Palestinian Band Sol Transforms War Struggles into Harmonious Melodies


Barefoot on the promenade of Doha and with their voices gently climbing the evening breeze, members of the Palestinian musical group, Sol Band, weave an evocative tale of the children who have slipped the shackles of earthly turmoil to become free “birds in heaven”. The echoes of their harmonious voices carrying across the sandy landscape is a far cry from the terror-ridden streets of Gaza, where mere weeks ago they sought refuge during Israeli shelling.

Longing filters through Rahaf Shamaly’s words, her voice reflecting a deep melancholic yearning for peace, a return to the band’s roots, and the simplicity of being able to embrace her family. “I just want the war to end,” she imparted, the only female singer in the group. “I want to return to Gaza, walk and clean up its streets, hug my family, and sing with the band in the place where we started from.”

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In the heat of August, five-seventh of Sol Band traded the relative tranquility of Qatar for the battlefield that has become their homeland, Gaza. Here, they had hoped to pour their heartfelt experiences into their next album. “We had a lot of music and performances planned,” divulged Fares Anbar, a percussive force in the band. But by October, the escalating violence had cast a long, disheartening shadow over their plans.

On October 7th, Hamas, along with other combatants, instigated a horrific assault on southern Israel, resulting in the death of 1,200 individuals and 250 taken hostage. In retaliation, Israel unleashed an aggressive military campaign that wiped out more than 35,000 people, reducing vast expanses of Gaza to ruins.

Sol Band, a beloved amalgamation of traditional Arabic tunes and contemporary pop music, has played a crucial part in providing solace for its members who have been victims of intimidating poverty and other struggles common in war-torn Gaza. Founded in 2012, the group is a product of a teeming enclave, 360-square-kilometer in space, relentlessly besieged by Egypt and Israel. This piece of terra firma houses 2.3 million Palestinians who have seen rounds of conflict between Hamas and Israel, with the former governing the region since 2007.

“Living under a siege, an occupation, and living through very difficult circumstances… music was my only escape since I was a child,” Said Fadel, the founder of Sol Band and a timekeeper on the drums, expressed. He stands as a testament to the power of music, with his grandfather being one of the pioneering percussionists in the area and his grandmother honing her skills on the oud, an instrument that is akin to a lute, widespread across the Middle East and African continent.

The Sol Band’s track, “Raweq Wa Haddy,” which translates to “Chill Down,” has become a beacon of their continued struggle. Lyrics that profess the return of “great days” seem like distant dreams to those displaced and in hiding from airstrikes.

Their resilience was on a humbling display when they resorted to filming their survival amidst attacks after returning to Gaza in August to record. They transformed these traumatic experiences into intimate online narratives whenever an internet connection was available. Even within the dust and rubble, music was their sustenance, their glimmer of hope: They crafted melodies under the disheartening soundtrack of distant explosions and sheltered in situ, strumming their resilience in the face of adversity.

In shelters and camps in Gaza, members of Sol Band found themselves doubling as counselors, engaging displaced children in activities to divert their minds away from the harrowing realities. The resilience of the little ones, their ability to momentarily escape into the realm of melody and rhythm, only underscored the power of music, leaving a lasting impression on the group.

Though they’ve garnered international acclaim, their status as Palestinians continues to complicate their travel arrangements. Travel documents often result in complex requirements and outright visa rejections for Palestinians. Anbar reflected on this issue, “Our passports are Palestinian, (and our) birthplace Gaza,” he said. “This made it very difficult for us to get visas.”

Their journey is still not guaranteed. There are plans to perform in Belgium and Tunisia, but their visa status in Qatar throws an unsettling ambiguity over their future. If things don’t fall into place soon, a return to Gaza—and a future steeped in uncertainty—awaits them.

“Would the plans we had before the war still happen?” the vocalist Hamada Nasrallah wondered aloud. As tough as the question is, he is acutely aware that clear answers are even tougher to find.