This is the statement offered by Tamer H. N. Alshouri of Beit Sahour in the Occupied Territory of Palestine. Tamer was one of our Bridges of Hope musicians who performed at the 2011 Tree of Life Conference.
The aim of the occupier, generally, is to confiscate the land, the natural resources and to abolish the language and culture of the occupied people. Coming from one of the longest occupations in the history, I’ve seen that culture is the only means to keep people together and to resist the occupier with non-violent means. This is our form of resistance—choosing to hold onto our culture through art, food, history, literature and music.
Today we are gathered here, and we thank you for welcoming us to share our culture through our music.
Growing up, I witnessed the second intifada which had a very strong impact on my way of coping with and adapting to reality of this life. I was always turning on the news and seeing people being killed, tortured…stories of friends and family being killed or wrongfully imprisoned. And it was during this time that the music became the centre of my life—it became a source of joy in my life. I made the conscious decision to focus on the positive things that we had left. Why should I live in a negative way and feel sorry for myself and the Palestinians? I made the decision to focus on the good, on the positive, and that for me, was music and playing the OUD.
I began learning to play the oud when I was ten. Soon after, I began sharing it with friends, family. I felt a sense of fulfillment as I witnessed people partaking in the same joy I derived from my oud. I began traveling to villages, areas were people and children are generally very depressed. I used my oud playing as a way to get them to focus on music and to help them overcome their sadness and depression. Soon we started having large festivals in which many people were involved and would attend.
As time went on, I began playing in festivals outside my country where the presidents and leaders of those countries were sitting right in front of me. I traveled to such places as Chile and Italy. I found that my music was not only a way to resist the occupation and hold onto our culture, but to also keep our culture alive and share it with others. I found this was the only real means to resist the occupation.
Today, we have the oud which is the most traditional instrument in the Arab world. Here, it is important to mention that in the past Arab composers wrote their songs based exclusively on the music of the oud.
The oud, unlike most stringed instruments, does not have a fretted neck. This allows the player to be more expressive by using slides and vibrato.
The modern oud has eleven strings. Ten of these strings are paired together in courses of two. The eleventh, lowest string remains single. The most common string combination is five pairs of strings tuned in unison and a single bass string. The word “oud” means woods and specifically ¨thin woods.¨
According to our history, the oud was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. Legend tells us that the grieving Lamech hung the body of his dead son from a tree. The first oud was inspired by the shape of his son’s bleached skeleton.
Again Mari and Yara and Myself , we thank you for having us and we hope to see you in Palestine.