Put aside all the usual stereotypes about Gaza. Forget war, Islamism and poverty for a second. Listen instead to the new CD featuring the Gaza Youth Choir.

The album, entitled “Salute to Gaza”, is bursting with energy from a part of the Middle East where 1.8 million people are cut off from the rest of the world. The music, the power and the joy tell the story of how we in the Western world should start to look at Gaza from a different angle. Instead of allowing ourselves to be infected by a fear that is way over the top, we should rather take a look into what the world is missing when we turn a blind eye to all this energy and vitality that is locked away.

On “Salute to Gaza” we hear familiar Palestinian traditional songs accompanied by oud, nay (flute), khanoon (table harp), double bass and percussion. Suhail Khoury has also written a completely new song, a tribute to Gaza and the people who live there. The songs, accompanied by a large string and woodwind ensemble, have been arranged by Kjetil Bjerkestrand. All the musicians and singers in the choir are students in the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), which has departments in four locations in the Palestine territories: Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Gaza. Recording of the instruments was mostly done in the ESNCM studio in Ramallah, which has a collaborative agreement with KKV. The choir and soloists were recorded in a modern studio in Gaza. The equipment in the studio was smuggled through tunnels from Egypt before they were closed and destroyed two years ago.

The album is released by KKV and produced by Erik Hillestad. He and the sound recordist Martin Abrahamsen had to wait a year before the Israelis granted an entry permit to Gaza in January 2016, after three applications. The album, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has a richly designed cover by the Lebanese artist Tania Saleh, who is also one of KKV’s artists.

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