Indie singer delivers haunting tribute to Gaza children killed while playing football

A new song from the British indie rock singer and songwriter John Donaldson (formerly of Levellers 5 and Calvin Party, now performing as JD Meatyard) is a hard-hitting commemoration of the four young boys killed by an Israeli shell as they were playing football on a beach during Israel’s massive 2014 attack on Gaza.

The shelling, which took on global notoriety after international journalists witnessed it from their beachfront hotel, killed Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both ten years old, Muhammad Ramiz Bakr, eleven, and Ismail Muhammad Bakr, aged nine, as well as injuring a number of other children.

“Four Kids Playing on a Gaza Beach” combines sampling of a single voice uttering the words “it’s insane” with a folk tune which is itself a memorial to the Irish socialist and freedom fighter James Connolly, who was executed by the British authorities for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Described as “an important song … as direct as a political song gets and is ever more powerful as a result. What else needs to be said than ‘four kids blown .. they’re blown to pieces?’” by one reviewer, the track’s sparse instrumentation and spare, repeated lyrics are haunting and disturbing, eschewing overt statements, and instead leaving the listener to envisage the horror of the scene.

The song, out on JD Meatyard’s new album Taking the Asylum, isn’t Netherlands-based Donaldson’s first engagement with the Palestinian cause. His eponymous debut album also includes “Olive Tree – Palestine Song” — another haunting piece which combines melancholic observations on the destruction of Palestine’s agricultural heritage by Israeli settlers and soldiers with a wry touch, turning Israel’s claim that its people will be “pushed into the sea” back onto the aggressor.


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.