The sound of resilience | Bashar Murad releases EP made in Sheikh Jarrah

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Bahsar Murad knows a thing or two about resilience. The Palestinian pop-singer and songwriter just dropped his latest E.P “Maskhara” (Arabic for “mockery”), produced amid the global pandemic in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah (occupied Palestine) and via Zoom calls with LA producer Gannin Arnold.
Using music as a form of escapism, Murad’s tracks tackle complex issues such as resisting oppression balanced by a clear wish to celebrate the Palestinian existence through art.
We spoke to Murad about his new project and the adversities surrounding it.

Photography/Fadi Dahbareh . Outfit/Hazar Jawabra

Hello Bashar! Congrats on the EP- Can you tell us a bit more about it and how has the pandemic and situation in Palestine affected its creation?

Thank you so much! I am so excited that the EP is finally out. I started working on it with LA Producer Gannin Arnold on Zoom just a little bit before COVID-19 hit. So thankfully the pandemic did not derail the production process.
This is my first EP release after signing with PopArabia in March 2020 and although the title track “Maskhara” meaning “mockery” was written in 2017, it is sadly still very relevant today as it reflects the reality of living in Palestine.

You mentioned that for Palestinians, even partying is a form of resistance; Is it hard to find the will the produce art and dance despite everything going on?

In Palestine, everything is a form of resistance because our mere existence is constantly challenged. Also, because of all the limitations and restrictions placed on us, we end up having to get creative in order to resist.
In Sheikh Jarrah, we’ve seen Palestinian youth using art and music as a way of resisting, whether its through chanting and singing songs, or through painting murals on the walls.
In addition, recently we’ve seen a rise of techno music in Palestine which is often criticized by those who do not understand it. This scene has helped bridge Palestine with the world of techno which has shown a different perspective than what the world is used to seeing. Many will say “Music and Dancing won’t free us”, but on the third track of my E.P, “Intifada On The Dance Floor’ ‘ I challenge that statement and say that in fact music, art, culture and dance are some of the most important tools at our disposal.
When we are partying and dancing, it doesn’t mean that we have forgotten our roots or our cause and that there is an intersection when music and activism meet.

Photography/Fadi Dahbareh . Outfit/Hazar Jawabra

How would you describe the Palestinian youth’s spirit?

Over the past months, Palestinians went down to the streets to protest the illegal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and other places in Palestine. Most of those on the streets were young and so diverse not limited to one faction or religion or gender. It has inspired me so much to see their spirit in the face of an oppressor who doesn’t care who it is oppressing. Their resilience and determination to stand up for what they know is a just cause has given me more strength to persevere. Palestinians in general are stubborn and are not quitters, because their only ray of hope is that the world will finally stand up for truth and finally end the injustices that are committed daily against Palestinians.
The Palestinian youth has been leading the cyber intifada that happened last month, storming Tiktok and Instagram with videos and content to educate the world about Palestine. They have proved that “Gen Z” or the “Tiktok Generation” isn’t that removed from reality and they will help carry the Palestinian voice into the future.

Music is a form of escapism; How much would you say it has helped you as an individual and how much it helps your community to take breaks from a tough reality?

At its core, MASKHARA is an ESCAPIST album that reflects the different ways that we as Palestinians try to cope. This E.P is my way of coping with this difficult reality and although it is about escapism, it is NOT about giving up. Because even the most powerful revolutionaries need a break every now and then in order to continue changing the world.
I have seen with my own two eyes how mentally, emotionally and physically challenging life can be here and it is so important for us to value our mental health in order to persevere.

“Maskhara” is an escapist manifesto and a tribute to those who have been fighting to save Palestine and to acknowledge the fact that we all need to take a break, even if just for one night in order to come back stronger. At the end of the day we are all humans who are dealing with inhumane struggles and our resilience shouldn’t be mistaken for acceptance of the norm.

“Maskhara” is an escapist manifesto and a tribute to those who have been fighting to save Palestine and to acknowledge the fact that we all need to take a break, even if just for one night in order to come back stronger.

Which song would you say is closer to you and why?

They are all my babies and each one represents a side or a phase of my life. However, I wrote the title track in 2017 and have been anxiously waiting to release it and it has accompanied me for a long time through difficult personal experiences, through the pandemic, and through the recent challenging time in Palestine. So definitely “Maskhara” because it just keeps becoming more and more relevant everyday.

Photography/Fadi Dahbareh

Anyone you’d dream to collaborate with?

I would have loved to collaborate with Freddie Mercury as he is a huge inspiration to me. I would also love to collaborate with Gaga, but as we’ve seen recently she has not said a single word about what’s going on in Palestine when she was the one who preached to me (as a fan) about equality and justice and love and all that good stuff. I still hope to collaborate with her because I have been a fan for 10 + years but we will need to have a few conversations beforehand.  

Discover more about Bashar Murad and follow him on Instagram, here!