Music in Nablus

🙂 Arab-Short > Daniel Barenboim, Tania Nasir and The ESNCM (also in Gaza…) >
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NABLUS FACTS

Please check
🙂 Nablus the Culture >
Sami Hammad: Founder and manager of the Nablus the Culture Music School

🙂 Nablus The Culture > Links
13. Zafer Masri Foundatin (NOT-working…)

Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA)
🙂 PASSIA: Home > Palestine Facts > Personalities > M: Al-Masri, Zafer (1940-1986)
Zafer Masri was born in Nablus in 1941, where he lived and completed his secondary education. He went on to complete a degree in Business Administration at the American University in Beirut in 1964 and returned to Nablus to manage the businesses and affairs of the family in the West Bank. In 1972 he married Raghda Nabulsi, a daughter of a prominent Palestinian family.
Zafer was elected head of the Chamber of Commerce in 1972, the youngest member ever to hold this post in the history of the city. In the 1976 municipal elections he was elected Deputy Mayor of Nablus. He held both posts until 1982, when the Israeli government dissolved the municipal board placing the city under martial law, leaving the city without local leadership for three and a half years.
In 1985, the PLO took steps to reestablish local control over the affairs of the cities of the West Bank including Nablus. In a solution based on the Jordanian laws governing municipality affairs and proposed by a senior PLO official, Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad), the Chamber of Commerce took over management of the municipality until new elections could be held. As a result, Zafer Masri, as leader of the Chamber, became the de-facto Mayor of Nablus.
This direction was opposed by a Syrian based hard-line PFLP faction who signaled their rejection with the assassination of Zafer Masri on 2 March 1986 shortly before the start of the Palestinian intifada.
His Funeral was attended by more than 200 thousand people and was a mark in the history of the city of Nablus. He will always be a patriotic martyr.
In addition to his civic activities, Zafer al Masri was known for his generosity and was referred to as “Father of the Poor.” His philanthropic activities are continued today through the Zafer Masri Foundation serving the citizens of Nablus and Palestine.
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EXCERPTS from ARTICLES

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) at Zafer Masri Foundation & An Najah University Aug ?, 2010
(…) TYO is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East, enabling children, youth and parents to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible family and community members. The first TYO Flagship Center is located in Nablus (…) The Institute in partnership with the National Center for Culture and Arts and Friendship Ambassadors Foundation will serve 100 students in 2010, including Jordanian children (…) Performing arts workshops (African drumming: The Djembe; singing: Italian Bel Canto style; dance and expressive movement;) (…)

Arab Music Festival at Zafer al-Masri Cultural Center, produced by ESNCM Nov 17, 2009 / By Haaretz, Noam Ben Ze’ev
The audience that filled the Al-Masri Auditorium was elegant and festive. In a city where the average monthly wage is about NIS 1,000, only those in the upper middle class could afford the NIS 20 ticket price. (…) And thus, in a city with no open movie theater (one is in ruins, the other is closed), there was music from films, reminding older audience members of forgotten pleasures and giving the children – some of them undoubtedly for the first time – an opportunity to hear live music, to see a double bass and a flute being played onstage and to meet an respected international musician like Shaheen, who has opened a Palestinian cultural window to the world.

Teaching the piano to sing at Nablus the Culture Music School Jan 22, 2009 / By Haaretz, Noam Ben Ze’ev
Barenboim was hoping that our best students would go on to play in his East-West Diwan orchestra, but I objected,” continues Hammad, “so our joint project ended.” Rifkin asks why, since the orchestra is a symbol of the potential for Israeli-Arab cooperation. “Because it was only an illusion of harmony,” says Hammad, “and ignored the real problems – primarily our lack of freedom.” “But participation in the orchestra could have helped the children,” presses Rifkin. “True,” responds Hammad, “but everything has its price, and the price for this was more than we could pay: the political price. In any case what is important is not excellence for a few but the broadest possible education for anyone who hungers for music in this city that has no theater, no performances, no movies, nothing. I will find another partner.”

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Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) at Zafer Masri Foundation & An Najah University

http://www.worldchildrenschoir.org/iv4ci/brochure.pdf

PRIMARY CONTACT
Sondra Harnes, Founder, President, Artistic Director (English)
Carole Al-Kahouaji, Director of Communications and Development (Arabic and English)
World Children’s Choir
4022 Hummer Road, Suite 109
Annandale, VA 22101 USA
(703) 883-0920 • (703) 448-0973 (fax)
sondra.harnes@worldchildrenschoir.org
alkahouaji@worldchildrenschoir.org
http://www.worldchildrenschoir.org
USA Federal Tax-exempt Number: 54-1532063

PARTNER ORGANIZATION 1
Lina Attel, Founder Director General
The National Center for Culture and Arts
King Hussein Foundation
Arjan – Ibn Al-Haytham Street no. 70
PO Box 926687
Amman 11110 Jordan
lina.attel@pac.org.jo
96265690292/3 • 96265690291 (fax)
http://www.pac.org.jo

PARTNER ORGANIZATION 2
Nell Derick Debevoise, Executive Director
Tomorrow’s Youth Organization
1356 Beverly Road, Suite 200
McLean, VA 22101 USA
Zafer Masri Foundation Building, Nablus, Palestine
+1 (703) 897-8833 (Ph) / +1 (703) 893-1227 (Fax)
info@tomorrowsyouth.org
http://www.tomorrowsyouth.org
USA Federal Tax-exempt Number: 26-1409007

PARTNER ORGANIZATION 3
Patrick Sciarratta, Executive Director
Friendship Ambassadors Foundation
299 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT 06830 USA
(203) 542-0652 or 622-7420 • (203) 542-0661 (fax)
psglobal@faf.org
http://www.faf.org
USA Federal Tax-exempt Number: 20-0204258

AUGUST 2010: TRAINING FOR TEACHERS, PARENTS, AND STUDENT

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO)
Nablus, Palestine – August 2010.
Tomorrow’s Youth Organization has invited the World Children’s Choir Institute faculty to come to Nablus to help build the TYO music program. Clinicians will prepare and lead an intensive two-day training seminar for teachers working with children from Nablus’s refugee camps and other underserved areas, and lead five days of activities for children, youth and parents who participate in TYO’s programs.

Teacher Training Seminar
Institute faculty will prepare teachers and administrators to establish programs for children and youth to learn African drumming, movement, singing, and visioning collage. One of the clinicians specializes in presenting training for preschool/kindergarten/first grade teachers in performing arts enrichment for classroom curriculum including: mathematical concepts, reading, and language development.

Activities for children, youth and parents
African drumming, cultural sharing, singing, and movement rehearsals; cultural sharing and exchange; visioning collage, and Voices for Children community service workshops; final concert; display of collages and plans for service projects.

TYO is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East, enabling children, youth and parents to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible family and community members. The first TYO Flagship Center is located in Nablus, a large city in the northern West Bank, and operates in strategic partnership with the Zafer Masri Foundation and An Najah University. TYO, one of the few international organizations with a significant presence in Nablus, is committed to providing world-class programs and services for the city’s most underserved residents. In just 18 months of operation, TYO has directly served over 1,000 young children and their families.

National Center for Culture and Arts, King Hussein Foundation (NCCA)
Amman, Jordan – August 2010.

The Institute in partnership with the National Center for Culture and Arts and Friendship Ambassadors Foundation will serve 100 students in 2010, including Jordanian children and youth from a wide range of social-economic, cultural and special needs communities (children, youth living in SOS villages; with special needs: Jordan River Foundation’s Family and Child Center, Dar Al-Amman, and refugee camps). In 2011 and beyond, the program will be expanded to include students from Japan, Republic of Northern Ireland, South Africa, USA and other Arab countries.

Activities for children, youth and parents
Performing arts workshops (African drumming: The Djembe; singing: Italian Bel Canto style; dance and expressive movement; theater building and awareness through movement: multi-media; traditional theater: acting, improvisation, and mime); recitals and concerts; visioning collage and Voices for Children Community Project workshops; Cultural and Faith Sharing and Exchange Workshops: A Journey into West African Culture, Celtic “Sacred Hospitality,” Live Simply that Others May Simply Live, International Cultural Sharing and Exchange by Participants; final benefit concert for Dar Al-Amman.

The National Center for Culture and Arts, King Hussein Foundation was established in 1987 to develop an understanding and awareness of the value of the arts in the educational process, to promote social development issues, and to enhance theater and dance movements in Jordan and the region. It provides professional training for children and youth in theater and dance accredited by The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, the Jordanian Ministry of Education and the Royal Academy of Dance in Britain. NCCA holds annually the Arab Children Congress which was established by Her Majesty Queen Noor Al Hussein 1980.

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In Nabulus, where there is NO movie theater and the average monthly wage is about NIS 1,000, only those in the upper middle class could afford the NIS 20 ticket price

Arab Music Festival at Zafer al-Masri Cultural Center, produced by ESNCM Nov 17, 2009 / By Haaretz, Noam Ben Ze’ev

An oud to Nablus

NABLUS – Anyone can make this Saturday outing to Nablus. You take the Ayalon Highway north and five minutes after the Derech Hashalom exit you turn right, toward Ramat Hasharon and Ra’anana, and keep going straight.

Before you know it, you’re on the best road between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean – Route 505, well-lit and with the highest-quality asphalt, wide shoulders and clear signage. This road cuts east through the West Bank and reaches the Jordan Valley. The fences on either side, separating it from the lands of the Palestinian villages in the area, make it an exemplary apartheid road – for Jews only. And you can fly along at 140 kilometers per hour, from one Jewish settlement to the next.

The settlements are identified by signs along the road but cannot be seen from it. They are hidden behind hills. Only the fenced roads leading to them from the main road are visible, and they do not slow you down. After less than half an hour you turn north and within 10 minutes you’re in the center of Nablus, just 45 minutes from central Tel Aviv.

And the army checkpoints? On weekdays no one goes in or out of the encircled city, but on weekends the noose is slackened a bit and there is only one roadblock worthy of the name at the entrance to Nablus, and even that is informal: At the same spot where until a few months ago the intimidating Hawara checkpoint, an armed bunker, had blocked the entrance to the city, permitting passage on foot only, on the weekends now there are only two nervous soldiers, unaided even by barbed wire or road spikes. They signal the cars to stop. A short argument, a bit of flattery, fawning and some joking, and they give in and let us through.

At the end of the day, the final, impassable barrier that prevents Israelis from going to Nablus is psychological. It is reflected in a new sign, as tall as a two-story building, painted bright red with huge letters that warn: “Area A ahead, Entrance to Israelis prohibited, your lives are in danger: You have been warned! Entrance by Israelis into territories of the Palestinian Authority constitutes a criminal offense.” Threat and intimidation are the most effective separation walls.

At the Zafer al-Masri Cultural Center, nothing was perceptibly life-threatening. Mostly there was swelling excitement in anticipation of the concert, part of the Arab music festival that began on Friday and will continue throughout the month in West Bank towns, sponsored and produced by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music.

In this encircled city, the most isolated of Palestinian towns, there are very few performances, plays or concerts, and every such event is exciting – especially when it involves a great international name: instrumentalist-composer Simon Shaheen, with an expanded ensemble of 12 musicians playing classical Arab instruments (including oud; qanoun; nai, Arab flute; and traditional percussion instruments); Western instruments (violins, cello, double bass and flute); as well as two singers, one woman and one man.

The program for the concert was taken entirely from Egyptian movies of the 1930s and ’40s in which Farid al-Atrash, Umm Kulthum and Asmahan sang songs written by the greatest Arab composers of the early 20th century, among them Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Riyad al-Sunbati.

Their music is performed today, and treated by the audience like Western classical music: As complex, high-art music, meant only to be listened to. The audience involvement is greater than with a Brahms or Beethoven symphony, but there is no clapping along as with music that has a dance beat. Its secrets are revealed only through focused listening; they lie in the melodic relationships rather than in harmonies, as in Western music, but are equally rich. And like classical Western music this music too is an endangered species, with fewer and fewer listeners and students throughout the Arab world, eroded by pop. It too is based on a nonrenewing canon of “great composers” and “masterpieces” that is fading with time.

The audience that filled the Al-Masri Auditorium was elegant and festive. In a city where the average monthly wage is about NIS 1,000, only those in the upper middle class could afford the NIS 20 ticket price. There were children and teenagers, too, which worried the organizers at first but they settled down to listen as soon as the first notes were played. The friendly charm of Shaheen, who smiled and addressed them directly, asking if they enjoyed themselves.

From the Galilee to Nablus

Shaheen was born in 1955 in the Western Galilee village of Tarshiha, and embarked on his musical path early: He began playing oud at the age of five under the tutelage of his father, Hikmat Shaheen, a performer and teacher and a key figure in the world of Israeli-Arab music from the mid-20th century.

In 1978 Simon Shaheen earned a bachelor’s degree studies at Jerusalem’s Academy of Music. He studied Western music, like all the students, and the violin. In 1979 he moved to New York, where he studied performance at the Manhattan School of Music and completed studies in music education at Columbia University. He devotes a considerable part of his time to teaching, including giving master classes, some of them at leading American universities.

Shaheen’s multicultural studies are reflected in his musical world; alongside classical Arabic music he performs and composes East-West fusion. In this area he is best known for his 2001 album, “Blue Flame,” which mixes jazz and rock with classical and Latin music and was nominated for 11 Grammy Awards. The members of his ensemble, Qantara, which performed on the album, have varied musical backgrounds. Shaheen performs with Qantara at fixtures that include the Newport and Montreal jazz festivals.

Shaheen remained in New York, where he composes music for films, founded an annual Arab music festival and established an ensemble for classical Arabic music, The Near Eastern Music Ensemble. He has won many awards, including the National Heritage Award, presented to him at the White House in 1994.

It was only natural, then, that for Saturday’s concert he invited a singer with a similar sensibility. Dalal Abu Amna, 26, began singing as a child. Like Shaheen she focused on in classical Arab music while developing a multicultural and “postmodern Arab” style, as she puts it, avoiding Arab pop. She is also studying for her master’s degree in brain research at the Haifa Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and intends to combine being a scientist and performer.

And thus, in a city with no open movie theater (one is in ruins, the other is closed), there was music from films, reminding older audience members of forgotten pleasures and giving the children – some of them undoubtedly for the first time – an opportunity to hear live music, to see a double bass and a flute being played onstage and to meet an respected international musician like Shaheen, who has opened a Palestinian cultural window to the world.

The concert ended at 9 P.M. The audience was invited to a reception afterward, with refreshments – bottled water and a slice of knafeh, a sweet concoction of shredded phyllo dough, goat cheese and sugar syrup, the pride of Nablus – served on plastic plates. We get into the car and immediately pass a new pair of tired soldiers, who barely take an interest in our identity. By 10:30 we are back in the middle of Tel Aviv, after a swift, difficult-to-digest segue between two planets.

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WEDO was only an illusion of harmony

Teaching the piano to sing at Nablus the Culture Music School Jan 22, 2009 / By Haaretz, Noam Ben Ze’ev

NABLUS – An improvised road block. An armored jeep to the right. An armed soldier making circles in the air with his finger. These were the first sights that greeted the conductor, pianist and world-renowned musicologist Joshua Rifkin on his sortie to the West Bank last Shabbat. The soldier’s finger was pointing downward, and car after car that approached him turned around accordingly, heading back the way it had come. There was no entry to the small village on the outskirts of Nablus, through which all travelers must pass, on the only road leading from Jerusalem to the city’s main checkpoint.

There is no way past the soldier, and no talking to him either, but we have to reach Nablus. Rifkin has been planning this visit for three months, so I motion to the soldier from a distance, from inside the car, asking that I be allowed to come closer, to speak to him.

“Yalla, get lost. I’ve had enough of your nonsense,” he shouts at us, angrily gesturing at us in response.

What can we do? Others who have been turned and have gathered on the slope of the road in front of the road block in semi-despair, offer their advice. A taxi driver from the village offers to drive us around the village on a dirt road, for NIS 70. We go with him, zigzagging along a winding, hilly, bumpy road riddled with potholes, and suddenly the impromptu road block is behind us, and we are on the main road to the city.

We cross the main Hawara check point on foot, wending our way through the sea of yellow taxis waiting in vain for passengers.

“We have been nicknamed the yellow city, because of those cabs,” says Rifkin’s host, Sami Hammad, who meets us on the other side. Hammad is the founder and manager of the Nablus the Culture music school, our current destination.

Rifkin planned to play Bach concertos and ragtime tunes by Scott Joplin at his piano recital at Nablus the Culture. Hundreds of music lovers were supposed to be here, but due to the war in the Gaza Strip and the accompanying tragedies, the mood in the city kept people away.

“We cannot go on as usual, as if nothing is happening,” wrote Hammad to Rifkin. “In solidarity with Gaza, and so that your visit will not be interpreted as support for Israel, I ask you to reconsider your visit to this region.”

Rifkin’s decision not to cancel his trip, however, did not affect his friendship with Hammad. “If you decide to come to Nablus in spite of everything, I will be happy to meet with you, so that we can chat,” Hammad wrote the American conductor.

“Every time, I reconsider whether I should come to Israel,” says Rifkin as we go through the check point, “but this time, despite the war, I could not cancel, because that would not be fair to the orchestra that invited me and which has been so generous to me, and paradoxically, this is the only way I can visit the West Bank. I wrote to Sami that I would do what I could in order for my visit not to be interpreted as supporting the Israeli government and its actions.” (Rifkin conducted a concert of works by Mozart and Beethoven Tuesday night in Rehovot and looks forward to two concerts on Friday and Saturday at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.)

Nablus is more besieged than any other city in the West Bank and suffers terribly. “Before the Israeli occupation, we were the cultural and commercial capital of the West Bank. Now we are nothing,” says Hammad, “so a few friends and I decided to do something. This is part of our opposition: Israel’s goal is to destroy traditions and culture – essentially our identity. You can put a man in jail, but you cannot imprison his spirit, so we will nourish this spirit.”

International support has also passed over Nablus, which is an overwhelmingly Muslim city. “I call them the holy trinity – Ramallah-Jerusalem-Bethlehem,” jokes Hammad. “The guests who come to this region visit those [cities], and Nablus is left out in the cold. But how much history does Ramallah have? 100 years. We have 9,000!”

This picturesque city stretches out in the valley between Mt. Eival and Mt. Gerizim, its homes spread out on the valley floor and up the sides of the hills, all along busy streets and spacious city squares. Unemployment here is 70 percent, and poverty and despair abound. Hammad, an engineer and metal smith, is also jobless. The music school, which has been closed for two months due to lack of teachers, was his main comfort, but the dozens of piano, string and wind instrument students are no longer studying. Only the piano technician from Paris, whose job is funded out of Europe, teaches the city’s youngsters how to repair and tune instruments.

In order to make the most of this important musician’s visit, Hammad invites his best students to the meeting with Rifkin. Omar, 15, brings the sheet music for one of the virtuoso pieces in the school’s repertoire: “Prelude, Choral et Fugue” for piano, by Cesar Franck. Rifkin is astounded.

“Even I can’t play that,” says Rifkin, half-apologetically.

The two work together, and the lesson progresses.

“The piano is not an instrument that sings by itself,” says Rifkin. “You have to teach it, to pull the melodies and the themes out of it.”

Nablus the Culture is housed in a 19th-century building that once served as the headquarters of a Germany army position, until the end of World War I. Visitors can still see some German inscriptions on the walls, and a few mementos remain from that period, such as two porcelain plates bearing the crest of the Second Reich.

“Where are the teachers?” asks Rifkin, and Hammad tells him about the joint project with Daniel Barenboim, who supports a musical education program in West Bank towns. The program’s teachers came to Nablus but did not come regularly, and the children’s study could not progress.

“Barenboim was hoping that our best students would go on to play in his East-West Diwan orchestra, but I objected,” continues Hammad, “so our joint project ended.”

Rifkin asks why, since the orchestra is a symbol of the potential for Israeli-Arab cooperation. “Because it was only an illusion of harmony,” says Hammad, “and ignored the real problems – primarily our lack of freedom.”

“But participation in the orchestra could have helped the children,” presses Rifkin.

“True,” responds Hammad, “but everything has its price, and the price for this was more than we could pay: the political price. In any case what is important is not excellence for a few but the broadest possible education for anyone who hungers for music in this city that has no theater, no performances, no movies, nothing. I will find another partner.”

Darkness falls. We wander the narrow streets of the casbah, the Old City, the glory of Middle Eastern culture.

The merchants bellow end-of-the-day discounts and gather at the entrance of the mosque, which worshipers are exiting after evening prayers. Hammad points to the rubble that remains from Operation Defensive Shield, in 2002, and to the ruins of the bombed-out soap factory.

“Soap was invented in Nablus, and sent all over the world,” says Hammad. “Like I told you, the war is against our culture and tradition.”

On his way home, Rifkin is full of emotion. “How can we bring teachers? That gifted student, after all, needs instruction,” he says with the resolve and despair of Nablus stealing into his voice.

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