebrations and the Sounds of Palestine (SoP) team have been asked along to get festivities underway. The event coincides with my first day helping out the MwB and SoP projects – right in at the deep end…

We arrive at the school in Aida camp, Bethlehem to be confronted with the sense of organised chaos which typifies large groups of small children the world over. The kids are proudly and perfectly turned out in a rather stylish pastel pink and brown colour combination. The girls have a range of pink accessories, from stripey tights to flowery hairbands, complimenting their uniforms. As we stand talking to the kindergarten teachers I glance up to see a sea of brown and green eyes gazing at me with anticipation from the nearest classroom. It seems everyone looks forward to a visit from Sounds of Palestine!

We are in the school for a little over an hour and a half and teach three very excitable classes. The kids are remarkably well behaved and completely enthralled by the guitar and the singing. We sing songs in Arabic, many of which have associated activity and movement. Since my knowledge of Arabic is limited to a badly pronounced hello I am at a loss to know what is going on. However, it is not difficult to see that lots of funny faces and arm waving is required which is extremely entertaining for all involved.

But the music classes at Bugs of the Future are not just for fun. For her visits twice a week Fabienne, one of the music teachers, creates detailed lesson plans, designed to help the children grasp concepts such as short and long as well as to aide interaction. More than that, the music helps to relieve stress in a classroom where many of the children have gone through emotional trauma a grown adult could not handle. Indeed, pink uniform aside, this is not a picture which should be seen through rose tinted lenses. Many of the children in this classroom have seen parents or family members injured or imprisoned. Inevitably, these issues are brought to the playground. In our first session one little girl enters the classroom in tears, not the wails of a disgruntled toddler but the whimpers of a person suffering intense emotional distress. In amongst the cheeky and mischievous kids there are children who are quiet and withdrawn, too scared to take part in the lesson.

Music helps in these situations and the Sounds of Palestine project has seen impressive results. On the way home Fabienne tells me of one child who stopped bedwetting during the nights after the music lessons. A girl had never spoken a word in kindergarten and surprised the teachers when she suddenly said the first line of the welcome song Fabienne sings every week with the children. To assist this process we are also joined by Magedah, a social worker, who was trained within the MwB/HLT Workshop Leadership Training. She is able to watch the children closely to note erratic behaviour and even take individual children out of the class for special support. However, as with many things in Palestine, the Sounds of Palestine project is over-subscribed and under-funded. There is simply no money in Palestine. The Musicians without Borders project is able to train groups of Palestinians to run community groups just like these but there is not enough funding for the community groups themselves which would extend the reach of the healing quality of the music.

But today was primarily about fun, and fun was most certainly had. What did I learn on my first day with Musicians without Borders? These may be children facing huge problems both in the present and in the future but they’re also just children, bright eyed, bushy tailed, naughty, funny, silly children. They deserve all the opportunities that life can provide, opportunities Sounds of Palestine, Musicians without Borders and Holy Land Trust are striving to deliver.

All pictures are taken by Heather Garlick.
Sounds of Palestine could not have taken place without the support of Katherina Werk, Romisch-Katholische Landeskirche des Kantons Luzern and Romisch-Katholische Kirche des Kantons Basel-Stadt.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Music Intervention

During a hot summer day in July, we had the honor of having a special guest: Shoshana Gottesman, "a musician activist who devotes her time to the development of music intervention techniques with conflict transformation, youth empowerment, and music education."

She wrote the following article on her blog, Music Intervention, about her visit to Musicians without Borders' project, the Music Bus:

Thank you Shoshana!

Monday, August 13, 2012

How To Build A Studio (and a better world)

Almost three months ago Joel went back to San Francisco. He had volunteered for four months with Holy Land Trust and we couldn't have wished for a better person to help us building a recording studio. Joel helped the young rappers to create, design, and build the studio. He trained them in recording, mixing, and making beats. Joel expressed his wish many times: volunteering in a project that will continue to grow after he leaves Bethlehem.

Dear Joel, I think your wish came true! Since you left, children and youth from al-Fawwar refugee camp, SOS Children's Village Bethlehem, Dheisheh refugee camp, Beit Ummar, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Silwan have been recording their songs in the studio. Musicians with different musical backgrounds met in the studio and explored new ways of making music together, and children with cancer recorded their wishes.

Thank you so much Joel for all your help and support, we all hope to see you very soon!

Meet the rappers and see how the studio was created in the video made by Joel:

How To Build A Studio (and a better world) from Stories From The Checkpoint on Vimeo.

The studio was created with the generous support of the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Small and Big Wishes

Today six children with cancer from Bethlehem and Hebron recorded a CD together. They sang a song about wishes, and recited many wishes written by children from all over Palestine that suffer from cancer. This day could only succeed because of the wonderful cooperation between all involved: Basma Society arranged the children, Holy Land Trust and Musicians without Borders trained the soundman, their trainees wrote the song, and they arranged volunteers together with Basma Society, Ra'afat from Jerusalem played the instruments, and the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah has supported the establishment of the studio Palestine Street. A special thanks goes to Fadi "doctor clown" and Muhanned who coached the children and Hisham who recorded the song. 

But this day could never have taken place without these amazing children, who all came to the studio even while the trip was long for some of them, the weather very hot, and the recording challenging during Ramadan (most of the children are fasting, so no drinking or eating). One of the children, eight years old, had chemotherapy only two days ago, and it was obvious that she wasn't feeling well. But she wanted to continue and sang and recited the wishes with a lot of passion. The parents that came were of great support for the children: they sang together with their children and applauded every child that finished recording his or her voice.

When the CD is finished, we will give it to the children in the hospital and anyone else that is interested in hearing the wishes of these children!


Free translation of the text of the song from Arabic to English:

a small wish, a big wish
what do you wish children
the most beautiful wishes

in Basma Society, the children are playing
and today our wishes will come true
the most beautiful Basma Society
our most beautiful wishes