El Morabba3 Question Identity and Fight Racism in New Album “Taraf Al Khait”

El Morabba3 Question Identity and Fight Racism in New Album “Taraf Al Khait”

This post is part of an ongoing series about displacement and migration in contemporary music. For intercultural literacy, art provides important perspectives.

Despite winning Band of the Year award by Esquire Magazine and being invited to the ceremony, Jordanian band El Morabba3 (The Square) were recently denied entry to United Arab Emirates for “safety reasons” according to officials. This is not new to the band as they’ve been facing similar problems since they started back in 2009.

I’ve had the chance to talk to the band in 2015 and they described all the difficulties they face as musicians coming from Jordan and Palestine. They especially showed great disappointment in Arab countries not allowing them to enter for performances, linking that to the fact that Muhammad Abdullah, the band’s singer and bassist, is originally from Gaza.

All this disappointment can be clearly heard in their completely crowdfunded second album “Taraf Al Khait”, which translates to “End of the String”; a metaphor used in Arabic to describe the beginning of realization and coming to peace with reality. Throughout the album, with songs titled “I Don’t Want to Know Where I Come From”, “A Little Further” and “100000 Million Miles”, El Morabba3 tell their lifetime suffering from racism, rejection and identity issues, along with other regional topics.

The official video of the album’s first single “El Mokhtalifeen” or “The Different Ones” shows two different creatures, with one of them desperately trying to contact the other. I can’t help but see the smart criticism of modern day xenophobia in the video:



Where are you? Where am I? Where are the different ones?
a far cry from each other.
What if I get closer to you, and challenge your segregation with you?
I have the same thing…
I’m determined to reach you, even if you seem distant.
Where are you? Where am I? Where are those who oppose?
a far cry from each other.
What if I get closer and try to touch you?
but maybe it’s not allowed; unlike what they taught you.
I’m determined to reach you, even if you seem distant. 


Jerusalem in My Heart: Longing For Home Through Music

Jerusalem in My Heart: Longing For Home Through Music

“An experimental music project that’s longing for the past with all its memories and nostalgia, while acknowledging the present in a new home and environment”


It’s no secret that fans of a certain piece of art are people who identify with and relate to it. That was the case when I came across Jerusalem in My Heart back in 2013, during a desperate search of music I can remember home with, and still enjoy my “Western” electronic sound preferences. Jerusalem in My Heart is an experimental music project that’s longing for the past with all its memories and nostalgia, while acknowledging the present in a new home and environment, trying to create a peaceful place in the middle; where people can visit to let go of over attachment to one culture. A bridge we can cross from time to time without having to feel entitled to one thing. To me, as a displaced person, this project is a very successful and genuine attempt to document the sound of adaptation to the new surrounding, without completely letting go of the past.

It was started by Lebanese producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh; who immigrated to Canada with his family following the civil war in Beirut in 1993. He’s currently a very important and known figure in the Montreal independent music community, contributing to many of the records by local musicians at Hotel2Tango: a cult studio he owns with other well known musicians and producers.

The project heavily relies on interaction of sound and visuals to create a multidimensional theatrical action.That’s why it’s been hard to translate that to record, according to Moumneh. Luckily though, there are two Jerusalem in My Heart albums available at the moment: “Mo7it Al-Mo7it” (Ocean of the Ocean)-2012 and “If He Dies, If If If If If If”-2015; both embracing their ancient Middle Eastern culture background and references, in a contemporary form.

A track called “Yudaghegh Al-Ra3ey Wala Al-Ghanam” (He Titillates the Shepherd, but not the Sheep) got my attention when I listened to the debut album for the first time; making me feel like walking into some sort of Arab-themed dance club. Moumneh repeats the title of the song over two accelerated synth lines for three minutes:


Radwan’s highly literary work of complex Arabic poetry and buzuk music mixed with Western contemporary electronic sounds continues throughout both albums, but the whole Jerusalem in My Heart experience is not complete without the visuals that accompany music during live shows. Charles-Andre Coderre is the man responsible for that at the moment. Every show has its own hand-made film loops ready to be projected on multiple screens. Another reason why there’s no two similar Jerusalem in My Heart shows.

Finally, to get the full idea, I highly recommend you watch the video below. It’s a full live set that Radwan and Charles-Andre recently performed at Studio 6 in Belgrade, Serbia:




Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction and HelferInnenkonferenz

In early September, Refugee Phrasebook received the Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in the category “Digital Communities”. Team members Caoimhe Gallagher and Paul Feigelfeld traveled to Linz to attend the opening of the CyberArts exhibition, which showed all the winning projects and for which the team had designed a custom printing station where visitors could learn about the project and make their own copies of Refugee Phrasebook. The award ceremony was introduced by Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and presented all the winning projects. The next day, Caoimhe and Paul presented Refugee Phrasebook in two keynotes: One at the Prix Forum, together with the Golden Nica winner P2P Foundation and the Japanese project Sazae Bot. P2P Foundation spokesperson Stacco Troncoso made special mention of Refugee Phrasebook during his commencement speech, introducing it as a good example of a P2P commons project. Later in the afternoon, Caoimhe presented the project again, during the second annual HelferInnenkonferenz, which was held in the Post City in Linz, which housed the Ars Electronica exhibition – and one year earlier, many thousand refugees. Here are the two videos of the presentations.

The Sound of Pre-War Syria

The Sound of Pre-War Syria

This post is part of an ongoing series about displacement and migration in contemporary music. For intercultural literacy, art provides important perspectives.

There was a very promising music scene growing in Syria a few years before the war. One of the most successful musicians of that era was the band Kulna Sawa ( We Together ). They released five albums between 1998 and 2008. Their last is their most political, containing songs about life of Syrian youth during the first years of 21st century, war in Iraq and imaginary stories about a corrupted and miserable country, including displacement. The album plays as a radio broadcast, making it very haunting to listen to in 2016, during the actual war that it predicted. A very recommended listen for those interested in learning more about the political life in Syria before and during the conflict.

I chose a song called Nayem Ala Shat Albahr ( He Lies on the Beach ) from that album because, to me, it talks about a fear that has always existed within the society. A fear of certain people in control causing damage to the country. A prediction that became a reality only three years after the release of the song. It’s an example of artistic maturity representing the awareness of Syrian youth before the war. It would be interesting to observe refugees’ reaction to this song.

Kulna Sawa stopped due to displacement and war. Everything they talked about in their imaginary stories has come true.

Their front man, Iyad Alrimawi, is still notably making and scoring music as a solo artist in Damascus.

Kulna Sawa – He Lies on the Beach I كلنا سوا – نايم على شط البحر

He Lies on The Beach 

He lies on the beach, his men surround him,
the sun would hide if he wants, people kneel for him

The voices of dead people call from the sea,
If you look closely, you’ll see their arms and faces

A war criminal,
With people’s souls he plays,
Their blood is his and his men’s favorite drink

He knows himself,
and the massacre is broadcasting on your TV tonight,
by satellite

He lies on the beach, his women surround him,
a blonde one pets his hair, a brunette smiles at him,
the sea goes up and down following his fingers,
the wind is there to obey him

Time to play :
they gave him the map,
from which he picked a neighborhood and circled it,
His first target are school kids, even though he’s an academic

He lies on the beach, his sons surround him,
he does the glory sign with his hand, but his hunger killed him,
his older sons have died and only the youngest two are left,
you’ll see their funeral in the news tonight.

نايم على شط البحر 

نايم على شط البحر, ورجالو حولو
الشمس بتتخبى بأمرو, والناس بتركعلو
أصواتون للي ماتوا , من البحر تنادي
اذا بتدقق بتشوف وجوهون والأيادي

مجرم حرب
برواح الناس بيلعب
من دم البشر بيسقى رجالو وهو بيشرب

مجرم واعي
والمجزرة منقولة الليلة على بيتك,
بالقمر الصناعي

نايم على شط البحر , ونسوانو حولو
شقرا بتسرح شعرو, وسمرا بتضحكلو
الموج بيطلع وبينزل مع حركة ايدو
ريح انوجدت لتنفذ الليي بريدو

اجا وقت اللعب :
فتحولو الخريطة
اختار من المنطقة حارة , وبقلم صار يحيطا
مجرم دارس ,
وأول مين بيعلن حربو عليهن , أطفال المدارس

نايم على شط البحر, و ولادو حولو
على ايدو علامة نصر . بس جوعو قتلو
راحوا ولادو الكبار , وبقيوا اثنين صغار
جنازتن بتشوفا الليلة , بنشرة الأخبار

In Remembrance of Those Who Have Drowned at the Borders of Europe

Mashrou’ Leila – The Sea| مشروع ليلى – بحر

Bahr (The Sea)

Oh night, shroud me; veil me with your darkness
Oh night, impregnate me; empower me with your darkness
My brother saw the secret; saw the secret he would’ve revealed
My brother, seized by the waves, seized by the waves as he squealed
And the fishermen just slept

Oh Poseidon return to me, return to me my brother
The waves have swindled me; have robbed me of my brother
I took him to the shore, so the waves may wash him clean,
And there upon that shore, stained the waves incarnadine.
And the fishermen just slept

My brother lies with the mermaids, bring him back to me
My brother was stolen by the waves, won’t you bring him back to me
My brother left me with the break of dawn, never to return to me
He lies upon the ocean floor, never to return to me


يا ليل إحجبني حجبني بعتمتك
يا ليل إملئني قويني بعتمتك
أخوي شاف السر شاف السر كان حيبوح
أخوي جوا الموج جوا الموج عمبينوح

والصيادين نائمين

يا بحر رجعلي رجعلي أخوي
الموج سرقلي خطفلي أخوي
اخذته حد البحر خلي الموج يطهره
أخذته حد البحر دبغت الموج بدمه

والصيادين غافلين خامدين نائمين

أخوي مع الحورية
رجعوه لي
الموج أخذلي أخوي
رجعوه لي

أخوي راح مع الفجر
لسا ما عاد لي
أخوي بقعر البحر

لسا ما عاد لي

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS3gP5BFi6o

Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction 2016

Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction 2016

We are very very happy to announce that Refugee Phrasebook has won the 2016 Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in the category Digital Communities. This award of distinction has previously been awarded to organizations such as Wikileaks, the Free Software Foundation, and Refugees United.

We want to thank everyone involved in the project, all the contributors, translators, printers, distributors, designers, volunteers, programmers, writers, donors, all of our friends for continuing to make Refugee Phrasebook possible.

The whole team sincerely hopes that the award will help us to continue working on this project and getting it to the people and places who need it.

Refugee Phrasebook is always looking for new people to get involved in the project and to collaborate with. Please feel free to get in touch with us through info@refugeephrasebook.de!


Logo and Website Updates

Refugee Phrasebook receives a new logo by Berlin-based graphic designer Matthias Neumann, a new filter function by José Salguero and a website update by Markus Neuschäfer.


Matthias logo design strikes the balance between the old and the new consisting of two main elements. The speech bubble stands for the conversations that should be enabled by the Phrasebooks usage. The dots symbolize the further development of the project with the help of Others. The customed logo gives us a fresh identity and allows us more freedom since our previous logo included an image from the icon archive thenounproject.com and could only be used with a license disclaimer.



With the new filter function by José Salguero, phrases from the Google spreadsheets can be displayed with a custom language selection. The code is available on Josés GitHub repository and can be reused and embedded on other websites as well.




Many thanks for your generous help José, Matthias and Markus!


PArt of Us at CSM London

April 25th, 5pm-9pm members of the Refugee Phrasebook team will attend an Exhibition and Fundraiser in aid of Refugees at Central Saint Martins, London. Sample versions of the phrasebook will be exhibited. Marta Monge will show the development of a mobile version using Raspberry Pi. Caoimhe Gallagher (RPB) and Monika Dorniak (RPB) will give a presentation on the Phrasebook Project and will be available from 5pm -9pm explaining how to use the easy LibreOffice version which enables everyone to create their own version. Tickets are free and can be booked here.

Distribution in Idomeni

Distribution in Idomeni

Refugee Phrasebook has recently received a new printing request: A phrasebook with Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu, Greek and Kurdish for the Idomeni camp in Greece. Our team made a PDF with these languages through Wikibooks and thanks to Raul Walch and other volunteers, 1000 copies of Refugee Phrasebook were printed in Idomeni this week to improve communication in the camp. (more…)

Advocate Europe

OKF Greece distributing phrasebooks in Idomeni, Greece

OKF Greece distributing phrasebooks in Idomeni, Greece

We have applied for the Advocate Europe Award in order to develop Refugee Phrasebook further. The Community Award allows the public to pick their favourite project. The three ideas with the most user votes receive awards worth €5,000 (first place), €3,000 (second place) and €2,000 (third place). These funds will be used to support the development, printing and distribution of phrasebooks. We need your participation: you can create an account here and vote until March 17th (12.00 CET). After you’ve registered and activated your account, please open the link again so you go straight to the Refugee Phrasebook proposal, wait till it fully loads (it can take a little while), then click “Support”. (more…)