The conflict in Gaza has turned up the volume on protest music. Here are 13 songs new and old.

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MC Abdul is a 15 year-old rapper who was born in Gaza, Palestine.


Protest music goes back decades in the Middle East. The current war in Gaza has turned up the volume

Earlier this week a friend emailed me a link to an Al Jazeera TV interview with Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters* who’s been advocating for Palestinian justice for almost two decades.

“Maybe you could do a blog on activism in music….genocide is more relevant to our times … it’s on everyone’s mind,” they wrote.

But a subsequent email added: “Songs and everything else seems so unimportant in the face of this horror that the western media continues to downplay.

“The people there are dying of starvation and are eating grass and animal feed to survive because no aid is allowed in…all while sadistic Netanyahu, Biden and the rest are watching them suffer and die in the cruelest way possible.”

It’s only right to be overwhelmed, to feel depleted and outraged by the exhaustive and indiscriminate scope of this war. The brutality in Gaza is vile and deeply disturbing as are other conflicts – the Ukraine and Sudan to name two. Small wonder that we turn away from the barely veiled bias in the news and its reports of bombing and deaths – 30 thousand people to date; 10 thousand of them children.

Musicians respond

Evenso, the human spirit urges – even demands – that we act. Artists and musicians have been stepping up. Those in North America, Europe and elsewhere have launched petitions and writing campaigns. Some of them are singing in protest. However, musicians living with ongoing Middle East crises have been addressing this situation for decades and are doing so again.

For the innocent civilians caught in the devastating crossfire of the current crisis in Gaza, it’s a matter of life and death. Putting these sentiments into song is an expression of the deepest sorrow, sadness and fear. And also a statement of resistance and resilience. It asks the rest of us to understand and express solidarity. Today’s brief playlist offers a sampler of musical defiance and hope.

Among the newer voices you’ll hear is MC Abdul (aka Abdel-Rahman Al-Shantii). The 15 year-old rapper was born in Gaza, Palestine and starting recording at age 11. Palestinian-American Samer Doumit is a 43 year-old musician based in Houston where he is studying cancer immunology. And 23 year-old Marwan Abdelhamid, known as Saint Levant, is a Jerusalem-born US-based rapper. These newcomers share company with veteran artists like Fairouz, Ahmad Kaabour and Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens).

*The reference to Waters is a springboard into today’s theme only. His musical contribution to the topic is a tepid adaptation of We Shall Overcome which has been left out. The interview may be of interest.

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Kris Sig Plastic V3

24 February 2024


Most of the protest music I found online is sung in Arabic. This playlist leans toward English songs with a few Arabic pieces and several that use both languages. If you’re interested in doing a deeper dive do a search on your preferred streaming service and input “Palestinian war songs”.


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World Goes Blind by Samer / Born in Lebanon, 43 year-old Samer Doumit is a Palestinian-American who makes music and is currently based in Houston, Texas studying cancer immunology.

Can I Live by MC Abdul / 15 year-old Abdel-Rahman Al-Shantii was born in Gaza. He says, “The power that I have in my pen when I’m writing, I am unstoppable. The microphone is the only escape possible”.

Freedom for Palestine by OneWorld / The song was released in July, 2011 by OneWorld, a collective of musicians, artists, campaign groups and charities working together to “raise awareness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine”. Proceeds from the song go to the charity War on Want for projects in Palestine.

Ha’oud (I Will Return) by Yo-Yo Ma, Mashrou’Leila, NARCY / This one was the lead single for Yo-Yo Ma’s 2021 album Notes For the Future. It features Montreal rapper and Iraqi-Canadian NARCY. He describes hearing his flow alongside one of the world’s greatest cellists as a career highlight.

The Little Ones by Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) / In November Islam/Stevens urged more celebrities to use their public profile in calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war. He posted an unreleased version of this 1997 song written in the wake of the 1995 Bosnian genocide that killed thousands of children.

Ounadikom by Ahmad Kaabour / Composed in 1975 with the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, Ounadikom (I Call Out To You) is Kaabour’s best known song. It’s based on a poem written by politician and “protest poet” Tawfiq Ziad. Kaabour’s Wikipedia entry says: “His music portrays his belief in the power of music in shedding light on humanitarian causes, and its ability to make a difference.”

Yamma Mwel il Hawa by Julia Boutros / In December the singer released a new version of this old Palestinian song (translating to Oh Mother, What’s With the Wind?). Boutros is known for her songs on Arab unity and says the track “identifies with the suffering and tragedy in Gaza.”

Sanarjiou by Fairouz / The Lebanese singer is the Arab world’s preeminent star. Now 89, her storied and lengthy career began in the late 40s and early 50s during the early years of Lebanon’s independence. Her innovative music spoke to this time of change. Palestinians adopted Sanarjiou, or We Will Return, as their own anthem.

Shouting At The Wall by MC Abdul / “Huddling in the corner of my room, trying to protect my little brother / As the building shakes like it’s possessed, but there is nothing stronger than the will of the oppressed.” This was his first official release at age 12 in 2020.

Long Live Palestine 3 by Frankie Boyle, Maverick Sabre, Ken Loach, Khaled Siddiq, Mai Khalil / This song is the latest in a series of Long Live Palestine songs by British-Iraqi rapper Lowkey. HotPress magazine notes that the video was filmed at a recent protest for Palestinian freedom.
“The video begins with Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle reading Think of Others, a poem by Palestinian poet and activist Mahmoud Darwish. The song ends with an audio clip from British film director Ken Loach.

From Gaza, With Love by Saint Levant / The singer’s stage name is French for “holy rising”. Twenty three year-old Marwan Abdelhamid released this song a year ago.
He told Paper magazine, “From Gaza, With Love is an ode to the place where I spent the first seven years of my life, a beautiful city by the sea filled with love, memories and unfortunately great pain, suffering and oppression.
“We are much more than the dehumanizing images you see in Western media. This song is a message to the world, and I sign it with love.”

We Will Not Go Down (Song for Gaza) by Michael Heart / Los Angeles-based Heart was born to Syrian parents and lived in the Middle East and elsewhere before landing in the US. He wrote this song during a three-week conflict between Gaza and Israel at the start of 2009.

Freedom For Palestine by OneWorld (Vocals only) / This song has a number of different variations with the full radio version sitting higher up on this playlist.

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