Ahlan wa sahlan! Welcome to the first Radio Lajee program. For our first edition, 14 year old Miras Al Azzeh has prepared a special story about the traditional Palestinian dance, Dabke.
In it, he talks about what Dabke means to the Palestinian people and to him personally. He also interviews a Dabke teacher at the Centre, some of the young performers, and his own grandfather who reminisces about Dabke in the days before Occupation.
This story kicks off our podcast series which you can now subscribe to by right (or alt) clicking on the “Podcast Feed” link at the top of this page, copying the URL/Link Location, and pasting it into the subscribe-to-podcast dialog box in your favourite podcatching application eg iTunes, Juice, etc.
(sound of children at a Dabke dancing class)
Nasim Abu Isha is one of the Dabke teachers at the Lajee Centre. He runs classes every Thursday for 2 hours. Our troupe now has 20 dancers; 12 boys and 8 girls.
NASIM ABU ISHA: I started learning Dabke since 1998. Before [I was] ten years or eleven, I saw my friend dancing Dabke. I was surprised…[I thought] how do you do that? I can’t do that. So, I started step by step learning how to dance like him. Then I finished training and I preferred [the idea of] being a teacher so I started with [the] Lajee [Centre] teaching Dabke.
When I teach Dabke I feel like I’m free…and I try to translate this feeling into moves. Maybe the people will understand. Maybe, maybe not. But I hope that they understand my message. But, when you teach Dabke, the people who are learning…they start making a new life, especially the children. I hope to make the children [feel] free, especially while they are growing up.
MIRAS AL AZZEH: 14 year old Maysan is one of the dancers in Nasim’s class.
MAYSAN: When I dance Dabke, I feel that I’m defending Palestine. I feel that I’m like [a] mirror, showing the people our tradition and identity. Also, with each movement, I feel that I’m breaking the Israeli separation wall and the checkpoints.
MIRAS AL AZZEH: Dabke wasn’t always political. Sabreen Asad is also a member of Nasim’s class. She explains the history of Dabke before 1948.
SABREEN ASAD: Dabke is the Palestinian traditional folk dance. It can be performed by both males and females or collectively. Before Al Naqba – ‘The Catastrophe’ in 1948, Dabke was performed at weddings, harvest seasons and other celebratory occasions.
MIRAS AL AZZEH: My grandfather is now 76 years old. He was born in Beit Jibreen and he can still remember what Dabke was like back then.
GRANDFATHER, MOHAMMAD AL AZZEH: Every region had its own version of Dabke. In the north, the dance was punctuated by lots of jumping and vigorous movements; whereas in the south, the movements were softer and more routine.
In each village there were many Dabke troupes. At times of celebration, each group took part in the ceremony and would enlist a special dancer (who we called a ‘Louweir’) who would instruct and lead the other dancers. Generally, all groups would sing and play the flute (which we call, in Arabic, a ‘Shoubaba’) while they danced. Today, the children who dance Dabke, keep our tradition alive.
MIRAS AL AZZEH: When I hear my grandfather say that, it makes me feel happy and proud because I know that when I dance Dabke I’m protecting my country’s heritage.
As a Palestinian, I don’t know what the future will be, but I hope to dance Dabke forever.