||Ramzi Aburedwan & Dal’ouna Ensemble with Lena Seikaly and Sandy Tolan
by Sandy Tolan
“Sandy Tolan knows Palestinian life. His first book, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East (2006) was followed up by his popular blog, Ramallah Café: Facts on the Ground in the Middle East. Now he gives us Children of the Stone where we hear more about some of the people we’ve met at his café,” writes Huffington Post Books’ Nancy Graham Holm.
Palestinian workers wait to cross at the Israeli checkpoint in Jalameh, south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel. (Mohammed Ballas / AP)
by Sandy Tolan on TruthDig
Sandy Tolan is just one week into the book tour for Children of the Stone, and the response has been extraordinary. Not only did Children of the Stone appear in both The Daily Beast and Salon, but ‘Friday Was The Bomb‘ author Nathan Deuel referred to Tolan’s latest book as “a moving look at music’s power in Palestine.” And the praise doesn’t end there:
“Teasing out all the details of this story, from the granular facts of Ramzi’s life to the complicated history of the region, Tolan is a scrupulous craftsman if not always a dazzling one. The end notes to the book run for nearly 100 pages, a workmanlike demonstration of rigor. But it isn’t poetic sentences or surprising metaphors that propel us forward; it’s the hard work of getting the story right — diligence required of any serious project about this, the most contentious of regions.”
Want to read the next excerpt from Sandy Tolan’s new book? Share next week’s Grace Notes with your friends and you can read it right now! (more…)
Read all of the excerpts from the second week of Grace Notes. (more…)
Read all of the excerpts from the first week of Grace Notes. (more…)
To promote the release of Sandy Tolan’s latest book, Children of the Stone, Ramallah Café presents Grace Notes, short excerpts curated by the author himself. The book, about one Palestinian’s dream to build a music school in the middle of a military occupation, is out today. Children of the Stone is already receiving wide praise from historians, early reviewers, and the famed musician Yo-Yo Ma. (more…)
Beginning today, Ramallah Café presents Grace Notes, short excerpts from Sandy Tolan’s forthcoming book, Children of the Stone. The book, about one Palestinian’s dream to build a music school in the middle of a military occupation, comes out this month. Children of the Stone is already receiving wide praise from historians, early reviewers, and the famed musician Yo-Yo Ma. (more…)
It was the kind of threat you’d expect to hear from the Islamic State – so extreme it made you want to rub your eyes in disbelief. But there was Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on the campaign trail, calling for the beheading of disloyal Arab citizens of Israel. “Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head,” said Israel’s foreign minister on March 8. “Otherwise we won’t survive here.”
My new book, Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land, will launch in April, officially on April 21 with a talk at the downtown LA Public Library’s ALOUD series, hosted by NPR’s Kelly McEvers. A two-week national tour follows. We’ve received wonderful initial feedback so far, including “blurbs” from Yo-Yo Ma and Reza Aslan, and glowing reviews from Booklist and others. We’ve set up a page to keep track of tour details as well as other news about the book itself and the conversations it hopefully inspires. We do want to help change the conversation in this country about Palestine/Israel. I would love you to take a look, like the Facebook author page, and stay in touch. https://www.facebook.com/SandyTolanAuthor
An Al Kamandjati student learns the violin, Al Amari Palestinian refugee camp. Photo by Margarida Mota.
For the last five years, I’ve been reporting and writing Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (Bloomsbury, April 2015), which chronicles the journey of musician Ramzi Aburedwan, a child of the first Palestinian Intifada, and his dream to build a broad musical presence in occupied Palestine. Today Al Kamandjati (Arabic for The Violinist) has served thousands of Palestinian children through classes, workshops, annual music festivals, a instrument-building and repair center, and a summer music camp.
Alongside the toll of death and broken lives, perhaps the saddest reality of the latest Gaza war, like the Gaza wars before it, is how easy it would have been to avoid. For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza. Each time, they have chosen war, with devastating consequences for the families of Gaza. Read more, at TomDispatch.com…
Palestinian relatives at the funerals for the Bakr boys, four cousins aged 9, 10, and 11, killed in an Israeli shelling on a Gaza beach as they played hide and seek on July 15. Photo by Mahmud Hams, AFP/ Getty
Child of the stones: Ramzi Aburedwan, in 1987 and 1997
An excerpt, published in Granta, from Children of the Stones (working title), my forthcoming book (Bloomsbury, 2014) about making music under occupation in Palestine. Much of the book focuses on Ramzi Aburedwan, a child of the first Palestinian intifada, whose Al Kamandjati music center serves hundreds of Palestinian children in the West Bank and refugee camps in Lebanon. From the Granta piece:
Fadi’s Italian arias represented another form of freedom. Anyone who heard him sing for the first time was astonished by the power and tone of the boy’s clear soprano. His pitch, and his resonance, seemed to reach inside listeners. In the practice room with Julia, Fadi’s voice would soar above the piano, cutting through the ambient din of Jenin: clear and resonant. In recitals, he had a natural dramatic presence, his eyes widening at emotional turns in the piece, as if he understood the original Italian. He memorized his first song, ‘Sebben, Crudele’ written by the Italian baroque composer Antonio Caldara for his 1710 opera, La costanza in amor vince l’inganno (Faithfulness in love conquers treachery), in a single lesson. The next evening he performed it at a recital for other students, accompanied by Jason on the piano. Julia was stunned. Teachers found themselves on the verge of tears. ‘A star! A new star at the Kamandjâti!’ Fadi declared that evening, giddy with his own gifts and laughing in celebration. Read more, in Granta…
Edward Said died ten years ago – September 25, 2003, after a twelve-year battle with leukemia. One of the 20th Century’s great intellectuals, Said, author of the masterworks Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, was also a beloved professor to generations of students at Columbia University, a gifted amateur pianist and an opera critic for The Nation magazine. He was perhaps best known for his fierce defense of the rights of his people, the Palestinians, in numerous books and hundreds of essays and articles published worldwide.
September also marks another fateful anniversary – the 20th, of the now-infamous Arafat-Rabin handshake on the White House lawn, which sealed the Oslo accords. The legacies of Oslo and its greatest critic, Edward Said, stand as polar opposites. Indeed, it was Said who was among the first to sharply criticize the accords, in part because, unlike many satisfied pundits of the day, he had actually read them. For this reason, his widow Mariam told me, he had declined a White House invitation to attend the ceremony in September 1993. Today his words on Oslo are the soundings of a prophet.
Jamming at Qalandia: Musicians bound for Jerusalem to play Beethoven's 4th Symphony played a waiting game, hoping the rest of the Palestinians in the orchestra would make it through the checkpoint. Photo by Eric Culver
Beethoven’s 4th Symphony has inspired countless thousands of musicians since it was first performed more than two centuries ago. Yet few, I’m sure, have risked arrest and prison time just to play this magnificent piece of music.
Enter the Ramallah Orchestra, made up largely of Palestinian musicians in their teens and twenties, accompanied by 15 or so visiting teachers and performers from Europe and the U.S. The orchestra is a project of Al Kamandjati, the Ramallah-based music school at the center of my next book. For the Palestinians in the orchestra, Beethoven’s music, inspiring at it is, makes up only part of the story.
The profound amid the quotidian: Al Kamandjati's Ramallah Orchestra, rehearsing Beethoven and Mendelssohn in Old Ramallah, for a series of concerts beginning June 29 in Jerusalem
I arrived in Ramallah a week ago, limping heavily, and right into another story of Palestinian hospitality. I had torn a calf muscle doing exercise in my Jerusalem hotel room, and, after managing to get on the #18 minibus to Ramallah, then hop a cab to the flat I’m renting here for two weeks, I met my landlords – three generations of an old Ramallah family who live in the flats above and below the one they were renting me. This is my sixth trip to Palestine since 2009, all for reporting and research for my new book, about making music under occupation in Palestine. Every time I come, I encounter small, profound kindnesses: surprise in the quotidian life.
When he saw me limp up the stairs, Ziad, a young doctor, provided a quick assessment of my ailment; then with a look of concern, he asked me if I needed any groceries, since I wouldn’t be able to walk to get any. Well, yes, thanks, I said. Make a list, he said. Then he told me he knew an orthopedist at the end of the block; would I like him to try to get an appointment? Well, yes, thanks, I said again.