Listen to the review of the album Three Generations by Andrew Bartlett on the 4ZZZ New Releases Show. Listen to the full show HERE or read the transcript.
Rafeef Ziadah: Three Generations (Indie)
3:12 To Grenfell With Love
– Rafeef Ziadah is a Palestinian poet, activist & spoken word performer who currently lives in London. She has just released her third album, Three Generations, with music written by and production provided by Brisbane based singer & activist Phil Monsour.
Her 2009 debut album, Hadeel, featured spoken word pieces with noodling jazz style sounds providing quiet background accompaniment. The involvement of Monsour on her second release, We Teach Life in 2015, saw a vast improvement in the strength & impact of the music underpinning her poems.
The strength of this interaction between music and spoken word has taken another leap forward on this newest offering, despite the challenges of musicians & vocalist being in different parts of the world for much of the recording process, with different parts recorded across four different countries. Full drum rhythms add urgency to guitar and synth patterns on a number tracks, while the use of traditional middle eastern instruments such as the oud and the ney weave a beautiful atmosphere around some of Ziadah’s other stories.
Three Generations covers the story of women in Ziadah’s own family, and of all Palestinian women, but each song tells its own tale. Many have themes of loss – loss of home, loss of life, and a search for place in the face of callous or brutal oppression, and the brutality of relentless war. Some songs, such as Her Story, are truly heartbreaking. The experience of the Palestinian people looms large over many songs – the world’s largest refugee population – a displacement that started over seventy years ago and continues to this day.
Across the album’s thirteen songs, however, direct links are also made with the reality of refugees the world over. This includes Don’t Share – about the three year old Kurdish refugee boy, Alan, who drowned at sea with his mother and brother. A photo of his body washed up on to the beach went viral around the world & triggered a wave of public outrage about the plight of refugees – it was a wave as large as it was fleeting, explaining the biting contempt Ziadah voices at the shallowness of concern from many western activists and societies at these human tragedies.
The song Jerusalem deals with Donald Trump, detailing the efforts of the “Orange Man” to hand over the Palestinian land and heritage of this city. Arab Idol speaks of the irony of being able to vote for who wins the titular talent contest, but not being able to vote for who rules over you in the land you live. A song about Grenfell Tower in London draws a direct link between those oppressed by governments in the Middle East & the seventy-two people killed by government neglect & callousness in the fire that engulfed that tower in 2017.
The one theme stronger than loss and pain that permeates the whole album is the theme of resilience, resistance and survival. In Mediterranean Blues, Rafeef Ziadah speaks of the decades of refugees fleeing war & seeking freedom across that sea. Despite the bleakness, the determination to hang on to culture, to belonging, to your people, is unbreakable. As she describes her people and their experiences … “We are infected with memory … and hope”.
– Andrew Bartlett.