Collections: David McDonald - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Music, Folklore, and Nationalism among Palestinian Refugees in Amman, Jordan (2003-2005)

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Palestinian protest ensemble Al-Ashiqeen in concert, Amman, Jordan, 2004. Image © David A. McDonald.

Instrumental and vocal performance genres, indigenous dances, life cycle celebrations, and nationalist protest song are documented in this collection of video field research spanning from 2003-2005. This collection documents various modes of music and dance performance among Palestinian refugee communities in Amman, Jordan. The performances contained in this collection represent a cross section of participatory life-cycle performances, presentational art and folkloric musics, and contemporary political protest song.

In the domain of participatory indigenous music and dance this collection features several Palestinian wedding celebrations ('ars), processional dance pieces (zeffeh), and celebratory line dances (debke). These performative events are accompanied by both professional wedding musicians and dancers and event participants. Hired musicians perform on various Palestinian indigenous instruments, such as the double clarinet (yarghoul), end-blown flute (shababah), violin, short-necked lute (oud), highland bagpipe, and various percussion. The footage captures a significant repertory of indigenous Palestinian wedding song and dance (dal'ouna, 'ataba, zarif al toul, jaffra), the debke, the zeffeh, and other performative practices.

In the field of presentational music and dance this collection exhibits various professional dance troupes performing indigenous Palestinian line dances (debke), music, and poetry. These dance troupes transform rural folk practices of music and dance for the cosmopolitan stage. In the process, these groups have embedded the performance of traditional Palestinian folklore within a nationalist narrative of history, displacement, and dispossession. Scenes of Palestinian history and memory are reenacted on stage to strengthen nationalist sentiment in exile.

Finally, this collection documents the performance of contemporary protest song in the service of the Palestinian nationalist movement. These performances take place within political rallies and other nationalist contexts. Performers narrate the plight of the Palestinian people to achieve self-determination and the amelioration of cultural trauma and exile.

This collection has not yet been peer reviewed but it is available online in the EVIA Project Archive.

Image © David A. McDonald

David McDonald is an ethnomusicologist whose teaching and scholarly work intersects with the fields of cultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, folklore, and Middle Eastern studies. Although he has completed ethnographic fieldwork in Zimbabwe and Indonesia, since 2000 he has worked closely with Palestinian communities dispersed throughout Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Territories. Specifically, his work involves understanding the cultural dynamics of performance, politics, and identity among Palestinian refugee communities. As an ethnographer of performance and performativity, he is currently pursuing research on the poetics of violence, masculinity, and cultural trauma. In addition to a forthcoming book, My Voice is My Weapon: Music, Nationalism, and the Poetics of Palestinian Resistance (Forthcoming Duke University Press), David has published research on music and nationalism, trauma, and the body in Israel/Palestine. Lastly, he is a regular performer of a diverse field of musical instruments, including the Irish and Scottish bagpipes, saxophone, Zimbabwean mbira, and the Arab nai and oud.

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