Listen: Reem Kelani sings “Galilean Lullaby,” a poignant Palestinian song featured on BBC

The BBC World Service broadcast a beautiful documentary on 22 December called “Lullabies of the Arab World” which you can listen to here.

It featured songs and singers in the Amazigh language in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, a Syrian woman in Kuwait reflecting on the lullabies of her childhood, an Iraqi grandmother singing an incredibly poignant song and amazingly, a lullaby that was written down 4,000 years ago.

A Palestinian lullaby

Among these voices it was also wonderful to hear British-born Palestinian singer Reem Kelani reflect on Palestinian lullabies.

Kelani, who was also interviewed by The Electronic Intifada in 2010, speaks in particular about Tahlileh Jaliliyyeh (Galilean Lullaby), a traditional song written down by the poet Tawfiq Zayyad. Kelani says:

Galilean Lullaby is actually an old, traditional lullaby. As soon as I heard the lyrics, I thought there’s something about this song. It’s seemingly quite morbid and I thought how can a mother put her baby to sleep to such morbid lyrics but at the same time its full of hope.

Our loved ones have left home
Gone away without saying goodbye
When I went by their place one morning to salute the Mulberry tree
No one was there to invite me in
All I found was a crying bird
Regret stopped me short and pinned my feet to the thorny ground
I sought in vain to learn what had become of them
From the houses in which they once lived
Alas my tears stained the walls of their buildings

Oh cavalier of the caravan, if you come across them
Let them know that I still cry for them
Tell them my loving eyes haven’t yet closed in sleep
The good nights are gone that should have lasted forever
Do tell our loved ones who’ve moved away
That for anyone, hardship never lasts forever
Hardship never lasts forever
Hardship never lasts forever

I know that the optimistic punchline takes quite a while to appear, but for me it’s solid, for me it’s the backbone of this song.

After hearing the documentary, I found the above video of Kelani (website) singing her rendition of Tahlileh Jaliliyyeh.