By Veronica Pessoa
Being in Palestine is a very intense experience: a warzone, an occupied territory, a people under intense pressure, a music festival, many smiles, a lot of joy, hospitality and kindness. All these live together in a way that we could not anticipate before setting foot there.
The Palestine Music Expo (PMX) is a music festival, and above everything else an opportunity to tell the world about the history of resistance in the region. It’s both things with a distinctive excellence. PMX has existed since 2017, and it’s mostly subsidized by foreign investment. Palestinian artists and activist produce the event in a partnership with Cooking Vynil, an enterprise based in London. The 2019 edition took place between April 4th and 6th.
The action took place during three days in a hotel in Ramallah, a city located at the heart of Cisjordania, approximately 15km north of Jerusalem. The concerts take place in an outdoors space, and audiences can purchase tickets at a very reasonable price. Festival-goers are vibrant, they are familiar with some of the acts, and make a genuine party out of the event. The sound, light, projections and stage structure are enviable if compared to the many festivals that we have attended across the globe.
The opening night was warm and welcoming, with artists from the various regions of Palestine showcasing different sounds. The band El Conteiner was groovy, and it executed its music with perfection. Toot Ard was the biggest surprise of the night: an unmatchable sax drew the attention of revellers, getting them to dance the night away.
The quartet of female singers and instrumentalists Kallemi Music was one of the biggest highlights at PMX 2019. These ladies know what they’re doing, exposing the full strength of Palestinian women. They played on Monday night, and no one in audience was left sitting down. The rapper Saz came afterwards, with a consistent performance.
Bashar Murad is a Palestinian singer with a strong performance and aesthetics: his attire, his body and his voice are combined to very beautiful results. The skilled bassist Rimon Haddad was intense and confident. Finally, the band DAM set the house on fire. The act has two female and one male singers, and their lyrics talk about the occupation, the female body and resistance in a funny and moving performance in high spirits - one of the best attractions at PMX.
The artists from Gaza played on the second and third day, and they deserve special recognition, and they travelled past dangerous and unstable borders in order to perform in Ramallah.
While the party is indeed incredible at PMX, there’s far more in store. There are panels and workshops for local artists. To boot, there’s cultural immersion into Palestine culture aimed at foreign delegates.
While Palestinian artists met with managers, streaming executives, labels and bookers and prepared themselves for the international market, the “gringos” (that is: us, international delegates) travelled to the cradle of so many religions, for cities occupied by a military armed to the teeth, beyond the wall, between the checkpoints, attempting to prepare us for what was about to come in the musical night. The production guided the way and showed us to the meeting point of the many paths with excellence, making this a truly unique and intense experience.
Palestine and its people live under Israeli occupation, and they resist by strengthening their identity. Actions by strong people help to ensure that music, dance and history are preserved. Resistance is there, and each and every one of us outside needs to look and recognise what’s taking place. There’s strength, there’s resistance, there’s happiness and there’s hospitality. Often it reminded me of Brazil.
Special thanks to those who guided my visit: Martin Goldschidt and the whole team at Cookin Vinyl (Celia and Lucy <3), Rami Younis, Wael Abu Jabal, Julian Issaq, Nick Welsh. Thanks you so much to each delegate in this endeavour throughout the year at PMX, particularly each artist who makes music and resists in Palestine!