“Words are missing to convey our outrage, our sadness, and our feeling of helplessness,” say organizers. Instead, Bethlehem in occupied Palestine joins Beirut for a live broadcast electronic music performance “Christmas in mourning.” Separately, artists band together in international compilations, outpourings of feeling in sound.
Bethlehem church leaders and Bethlehem municipality have prominently removed church decorations and installed a “nativity under the rubble.” The images are jarring and blunt; William Booth describes the scene for The Washington Post this week, with urgent messages from local officials and religious leaders. There’s also a good report and overview by Tania Krämer in Bethlehem for Deutsche Welle. See also some very personal stories on Al Jazeera English. Church leaders have also joined a larger letter that both condemns the October 7 attacks and calls for immediate ceasefire and de-escalation by all sides. For a pointed sermon, you can listen to what Rev. Dr. Munter Isaac said at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church Bethlehem earlier today. Here’s the full recording:
But for a space to feel grief in music and not only in words or on screens, there is a “Christmas in Mourning” sound piece for Sunday the 24th of December at 8pm Bethlehem time. (That’s 1pm New York time and 7pm Berlin time.)
Updated: Radio alHara tells us they will rebroadcast the performance on Wednesday December 27, 18:30 Bethlehem time. (17:30 CET / 11:30 Eastern US)
The Wonder Cabinet, a new home to the radio alHara project in Bethlehem, is producing and broadcasting this collaboration with various partner radio platforms. Electronic musicians Sary Moussa and Abed Kobeissy are contributing from Beirut. In Bethlehem, Laurence Sammour, leader of the choir of the at the Greek Orthodox tenor of the Church of the Nativity, will perform from Wonder Cabinet. It’s an essential remote performance, as border restrictions mean gathering all these artists together at a single site in either country is impossible. Beirut is awash in floodwaters as I write this, too, as if this city needed another crisis. But the Beirut scene seems undeterred in finding musical expression, driven by necessity.
There will be many ways to listen to radio simulcasts of this program. London’s NTS and Bristol’s NOODS will join. So will Radio Taiwan International, Milano-based Raheem, Mexican Radio Nopal, Ramallah’s Atheer, Movement Athens, Root Radio in Istanbul, Berlin’s Cashmere Radio and Refuge Worldwide, and more.
Easy ways to tune in:
Updated: background on the performance and next performance time:
Here’s the statement by the organizers:
This Christmas in Palestine, our people are facing a new cycle of unspeakable violence and savagery. Words are missing to convey our outrage, our sadness, and our feeling of helplessness.
On the 24th of December at 8pm (Palestine time) and through the waves of radio alHara and many other radios, the Wonder Cabinet in Bethlehem will broadcast an original production of sonic mourning with electronic musicians Sary Moussa (Beirut), Abed Kobeissy (Beirut), and the Greek Orthodox tenor of the Church of the Nativity, Laurence Sammour (Bethlehem).
This remote collaboration is a mourning sound piece using religious recitals in an electronic composition. It is an attempt at producing a physical materialization of remote solidarity.
More music to listen to from the Lebanese artists:
Solidarity in music
Friends have sent two more solidarity compilations. The Armenia-based project Radio Fantasia succinctly describes why to make sounds: “Let’s not allow the darkness to consume us. Let’s continue to raise our voices, support each other, and take action.“
I see too many friends in there to name, and I know how heartfelt these expressions are, that they’re gestures of hope and care in the face of violence.
Full project details:
Don’t stop talking about Palestine.
As we near the end of 2023, we feel exhaustion from wars, exiles, ecological catastrophes, censorships, unstable economic situations we find ourselves and our dissolving bodies. In all that the only thing that keeps us hopers is seeing you guys act, listening to all the strong supportive voices, talking about things that can be dangerous to speak up about, as we see numerous examples of censorship for standing up for your beliefs.
This compilation brings together 19 musicians to continue the conversation about Palestine, calling for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation, and donating their tracks to support the people in Gaza.
All donations raised from this compilation will be sent to Medical Aids for Palestine (MAP), an organization prioritizing the health of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. They provide immediate medical aid to those in need and work to develop local capacity and skills for the long-term development of the Palestinian healthcare system.
Let’s not allow the darkness to consume us. Let’s continue to raise our voices, support each other, and take action.
We want to thank all the artists and design team for such a work and spreading their sonic acts, words and thoughts.
released December 21, 2023
Artwork by Alena Koleso
All tracks mastered by Wehrk
Curated by Radio Fantasia team: Misha Kurilov and Marianna Kruchinski
International blog Women of Noise, “created to promote and showcase women and femme-aligned people in experimental and alternative music,” has also produced a wide-ranging compilation. It comes with no statement – maybe a relief, as we’ve read plenty at this point – but simply the message “All proceeds for this charity compilation will be donated to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.”
You’ll hear a lot of calls from multiple sides of “why is group [x] silent about [y]” – here are two cases of collectives from a wide variety of backgrounds, who have been active on other issues, making a strong statement of solidarity that says these human values can and must be universal.
On the subject of being truly universal – not simply bothsidesism (even if that’s in the title), a good reference article from feminish Palestinian writer Samah Salaime for 972 Magazine: “Women’s liberation mustn’t stop at either side of the Gaza fence“.
For more context on the urgency of ceasefire, here is the WHO’s current statement on Gaza and health. I know that for our friends in the music scene with connections to Gaza this is pain that is hard to even describe in words, as it’s been a day-to-day agony. And then it has resonance for all of us, watching this and feeling helpless. All aid organizations’ message has been clear: only a permanent ceasefire can alleviate this suffering, and every day counts. (Again, 972 Magazine does great English-language reporting – here on the scale of the health crisis in Gaza brought about by Israeli bombardent and siege.)
As each day goes by – from October 7, from many days and years before that – we lose the artists, poets, musicians, the people who sing for peace. Just one window into that, by no means complete, but some of the recent names on our minds:
On a personal note, I want to send thoughts to Beirut and Bethlehem. I’ll be listening to the broadcast, and I hope to stand with you in person soon.