Rim Banna, one of Palestine’s most recognizable and important singers, died on Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer. She leaves behind a dream of freedom from the occupation, patriarchy, and oppression.
Rim Banna, the singer from Nazareth who enraptured millions died on Sunday after a battle with cancer. She was 51 years old. Arabic social media filled with eulogies written by people from every segment of society.
One of the most famous Palestinian singers in the world, Banna came to be known through her modern interpretations of traditional Palestinian songs — children songs and popular women’s melodies — which she performed in a youthful, rhythmic manner, breathing into them a new life. She was a composer, a creator, and a singer of a rare kind who combined the spirit of resistance to the occupation, the hope for freedom, and the joy of creation to make moving music.
Banna was born and raised in Nazareth. After studying at the Moscow Conservatory, she returned to her homeland and dedicated her life to the project of conserving and reviving traditional Palestinian musical culture. In addition to the songs that she wrote and composed herself, she also put to music the poems of the great Palestinian poets — Mahmoud Darwish, Tawfiq Ziad, Samih al-Qasim — as well as those with whom she wrote, like the poet Zohira Sebag.
Rim sang of the stolen homeland, of the children of the refugee camps, of the bleeding youth of Gaza on the way to freedom. Dressed in embroidered Palestinian clothes and big, antique silver jewelry, she was a musical icon — one of a kind.
She was one of the first artists to call for a cultural boycott of Israel. She could not understand how artists whose work encouraged resistance and called for liberation could, at the same time, perform in an occupying country.
There is not one Arab student who did not did not hear Rim Banna at least once — in a concert at one of the universities, at a protest, a march, or a parade.
In 2009, Banna was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began her battle against the occupier in her body, as she described it. She gave interviews to TV channels and cultural media programs around the world after she had lost her wild, curly hair, and was left with a shaved head, magnanimity, and big...Read More