Palestinian blues rhythm reviews

Hey, all you cool cats and swinging chicks, this is the old Spin Doctor with fresh stacks of hot wax packed with the tastiest licks and smoothest grooves. We’ve got a special platter on the turntable today, a tune that’s really burning up the airwaves in Gaza. It’s called “The Palestinian People’s Message to Kire,” by that hep cat Qassem Najjar. You can find it here: Dig it.

Let’s get the Doctor’s take on this hot little ditty. The track starts with a fanfare of horns immediately transporting the listener to half-time at a Middle School football game. Then a voice, heavy and non-melodic. sends greetings to Mr John Kerry and urges him to listen, listen. What a groove!

The Doctor admits this track has high production values. This side was cut in a studio. The Doctor has to guess that despite the all-pervasive poverty caused by the bone crushing Israeli oppression, a few starvlings nevertheless smuggled in costly recording gear. Either that, or they bought it at the Gaza Mall. Like Tom Petty says, “you don’t have to live like a refugee.”

But back to the track. After the horns, it modulates into the raw primitive sounds of Middle East. What we hear is simple rhythm and a patternless melody over no harmonic changes. This, cool cats and swinging chicks, is what the longhairs mean when they broadly define “music” as organized noise.

The number really consists of a call and response. Qassem, the lead singer, makes his statement, and his background singers wail the hook: “Listen, listen, John Kire.” Over and over. For. Five. Minutes. Without change. In more sophitso music, that is, any music composed in the West after the perfection of Gregorian Chant, the call and response will go through a few harmonic changes. Qassem, like poor Johnny One Note, has his background singers repeat the hook without change throughout the track. This, to the Doctor, makes it look like the Palestinians have developed their own very deadly drone.

Usually, the lead singer’s pipes are major contributors to the success of a platter. Some crooners are distinctly charming and attractive. The Doctor is thinking here of any one of a number of distinctive songbirds including such unique stylists as Fats Domino, Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, Hank Williams and on and on. Qassem is not in that category. His chops are heavy and non-resonant. Half the time he sounds like he’s gargling with hot potatoes and the other half of the time, he sounds like he’s trying to spit them out.

The “music” itself uses pure non-Western modes giving it that attractive, retro, pre-civilization feel. Many musicians in the Middle East have found that adding touches of Western harmonies and melodic styles has leapfrogged their music hundreds of years forward. Not hep cat Qassem. No, his music is strictly a blast from the past. The distant past. It reminds the Doctor of that classic moldy oldie by Mad Mo and His Band of Fhouls, “Get Onboard Or Get the Sword.”

As for the lyric in this track, let the Doctor paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis and say “There’s a Whole Lot of Misinformation and Hatred Goin’ On.” As a lyricist, Cole Porter, Qassem ain’t. The great protest songs of Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and others had lyrics that gave the listener a new perspective on social issues. This was done by artistically winning the listener’s sympathy for the singer’s viewpoint. The closest Qassem comes to this is to demand that John Kerry, (whose name is mispelled as “Kire” throughout), go read various UN resolutions. Rave on, man!

So there you have it, cool cats and swinging chicks. “The Palestinian People’s Message to Kire,” by that hep cat Qassem Najjar may be the hottest side in Gaza. But the Doctor gave it a spin and found that it’s unlikely to make waves anywhere else, even though Qassem put his personal telephone number at the end of the video. (Why doesn’t Beyonce do that?) The Doctor is going to say this disc is not destined to reign as number one with a bullet…it’s much more likely to be wearing a suicide vest.

This is the Spin Doctor signing off and reminding you, don’t be flat, don’t be sharp, be natural. See you on the flip side.

About the Author
Art is a composer and playwright whose works promote positive images of Jewish culture and history. He currently lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and is a member of the Association for Jewish Theatre.