Palestinian and Israeli musicians come to Hackney for pioneering musical project

A group of Arab music students from Palestine and Israel play at Chats Palace during a music exchang

A group of Arab music students from Palestine and Israel play at Chats Palace during a music exchange programme from Barbican and Guildhall Music School. - Credit: Archant

Musicians from the Middle East and Europe united for a cutting edge music project earlier this month.

The performers from Israel and Palestine collaborated with peers from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Silk Street, Barbican on fusing traditional Arab music with music rooted in Europe at Chats Palace, Brooksby’s Way, Homerton.

The unique and pioneering Guildhall School creative learning project teaches musicians of Arab music how to improvise – something that is not traditionally done as music pieces are passed down orally from generation to generation without changes.

Six music students from Beit AlMusica Conservatoire in Shefa’amr in Israel and five students from The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah in the West Bank came to London for the project.

They were joined by two vocalist and an electronic musician from Portugal, an oboe player from Holland and a pianist from Macedonia. All of the musicians were aged 20 to 40.

Jose Martins, project manager for Guildhall School of Music and Drama creative learning department, said: “They created original pieces of music which would be in a non-traditional format. Their music is steeped in tradition. It’s verbally is passed down generation from generation. Teaching is done verbally. Music is not written down.

“When our students collaborate with their students, it’s a very different approach. They improvise and create music together.

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“It’s a new concept to them. It’s a new way of teaching.

“Music teachers in Palestine are normally isolated and there’s no opportunity to learn from other approaches and cultures.

“There’s not many women teaching music in Palestine or globally so many of the students coming are women.”

Amer Alkhleh, director of Beit AlMusica Conservatoire, said: “I’m delighted to be involved in this project. It’s a great opportunity to meet new musicians from all over the world, to share ideas and to be open to new music collaboration.

“It’s wonderful to work on ideas with leading students from Guildhall and turn these into interesting fusions and new alternative music.

“We believe music is an international language.”

The musicians also collaborated with local musicians one night and performed a free concert for members of the public on their last night.