Zaid Hilal


Cover Zaid Hilal - Hayyed © Zaid Hilal “Hayyed -حيّد” is a song from regional and Palestinian folklore dating back to the 1936 Arab Revolt in Palestine. For this track, the artist uses the version sung by esteemed Nazarene Palestinian singer Hajje Badriyye Younis, who tells the story of Hasna and Ghbeishi with a raw voice full of emotion and tenacity.

“The song in itself is a historic document of its time, but its teachings about social equality, the injustice of oppression, and the cultural insights that it gives into a past era are valuable to all of us as modern day listeners. The renewed cycle of oppression of Palestinians since May 2021 made me resort to the folklore and sounds that address our history at the start of the 20th century.” (Zaid Hilal)

The song tells the story of Ghbeishi, a young man from a small Bedouin Jordanian tribe who fought against the British Mandate over Palestine in the late 1930s. He fell in love with Hasna, whose parents opposed their marriage due to a difference in social status. The two lovers decided to elope and Hasna’s family asked the British military general of the Jordanian Arab army, Glubb Basha, to help retrieve their daughter. As a result, Glubb Basha dispatched a heavily armed squad to find and kill Ghbeishi.

The lyrics are a conversation between Hasna and Ghbeishi, where the original voice of Badriyya Younes intertwines with the artist’s own voice. The vocals juxtapose the present with the past, bringing old heritage back to life with the help of technology; “Singing by her side gives me a great feeling of honor as different times and similar events come together in one song.” (Zaid Hilal)

The recording is embedded with sounds that socially reconstruct the period; including sounds of an eagle, the rolling wheels of a horse-driven cart, and clapping. At certain points the instrumentation reflects sounds of the weaponry being described in the song.

Lyricist: Possibly Hussein Alloubani
Original recording period: possibly 1940s/1950s
Contemporary recording: August 2021
Instruments: Synth, lifters, riqq, tabla, percussion, electric piano.
Lyrics: n/a


Ambience of Palestine

Cover Zaid Hilal - Ambience of Palestine © Zaid Hilal In this track Zaid Hilal sonically portrays his perception of present-day Palestine by walking the listeners through the streets of Bethlehem and Ramallah and allowing them to listen to the sounds of church bells, calls to prayer, traffic, demonstrations, and gunshots.

“Sounds from our daily reality are related to deeply rooted pain from times past and can trigger memories of life and death, especially because many Palestinians have lost loved ones during demonstrations. One of those loved ones was my friend Moataz Zawahre, who lost his life with a bullet through his head as he walked past a demonstration on his way to work. The sounds of the recent demonstrations and protests brought back those memories and inspired this piece documenting the present as a set of reactive memories to the past.” Zaid Hilal

On this experimental journey, the artist uses various musical elements, starting with a mixture of sounds from everyday life paired with a multitude of musical traditions. The Bayati scale (one of the most symbolic scales in Palestinian musical folklore) welcomes listeners with vocal improvisation, enabling the artist to convey his emotions. Arabic instruments such as the tabla and the buzuq are also featured in the piece, in addition to West Asian rhythms and phrases.

“The piece is held throughout by the triggering sounds of protests that interlace our history and daily sound experiences. Here, sound and music complement each other in a process of forging present heritage. An aural piece of my country is carried to the listener, giving a better idea of the physical and social space in which we live, while also documenting and representing pivotal experiences like the struggle for justice. The ending of the track speaks to an abrupt ending of life. As a communal experience, the song becomes part of our shared heritage.” Zaid Hilal

Instruments:  Buzuq, tabla, field recordings, electric piano, percussions
Vocals: Zaid Hilal
Composition: Zaid Hilal
Date of original composition/work:  July 2021
Source of music: 
Lyrics: n/a


The Why Behind the Music

Zaid Hilal

Music is a tool that scores history into rhythms and lyrics, while incorporating heritage and folklore into its many layers. To me, heritage as a set of customs, beliefs, and lived experiences is a national treasure that reflects and records important historical behaviours, and thus the two are complementary. 

As a Palestinian musician living in Palestine, I witness the Israeli occupation exposing our heritage to invasion on a daily basis. This manifests in cultural appropriation and altering our food, fashion, music, drawings, patriotic symbols, and history. Here I see the importance of music in preserving and documenting our history, identity, and struggle for justice. Music and art become mediums I use to help counter these external attacks on our presence, our present, and our heritage.

As the Mirath:Music project has shown, access to our heritage and its proper documentation and archiving is challenging. Due to successive colonizations and constant efforts to erase our history, we do not have a single unified archive as Palestinians. Whatever has remained after Israeli plundering and savage attacks has been scattered either between a number of institutions and organizations in different countries or among individuals who do not always make this heritage available.

Music helps me express what I am feeling and what I am going through, but it also enables me to tell stories I choose to retrieve from the past and to share lived experiences in a way that is accessible to listeners.


Interview with Zaid Hilal