Palestinian musician Maya Al Khaldi combines archival stories, music theory and rhythmic intuition to stunning effect. Her latest exhibition, Call the Waves, is an ode to transience; Explore the sound and movement of the Welsh tides.
“I’m a performer, a singer, I’m used to seeing people’s reactions when I’m on stage, but it’s good to push boundaries beyond our location,” Maya Al Khaldi begins.
“I’ve always been interested in doing things that don’t happen to me, so I can send those things out and they can have a life of their own,” she adds from Jerusalem.
Maya Al Khaldi is a Palestinian musician, artist and composer living in Jerusalem. She works with archival materials to envision the future while exploring the voice and music of the past and present.
Commissioned by the Chapter Art Center in Cardiff, her work is featured this month in a new exhibition entitled Call the waveswhich is part of a multi-site program between Barry and Cardiff in Wales, Marrakesh in Morocco and Ramallah in Palestine.
“Maya’s work is about protecting those memories, the songs and the life at the sources, keeping them alive.”
The project is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International and is co-curated by Francesca Masoero, Louise Hobson and Shayma Nader for the SWAY platform.
Call the waves is a community project tied to the tidal waters of the South Wales coast.
It is a group exhibition with a public program that deals with the connections between different bodies of water. Through subterranean waterways, springs, rivers and seas, artists, musicians and historians propose reclaiming songs and stories, stories and futures.
“We started thinking about tides and what happens when they flow,” Maya Al Khaldi explains. “I made that my own metaphor. I work a lot with folk and traditional music, but also with archives. I am interested in the development of archival and anthropological research. The curator approached me at the right time for this project. She is interested in similar topics as she is also an artist and researcher.”
This curator, Shayma Nader, was born in Jerusalem and now lives and works in Ramallah, Palestine. “With the other two curators, we wanted to explore the themes of water poetics in different locations, including Wales, Morocco, Egypt and Palestine,” she said The new Arab.
“That is the goal of the SWAY platform. We want to connect these separate regions through intimate stories about water. The choice of artists arose from personal friendships; We enjoy their work.”
Immediately, Maya and Shyama thought about water-themed songs. “Because our history and culture was so violently disrupted and invaded Palestine, we all need to reconnect with it,” Maya said.
“So, to the question, ‘What was it like when the tide was there?’ I decided to go to a spring known as Maqam al-Nabi Ayoub, a holy place where Prophet Ayoub is said to have cured his illness with the water.” The spring is in the small village of Ras Karkar, west from Ramallah.
“Because our history and culture were so violently disrupted and invaded Palestine, we all need to reconnect with it.”
“There is a shrine to the Prophet near the spring,” Maya continued, “and when I went there, I met a woman who lives nearby and told me many stories—about her mother, about her fishing habits and their relation to them the waters. she was so nice to me But she also spoke about what they went through because of the Israeli army. I asked her to teach me her songs and my goal was to pass them on.”
The spring, now closed due to constant pressure from the Israeli army, was once a spring for communal washing, drinking and healing. With her singing, Maya “recreates the time when the water flowed”.
Maya’s work is about protecting those memories, the songs and the life at the sources, keeping them alive.
Like the other works in the exhibition, the songs tell stories of displacement. “But I didn’t just want to preserve the old songs,” she added.
“I want to add my own reflection. I created four pieces of music and each has a different perspective on the site I visited, the stories the site told me.”
Maya sings in Arabic on three of them; the fourth is instrumental.
She used sound recordings and edited them electronically. The result lies between songs and stories that are broadcast in the rooms of the exhibition.
According to curator Shayma, the voices sound as if they are coming from within the source: “It’s about the connection and the meaning of what comes after the water has flowed.”
Maya recently released her first solo album, Another world“a recording of Palestinian folk music based on audio-only archives from the 1980s of traditional music,” according to the artist.
She also teaches music theory and singing at the Edward Said National Conservatory in Jerusalem, Palestine, works on a Terre Des Hommes project and is pursuing her PhD.
Melissa Chemam is a Franco-Algerian freelance journalist and culture writer who lives and travels between Paris, Bristol and Marseille.
Follow her on Twitter: @melissachemam