Ever since I was a young girl, I loved children and cherished them. I saw in them everything that life is about, their innocent wonderment at everything that comes their way, their curiosity to learn and probe, and their yearning to be liberated from childhood and to be acknowledged and embraced by the wide mysterious world surrounding them. I always felt that caring for children and being responsible for their education is a sacred mission which must be taken seriously.
Writing these songs was a humble attempt on my part to try and make the harsh environment of Palestinian children gentler by making music a part of their life. Music is a source of joy to children which also allows them to express themselves with abandonment. Its value as a means of selfexpression and enjoyment is enhanced by its effectiveness as an educational tool. Music, and especially songs, can be utilized to promote values and social attitudes and to advance skills and knowledge in several fields. I hoped to achieve this by writing songs which may also contribute to educating our children to cope with the hardships of the Israeli occupation. I tried to do that by drawing their attention to the beautiful things in their environment and their lives, a fruit, a flower, an olive tree, the moon, the sun and the stars. Above all, I felt it very important to keep hope and joy alive in their tender hearts.
I wrote the lyrics and music to all the songs, except for the lyrics of “O My Country”, which were written by the late Sameeha Khalil, a colleague and a friend who was founder and president of the Society In’ash El Usra, where I taught these songs to the children of its pre-school. “The Song of the Bird”, written in 1979 on the occasion of the International Year Of The Child, was the first in a series of four songs, “This is My Forefathers’ Land”, “I am a Palestinian Child” and “Al Quds”. It highlighted the hardships our children were being subjected to during the first few years of the occupation, ending typically with a positive note. This song became popular and well known in several circles in Palestine and abroad, as it was beautifully sung by soprano Tania Tamari Nasir on several occasions. Its success encouraged me to embark on writing my own lyrics for adult songs, which would become a testimony to the suffering and hopes of my people.
Just before the Intifada in 1986, I wrote “A Child’s Wisdom” a song inadvertently predicting future events in which children played a major role. The “Song of Freedom” which came at the peak of the Intifada, reflects the grave situation at the time. This was followed by “The Olive Tree” and “The Garden” in which I try to divert children from the suffering of that period and to offer them respite from the traumatic experiences of their daily lives. I finally pray that the miraculous healing power of music and song will bring solace to all children whose lives are tainted by unspeakable suffering, so that they may rise above their pains and sorrows and be able to embrace the warmth of hope and appreciate the joy of being part of this beautiful world.
(Rima Nasir Tarazi, Composer, co-founder of The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music)
Listen to “Al Zaitune”: