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[mixcloud http://www.mixcloud.com/LAPKAT/half-moon-bay-mix/ width=660 height=360 /]

Words fall Like feathers on the sand I did not plan the poem I only obeyed its rhythm (from The Dice Player, Mahmoud Darwish)

A live set, recorded in a secret cave at Melbourne's Half Moon Bay, which faces West across Port Phillip Bay towards the city. This was Uber Lingua's impromptu crew party on 17 March. It involved lugging equipment down cliffs and splashing through the high tide around a small outcrop of rocks, but the effort (the huge effort from 555 and co) was worth it for the beautiful sense of peace in the middle of the city, the balmy autumn night, the semaphore of the shipping channel lights out in the blackness and the stars above, the warm water on our toes. Wanklerotaryengine and 555 kept the small crew kicking up sand into the night. Just after sunset I warmed us up with this set.

In this 50 minutes: poets of exile Mahmoud Darwish and Ahmed Hashim, also Arabic hip hop from El Rass of Beirut. Transcendant oud from Le Trio Jourban (I saw them play live the week before, and had the pleasure of talking briefly to Samir afterwards who encouraged me to listen to more of Mahmoud Darwish. The trio collaborated with the poet for many years, the track here is taken from their concert album A l'ombre de Mots - a tribute to the poet after his death in 2008). Beats from DJ Zhao's incredible recent mashups of North African, Middle East sounds, favourite sand-between-the-toes tracks from Watcha Clan and Orange Blossom (Sista K and Leïla Bounous' exquisite voices) and of course Dubsahara, Greg Hunter's trance-inducing cameltronica. The full track listing for the Half Moon Bay mix is at the souncloud link.

Some words about Mahmoud Darwish.

Described as "the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people" by fellow poet Naomi Shihab Nye, Mahmoud Darwish was an itinerant poet of exile, as well as being considered "the saviour of the Arabic language" for his ability to find music in the language. Born in Palestine, he fled with his family at the age of 7 when Israel occupied and destroyed hundreds of villages in the late 1940s. His family returned to live as "aliens" in their own land. The young poet finally left in the early 70s due to harassment from Israel for writing and reciting poetry expressing his Arab and Palestinian identity. He has been ever since, a “wondering exile” in Arab capitals and in Europe.

What he means to me, increasingly as I read more and listen more, is a voice of clarity as well as music. Attempting to understand from the outside a struggle like the Palestine/Israel struggle, is difficult. I have read books and historical fact, I have watched films and documentaries and the news, but it is only the poets who can express the human experience and share a deeper 'understanding.' I read somewhere this week that Darwish has described the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis as "a struggle between two memories." This says more to me, in five words, than whole chapters of critical texts. As a witness, a victim of the struggle, a poet like Mahmoud Darwish - writing from the edges of the struggle - sees it clearly. Also, as a poet of exile, Darwish has to "[construct] his kingdom – homeland in language." How powerful is language and storytelling to connect a heart to its home?

Then I understand through this poet particularly, the difficulties (impossibilities?) of fully understanding poetry through translation. His dialogue, as it is explained on his website, is one with many layers: Arab, to him, is not an identity closed unto itself, but a pluralism totally open unto others. In his oeuvres, he dialogues with a group of cultures (Canaanite, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian, Arab, French, English, Ottoman, Native American) as well as with myths of the three monotheistic religions. These dialogues create multiple layers within the poem that may be difficult to appreciate unless the reader can develop a full understanding of the “I”s and the “others” of the text. I am reduced to listening to his voice as music - but this is a very valid part of his intention in his art, as well as the tradition he comes from, where music and poetry are both song. Reading as opposed to listening, translation might be like seeing an orange as only a sphere of hard bitterness, not knowing the sweetness that lies beneath. It's probably impossible to understand the full picture through translation. Cultural soul is not really a 'translatable' thing - it has to be lived. But stories are translatable - stories, we all understand.

"Sister, there are tears in my throat and there is fire in my eyes: I am free. No more shall I protest at the Sultan's Gate. All who have died, all who shall die at the Gate of Day have embraced me, have made of me a weapon." (from 'Diary of a Palestinian wound')

At this website, you can listen to a number of recordings of Darwish reading solo - http://www.mahmouddarwish.com/english/audio.htm I'm listening as I write this.

Also as I write this, I'm reading feeds from Palestinean activists about 30th March. This date is "Land Day يوم الأرض" - an annual commemoration of events on that date in 1976 as a response to the Government of Israel's announcement of its plan to expropriate thousands of dunams of Palestinian land, in the pretext of Israeli security and for settlement purposes. On that day in 1976 protests and marches took place in Arab towns from the Galilee to the Negev. This year we are being asked to show solidarity on that date. And things there are harder than ever. I'm reading posts such as this: "#Gaza schools & commercial zones closed, Students can't go to universities, people can't go to work. #Gaza has #NoWater, #NoElectricty, #NoCookingGaza and #NoFuel."

I'm thinking that all my life, it's been a staple fact of this world, the conflict, the Gaza strip. I find it very hard to understand the human battle over the ownership of land. I don't own a house, and I have no urge to OWN a house - perhaps this colours my opinion. I come from a culture that violently stole the land I live on, and now jealously guards it from a thousand phantom invaders, and fails to understand itself because of this empty mythology - and perhaps this has formed my opinion. I understand the pull of "country" but I don't understand why it must be owned at the expense of all others. I resist cynicism and though I don't believe in evil, it appears to be evil. Decades of torture makes of the occupied enemies, it makes of them (as Darwish wrote) weapons. Why create enemies? Why perpetuate suffering? For the sake of a spiritual home? But the spirit of that home is lost when it's taken in violence and so that argument becomes empty, only the struggle is left, the purpose is forgotten. Religion in its best form promotes inner peace, community, music. But more often religion causes war, intolerance, suffering. All invasions are either about money or religion. And I will never support the invader no matter how hard they argue their point. I am on the side of the poet which is the expression of humanity, and I have yet to see a convincing poem from the point of view of the invader.

The poets of exile express all of this far better than I can. Another poet featured in this mix is Melbourne-based Ahmed Hashim. I recorded these haiku at the Overload Poetry Festival four years ago, for Going Down Swinging. Ahmed Hashim was born in Iraq, leaving for Melbourne during the Gulf War. Wanting to write about what was happening in his country, unable to document it directly, Hashim decided to use the haiku form - the Japanese poetic form of 17 syllables. These are like little ciphers, photographs, reportings of events feelings and situations. Examples: Another bomb. My friend says, cheers. US tank going the wrong way. Tree, going the right way. It's a poignant form of poetry as reportage.

A word finally about Dj Zhao's Fusion 4, from which I drew two tracks for this set. Zhao explains it best himself: "Grounded in the rhythmic traditions and tonal language of North Africa and the Middle East, Djinn Bass fuses Sufi Ritual Music and Club Beats, Sacred Egyptian Hymns and Abstract Dub, Classic Rai and Dubstep, Turkish Taqsim and Tech House, Moroccan Chaabi anthems and Tribal Electro.  Ouds, Flutes, and Darbukas mix and blend with electronic pulse; vocal refrains underpinned by digital bass, sometimes chopped, looped, and dubbed out." It's amazing work, multi-layered, rich, intriguing, and massively danceable. You can download the album here (click on the pic below) Don't forget to then donate some amount of money when you do this also - Zhao is generous with his music, but art must eat too.

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