Reem Kelani Sings to the People and Their Sea


Birzeit / London: The Palestinian Museum hosted an exceptional concert on Tuesday, 30th May 2023, by artist and musician Reem Kelani on the Museum’s social media platforms.

During the concert, the artist Reem Kelani took us on a journey across time and space to the cities of the Palestinian coast from Yaffa to Akka to Haifa to Lydda to Gaza. She sang old songs, the lyrics of which were collected from Palestinian women now in refugee camps in Arab countries. Originally from the cities of the Palestinian coast, these women were forced out in the Nakba. Kelani collected the songs in their original melodies and reproduced them to form an original composition in line with the core of our current exhibition A People by the Sea: Narratives from the Palestinian Coast, which will remain open to visitors throughout the summer.

The concert lasted an hour and forty minutes and began with the Master of Ceremonies, cultural entrepreneur Aser El Saqqa, introducing the artist and her accomplishments in documenting Palestinian lyrical heritage. El Saqqa expressed his sincere thanks to the Palestinian Museum as a supporter of Kelani and her musical career, leading up to this concert as the first collaboration between her and the museum.

The songs varied geographically and temporally as well as in their themes and forms; some were heritage songs sung by Palestinian women on joyful and solemn occasions, such as can be heard from Kelani’s 1997 field recording of a woman from the Akka district currently living in Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. She sang the songs of sailors and divers and presented the poems of Palestinian poets such as Mahmoud Salim Al-Hout and Mahmoud Darwish, whose poetry she previously composed into songs.

Reem Kelani is a Palestinian musician, singer, and broadcaster born in Manchester, UK who spent her formative years in Kuwait, where she received her university education. She learned to play the piano and sing at the age of 4 and became influenced by Qur’an recitation and numerous styles of music from the Gulf, Iran, and East Africa. Upon returning to Britain, she devoted herself to studying music and researching Palestinian heritage and has since produced a series of BBC documentaries on the role of music in migrant societies. She has released several albums, including Sprinting Gazelle (2006), Why Do I Love Her (2018), and The Singer Said: Bird of Dawn (2022).

The Palestinian Museum-Non-Governmental Association is an independent cultural NGO dedicated to supporting an open and vibrant Palestinian culture locally and internationally. The museum presents and contributes to narratives on Palestinian history, culture, and society from a new perspective. It also offers spaces for creative ventures, educational programmes, and innovative research. It is one of the most significant contemporary cultural projects in Palestine.