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VIDEO: Ramallahĺs luthier brings Palestine towards musical independence

By Jordan Woodgate - December 18, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Videos] [Features]
Tags: [culture]

This is the third dispatch in a five part series which explores how Palestinian craft traditions have been impacted by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Watch part 1 here.


“When you cut a tree, you kill the tree. But what I am doing is I am making it alive again,” Shehada says as his hands turn over a new violin in his Ramallah workshop. "With the music, I make the wood alive.”  He is one of only a couple of luthiers in Palestine, and he also repairs local students’ violins and cellos.

“I draw what I want, or sometimes I copy the model of any violin I like. This is an Antonio Stradivari model” Shehada says, pointing to an annotated drawing, "from that you build the instrument.”

Shehada plays a scale on his violin. “I don't play. I spent all my time in the workshop, so I don't play the violin” But he has honed his ability to make the perfect instrument, “When the wood becomes old, and it’s played a lot, it’s better and the sound opens more.”

Shehada, 25, handcrafts world class violins which take two months to create. They sell internationally for over $5000. Al-Kamandjati, the NGO with which Shehada works, provides instruments and teachers to children in Palestine’s refugee camps. Before Shehada trained as a luthier in England, instrument repairers would come from abroad, but now Shehada is helping Palestine become musically self-sufficient.

Shehada explains the barriers to playing music in Palestine saying, “people are looking to buy bread instead of playing instruments. Because you are living under occupation, you have to make a future for your children.”

He says, “It is important, but they think that to take care of your children is better than violin or music. People here want to live."

He adds that music can be a way to express ideas about Palestine and can also be a minor distraction from the occupation. "It helps,” he says, "but it doesn't solve the problem."

Video by Jordan Woodgate.


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