With incredible determination and defiance, and despite her illness and the paralysis in her vocal cords, Rim worked relentlessly on her new album and managed to complete all the recordings in January 2018. Rim said that she wanted this album to be powerful and defiant, neither sad nor melancholic…A creative act of resistance in the face of injustice and occupation in all their forms. This is Rim’s powerful statement celebrating her and her people’s struggle against all foes and woes…always with a sign of victory and a smile of hope.
Voice of Resistance: A concept album
The idea behind the album was born in May 2015, just after Rim was told by doctors that her vocal cords were partially paralyzed and that she would not be able to sing anymore. But…nobody tells Rim what she can or cannot do. Rim met in Oslo with her Norwegian producer Erik Hillestad (KKV record label) and Tunisian sound cutter “SC MoCha” from the electronic activist collective Checkpoint 303. Together they came up with a plan for an unprecedented audio experiment; Checkpoint 303 would remix data from Rim’s medical files (PET and X-ray images) by converting them into sounds to which Rim would then recite (and whenever possible sing) her own poems describing her resistance and her struggle. The outstanding jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, who collaborated with Rim on her last album, immediately accepted to be part of the project and the adventure began.
The 15 songs on this album are an explosive mix of iron-willed and moving spoken word, experimental sound art, complex beats and powerful provocative and heart-warming piano melodies. In the final recordings completed in Oslo in January 2018, Rim actually managed to sing on some of the songs despite her weak vocal cords. Rim’s lyrics on the album range from being defiant and bold to being heartbreaking and endlessly deep. However, her courage, humanity and incredible positivity transpire from every word she pronounces.
The recording sessions
Rim Banna’s vocals were recorded by Erik Hillestad in the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) studio in Ramallah in 2017 and at Kulturkirken Jakob in Oslo in January 2018. Bugge Wesseltoft’s piano was recorded by Martin Abrahamsen in Oslo in January 2018. Checkpoint 303’s sonifications, guitar recordings and electronic compositions were performed between Tunis and Montreal in 2017 and early 2018.
Conversion of medical scans and images to sound:
An important novelty of the musical compositions of this album lies in the transformation of Rim’s medical scans from two-dimensional images to audible sound elements. This process known as “data sonification” was programmed by Checkpoint 303 and applied to medical data chosen by Rim. The data was recorded as part of the medical diagnostic procedures that Rim underwent using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computer Tomography scans (X-ray measurements). The scans used included cross-sectional images of Rim’s chest, heart, brain and throat. Checkpoint 303 converted these images into sound either by direct sonification of image pixel values into an audible spectrum, or by converting the images into 2D midi files. Additionally, two portrait images of Rim were also transformed to sound using the same procedure. Finally, the ambient layer in the last song of the album was constructed using the actual sound of the image-guided radiation system recorded on video during one of Rim’s radiotherapy sessions in a hospital in Berlin in 2016.
Rim Banna. Nothing stops Rim. Despite being diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and with a paralysis of her vocal cords in 2015, the iconic Palestinian singer and activist Rim Banna defiantly worked on her 13th album, while continuing to lend her voice to the voiceless in her occupied homeland Palestine and across the world. Rim’s art and existence are lessons in humanity, resistance, justice and freedom. Rim passed away on March 24th 2018. May she rest in peace and power. Web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rim_Banna
Checkpoint 303. Using field recordings from Palestine and the Arab street, Checkpoint 303 constructs soundscapes that weave cinematic audio with experimental sound processing and complex beats. Through its electronic compositions, collected sounds and noise, Checkpoint 303 spreads a message for justice and human rights. Checkpoint 303 has opened for Massive Attack shows in the UK and France. Web: http://www.checkpoint303.com
Bugge Wesseltoft. Bugge is a Norwegian jazz musician, pianist, composer and producer. He is internationally recognized for his musical genius and unique improvisation skills.