Cheb Abid is a Palestinian artist, 33, from the Negev. His friends nicknamed him “Il Cheb” (The Young”) because of his music’s North African flavor. He is a member of the Union for Palestinian Artists in Ramallah and comes from the town of Hourah in the Negev. He is the singer, the author, the entertainer, the composer and the performer in an artistic group who protests through art and rejects oppression, armed with the proper words and his guitar strings.
His choice to play “Ostet” during the “Old City, New Horizons” Festival for instance springs from the Palestinian reality, who live, according to him, in a state of oppression. The Western musical instrument is then recruited to protest: the Ostet instrument carries in its strings a tune of sadness and nostalgia.
In you opinion, how does the artist differ from the listener and how did you start your artistic path?
“Music, love, mix with the mental and musical psychology of every listener because any one has an ear to hear music. Any listener has a filter to music tunes, but the musician surpasses the listener only by having the voice and the artistic feeling. I started my road as any music lover. I discovered that I had the ability to produce music vocally. This was at primary school, where everybody considered me the school singer. My schoolmates’ reactions revealed to me this talent given to me by God. I polished my artistic talent, by feeding it through education, by framing it in the university, by participating in intellectual and political activities, which formed in my personality a protesting thought and culture through my continual reading and inspection.”
How does the artwork that you present interplay with the problem of the Palestinian people in particular and Arab people in general?
“What happened after the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948 is a continuation of the suffering. I feel everyday and every Palestinian feels on his land and I feel that I am an artist that has undergone and lives in a continuing Nakba. I try to express it in music and try to reflect my nostalgia and longing for my homeland, personifying the suffering of the Palestinian citizen confronting the Israeli apparatus. I am not an ambassador of the Untied Nations and not framed by any party, I represent a cause which I reflect in art. I recruit myself to educate and protest through music that rejects reality. Even through love songs, I seek a reaction between the lyrics and the music. I respect the listener and try to present to him something worthwhile. I dedicated my art to serve my national thoughts and the problem faced by Palestinian people inside and outside. I did not forget the Arab people. I sing for Iraq and its people suffering from occupation.”
How do you express the Palestinian refugee condition in your songs?
In spite of my living in the town of Hourah in the Negev, I define myself as the son of the abundant village of Al-Sharia, which I consider to still exist despite its people being forced out to Gaza and Jabalia in 1948. I present a message containing my longing and nostalgia for my homeland, Palestine. I feel the longing of the refugee who left their home and land hoping to return. I am hurt when I see the fear in my father’s eyes when he comes near his land that somebody will seize him and throw him away from.
How are women reflected in the art of Al Cheb Abid?
“The Palestinian woman and her suffering occupy a great space in my art. I believe in women’s causes but I do not sing of women’s bodies and we do not sing with women’s bodies. I sing for her as a soul and a human being who has the full right to live in dignity. I oppose exploiting her body in a video clip and consider it as trading in her body and routing out stereotyping against her. I fight against her living under the yolk of prejudices that hurt her being and existence. I sing for her in her various conditions to reflect and protest the state of injustice in which most women live.”
“I sang the song, “Leila calls” and that talks about an honour killing. The oriental girl is the one considered to be in the wrong in these cases and is killed in all of the cases, even if she was raped. I protested against the condition of women in war because she suffers a special suffering that she pays with her body. There are many documented cases where Palestinian women were raped by Israeli soldiers. I had a song “Behind the Iron Bars” which I dedicated to Palestinian women prisoners. It hurts me greatly, the condition of Palestinian women in the Israeli prisons, so I sang the song, “Don’t ask me about my address” which tells a true story published in Ha’aretz newspaper about the kidnapping of a baby girl by Israeli soldiers. She was raped by the soldiers for a whole night and was killed to hide the crime. The story was told by one soldier to a journalist from Ha’aretz newspaper. I sang this song to commemorate the memory of this child who died without an identity or a name.”
“In remembrance of the murder of Rachel Corrie, the English defender of human rights, who paid with her life defending a Palestinian home, I sang “Someone Follow Me.” I had a meeting with her family where I presented to them a filmed show of the song.”
The Founding of the Theater Zahrat Al-Lafa (The Lava Rose) For Veiled Women and Defending Women’s Rights
Cheb Abid is also working to found a feminist theater by the name Zahrat Al-Lafa. The name is taken from the flower that grows after a volcanic eruption and after the lava pools; the flower grows among the volcanic stone, but it dies quickly because another volcano will come and destroy it. The aim of the shows, according to him, is to present women issues. Cheb Abid is studying for his third degree, a doctorate on the equality between the genders and the integration of Islam with educational policies. The research subject focuses on implementing an educational trend that enforces equality policies between men and women and examines how women’s standing is reflected in religious and historic and several other subjects.
Cheb Abid performed shows all over the country over the course of his career. He is actively present in Jerusalem and Ramallah and also performed this year at SOAS University, London for a study day about the international Palestinian writer Edward Said.
Someone is Following Me
Sometimes I hear a voice calling me
And I don’t know where it comes from
Maybe it’s her voice that I have lost
The voice of my beloved who is gone
Maybe it’s the sound of the blowing wind
And I imagine that it is she
I can’t see your smile
I can’t hear your voice
From time to time I feel some things missing
And I don’t know what it is
Maybe it’s the love I have lost
Maybe it’s just a feeling I have
But I know one thing
I always feel that way
I can’t see your smile
I can’t hear your voice
Sometimes I feel someone’s watching me
And I don’t know who it is
Maybe it’s her soul floating in the air
The soul of my beloved that has passed away
Maybe it’s the shadow of our love
Following me all around….