Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Anthony Alessandrini

Subject Categories

Cultural History | Islamic World and Near East History | Near Eastern Languages and Societies


Palestine, Palestinian Music, Oslo Accords, Post Oslo Accords, Palestinian folk music


This study is concerned with the field of musical culture and practice in Palestine, and the connotations of musical expression, whether as music or songs. It addresses the period extending from the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, through the first intifada of 1987 and then the era of the Oslo Accords until today.

This study deals with the artistic meanings and expressions associated with the music and singing that was produced in that period, assuming that it was created within the socio-political context in which it existed, specifically that music that was associated with the state of the Palestinian revolution and resistance against the Israeli occupation, through a general presentation of the most prominent of those experiences that had a huge impact and a critical reach. These experiences originated in the Oslo era and are concentrated in the city of Ramallah, with an extension of its activities in other areas of the West Bank, followed by its arrival - happening for the first time in contemporary Palestinian history - to the consolidation stage as artistic, academic, and professional music through specialized educational musical institutions, including the Al Kamandjâti Association, the Edward Said Institute, and the Barenboim-Said Foundation. I investigate the musical meanings and values that can be derived from the musical practices of these institutions in terms of the musical practice itself in the light of contemporary Palestinian reality, with its complexities and political and social challenges.

This research concerns understanding aesthetic values within their social and political context. To that end, it reviews the methods, visions, and modalities these institutions operate within to capture the cultural meanings they are trying to adopt in the contemporary Palestinian context. To achieve this purpose, the study benefits from essential knowledge production in sociology, anthropology, and social history available today about Palestine, in addition to specialized studies in musicology research, ethnomusicology, and the field of arts and culture, which places it in the category of interdisciplinary studies.

In short, the study monitors musical practice and its artistic expressions from the eighties until now, during the “Oslo era,” and within the framework of significant social transformations that many of the Palestinians witnessed. The musical practice has been characterized by its transition from a state based on the representation of political reality in particular to an existing subject. In other words, the musical and lyrical expression has been linked and preoccupied with expressing the existing state of resistance in all its forms and carrying the group’s voice in its yearning to search for liberation, independence, and the establishment of its independent state. Therefore, the sincerity of expression, or the sincerity of “representation,” was a fundamental criterion in determining its musical value. Later, during a set of political, cultural, and social changes, a group of musicians went through their own experiences. Musical and lyrical tendencies emerged laden with expressive and artistic obsessions different from what existed, including transitioning from a state of “representing national aspirations” to a musical expression loaded with existential questions. Music entered the stage of “independence” and began to search for different ways of expressing and questioning the musical forms themselves and their methods more than they represent them, which led to the submission of a large part of its values to its own artistic rules. This is what the study calls “the subject,” reflected in subsequent experiments, which began to emerge and spread in the early eighties and nineties. In the post-Oslo era, this musical independence, or the state of the “subject,” developed until it reached musical institutionalization, which is a current musical phase and is also linked to the social and cultural contexts that Palestine is experiencing today, which is what the second part of this thesis will address.

I claim that this shift in musical expression from the previous representational case, which relied on directness, to the subject case, did not lose its role in expressing political connotations, as the second case continued to carry political meanings no less than its predecessors in the representational case. It does not constitute separation or rupture with political expression. Instead, it reformulates the cultural category, especially concerning building the identity and the desired state, which constantly changes within various political and social variables.