"The poems and music here have been written over several years, three wars, two sieges, too many borders and many protests and picket lines. I hope they capture even a glimpse of the love and resilience of many friends and strangers who teach life with steadfast smile every day."
Rafeef Ziadah is a Palestinian performance poet and human rights activist based in London. Following on from her 2014 release Hadeel (which I wrote about here), the new album We Teach Life is a beautiful development both poetically and musically.
Working with Phil Monsour and a band of musicians including Mohamed Youssef on Oud, Rafeef's passion is not diffused but intensified. The restrained musical arrangement and Rafeef's soft voice work perfectly. Passport with its panned piano and guitar, the folkish Choices, and the title track where the music pauses as the pain drives home, right where it should. Pillow is standout for the more complex arrangement of Arabic rhythm and percussive guitar and Hold Her is just devastatingly sad. Rafeef is urgent and political, and at the same time gentle - which to me increases the power of this work because it demands that you lean in to listen and to really get the essence of the stories. In a world of noisy voices, I am refreshed by anyone that asks for deeper and more present listening, as this poet does.
Partly funded by a crowdfunding campaign, 30% of proceeds from the album apparently will go to refugee support organisations in Lebanon and Greece.
I will be featuring this album in February's 'La Danza Poetica' radio show this weekend. Do listen. Rafeef has a great deal to teach us about humanity and compassion, all that is lost in the political manoeuvrings and the suffocation of Palestinian people.