By Menna Taher
Red, green, black and white balloons decorated the entrance of Ewart Hall as keffiyeh-clad members of the Quds Club of The American University in Cairo listened to Palestinian singer Rim Banna and a dabkeh performance by club members on Saturday.
Banna dedicated songs to Palestinian refugees, children that died in war and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Clapping, whistling, singing along and swaying to the rhythm, the audience was soon chanting “Bel roh, bel dam, nafdeke ya Falastine”, or “We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, oh Palestine.”
“Our concerts always receive such an engagement of the audience, even in Europe,” Banna said with a smile. “When I sing, I feel that Palestine is seeping out of my body.”
“She’s a very good performer,” said Rizwaan Akhtar, an AUC student. “It was an interesting event and had a lot of symbols, like the chanting of the crowd, the colors and the song dedications. Compared to other events it was pretty politicized.”
Many Palestinians saw the event as an opportunity to get a taste of home.
“We always wait for any opportunity to gather,” said Ihab Abu Daka, a Palestinian studying medicine in Kasr El Aini.
“I felt I was in Palestine,” added Mohamed Obeidat, a Palestinian student at the 6th of October University.
But the event also attracted non-Palestinians, who also said they enjoyed the performance.
“She has an amazing voice and her words are coming out of her heart,” said Nada Ibrahim, an Egyptian member of the Quds club. “I wish I was Palestinian,” she added in a Palestinian accent.
“I caught that from my friends,” she explained. “I’ve been passionate about Palestine for six years.”
Banna, born in Nazareth in 1966, started her artistic life at the age of 10. In 1991, she graduated from the High Institute for Music “GNESINS” in Moscow. Married to Ukrainian artist Leonid Alexeinko, Banna and her husband work together in composing songs. Her songs are mainly representing Palestine.
“Singing about the Palestinian conflict gives me strength,” Banna said.