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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
December 13, 2010 •• Palestine Community Music
Storm in Silwan!
MwB workshop leader Fabienne gives weekly music workshops in Madaa Cultural Center Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, East-Jerusalem. These workshops are part of the music project “Silwan Ta’azef” (Silwan Plays Music), funded by the Dutch organization Kinderpostzegels, Prelude, and private donations.
The pictures in this post were taken in 2009 during music workshops in Silwan and do not represent the children of this story.
It’s storming outside. Finally the first real winter day in the year came two months too late.
I’m sitting inside the room with 7 boys, age 5-8, leading a music workshop in Silwan.
But another storm is raging outside. The second group, 10 teenagers, came half an hour too early, like they do every week, and they try to catch my attention while I’m trying to divide mine between the 7 kids inside the room.
First they ask if they can attend the workshop with the little ones. “No.”
Then they try it by banging on the door.
Then they try the windows.
One climbs on the roof and falls down (“Fabienne! Fabienne! M. fell from the roof!”)
10 more minutes.
5 more minutes.
The little ones seem distracted once in a while by all the shouting, banging and knocking from outside, but in general, they are well-involved in the singing and dancing.
We finish, the little boys run outside, back in the storm, and the storm of teenagers runs inside.

Body percussion (pictures taken during music workshop 2009)
I don’t have the energy for this group of wild kids, but suddenly I remember the sentence I read last week from my professor. He gave us a list of 101 things to do with youth at risk. Because I was in a hurry, I only read one line: enter every lesson with a positive attitude.
And that’s what I decide to do. Although they made me crazy with their behavior outside of the room, I decide to give them a new chance and act as if nothing happened outside, as if I was not annoyed and as if I have all the energy in the world to handle these teenagers.
And it worked. We start with some body percussion and sing two songs.
We work on the English text of one of the songs and relax while singing the Arabic song.
A. seems to be abstracted today and actually he looks two years older than last week. I realize he is the oldest in the group and might feel the activities are too childish for him.
After we finish the Arabic song, M. asks for the “Macaroon” song. I thought he made a joke, because this is the song I do with the little ones. I tell them this, but the group insists on singing the silly song about macaroni.
Singing (picture taken during music workshop 2009)
We start singing, learn the words and make movements with the song.
A. is doing the movements with so much conviction that it makes me feel as if we were in a theater workshop. He sings as if this is the most important thing in his life and for a moment he forgets to play his role of being the coolest, oldest guy in the group.
It is beautiful to see how these teenagers can be children for a moment, but it also makes me sad, because I realize how sparse these moment are in their lives.
Life in Silwan is extremely difficult these days, especially for the children. The fear of house demolitions, arrests by Israeli police, night raids by Israeli army and violence is always present.
Some of the songs I sing with the teenagers in Silwan are about life under occupation, and they love to sing these songs.
But apparently a song about macaroni can be a big hit too!

Playing musical games (pictures taken in 2009)