Palestinian Sol Band’s Melodies of Hope amid Gaza Conflict

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Located along the vibrant waterfront promenade of Doha, Qatar, a Palestinian group known as the Sol Band strolls, murmuring soft melodies whose lyrics mournfully speak of innocent children transformed into “birds in heaven,” their spirits liberated from the torments of the war-ridden Gaza Strip.

Just a few weeks back, the melodious harmonies of the band were concealed behind the destructive roars of the Israeli shelling. Rahaf Shamaly, the band’s lead singer and the sole woman in the group, shares her longing for peace. “I fervently wish for the war to cease; to return to Gaza, to tread the familiar streets, to feel the reassuring embrace of my family, and to sing with the band at the very place where our journey commenced.”

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In August, five of the seven musicians dared to return to Gaza, set on producing their forthcoming album. Fares Anbar, the percussionist reveals, “We had an abundance of music ready to be performed, along with many engagements lined up.”

However, on the 7th day of October, the militant group, Hamas, in conjunction with other radicals, launched a devastating attack on southern Israel, leading to the tragic loss of 1,200 lives, with a further 250 detained as hostages. Israel responded with a military onslaught that so far has claimed over 35,000 lives and destroyed massive sections of Gaza.

April ushered a small piece of relief to the bandmates, who managed to depart Gaza, venturing through Egypt and finally making their way to Qatar.

Having formed in 2012, the Sol Band, renowned for its blend of traditional Arabic sounds with modern pop melodies, has acted as a sanctuary for its members, all of whom were raised amidst the crushing weight of poverty and an unrelenting array of hardships in the 360-square-kilometer enclave of Gaza, a region blockaded for an extended period by Egypt and Israel. Home to 2.3 million Palestinians, the inhabitants have repeatedly suffered through the brutal conflicts involving Israel and Hamas, the latter having claimed dominion over the area since 2007.

Said Fadel, the band’s founder and percussionist, speaks of the crucial role music had in his childhood, “The reality of living under siege, entrapped within an occupational power, subjected to innumerable challenges, music served as my sole refuge.”

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, an acclaimed percussionist, and his grandmother, an adept player of the oud—an iconic stringed instrument popular in the Middle East and Africa—Said Fadel let music become the sculptor of his life.

Among their prolific portfolio, the Sol Band’s famed song, “Raweq Wa Haddy,” or “Chill Down,” promising “great days coming back” resonates painfully with a people constantly displaced, perpetually in hiding from relentless airstrikes.

In the process of recording their new album, music served not only as an expression of their struggle but also as a means of survival and hope amid the rubble. The members of the Sol Band filmed their endurance of the airstrikes, sharing them online during the rare moments of internet connectivity. Against the symphony of exploding bombs, they created new songs, advocating resilience and hope.

Expressing the anguish of loss resulting from the airstrikes, particularly in the context of children, one of their songs mournfully proclaims, “My children are birds in heaven, lucky is heaven to have them.” The lyrics continue with, “All my life I hoped to raise them and see them grow up before my eyes.”

During the darkest hours, the Sol Band organized activities for displaced children in shelters and camps across Gaza. Anbar, even taught young minds some basic percussion, instilling in them a love for music. The band would often post videos of their impromptu jamming sessions within these temporary shelters, inspiring smiles from, and sing-alongs with, the children they cheered.

Anbar speaks of the transformative power of music amidst the chaos, “The interaction of children with the music, their temporary oblivion to the horrors surrounding them, underscored the integral role of music in our lives, particularly in the Gaza Strip.”

The five band members who managed to leave Gaza for Qatar were initially scheduled to kick off their tour, “The Journey Begins,” at a Palestinian culture festival in Doha. Despite their international acclaim, the band—like numerous other Palestinians—are often met with complicated visa requirements due to their Palestinian passports, resulting in visa denials.

Anbar remarks, “Our passports are Palestinian, our birthplace being Gaza. This made the visa procurement a daunting task.”

And while they have performances planned in Belgium and Tunisia, assurances are scant. If their visa dilemmas are not resolved in Qatar, they’ll be reluctantly obliged to return to an unpredictable future in Gaza.

Expressing their collective apprehension, Hamada Nasrallah, another vocalist, muses, “Is there any possibility of the plans we crafted before the war materializing?” A sentiment echoed by each member of Sol Band, as they await their uncertain future with tenderness and courage, music always at the core of their beings.