“We can use the power and beauty of music against colonial forces,” says Palestinian-Japanese soprano – Middle East Monitor
When asked what has been the most exciting international appearance, Palestinian-Japanese soprano, Mariam Tamari, joked that there’s nothing quite like performing with fellow Palestinian musicians.
“We work with the unspoken understanding that music is our intifada, and that urgency, that yearning, our shared visions of liberation unfold through music. We are family,” she said.
With several notable accomplishments to her credit, Mariam, who grew up in Tokyo, believes in using her talent to produce high-pitched melodies to shed light on the trials and tribulations of Palestinians who suffer under Israeli occupation. Israel.
Art is, after all, in his genes.
Her late father is the artist. Vladimir Tamari, his mother Kyoko is a costume designer and his two Tetas were a draftsman and calligrapher.
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“My father was constantly playing Bach and Mozart in his studio at home, and I naturally started singing and composing when I was two years old,” she said. “As a child in Palestine, my mother’s lullabies soothed us through experiences of military violence. I believe that also played an important role.”
While crossing Jordan at the age of three, she saw her father being arrested by Israeli soldiers. She saw the soldiers aggressively blindfold him and handcuff him with machine guns pointed at his head, threatening the children to shut up or they would shoot their father. Instantly, Mariam’s mother silenced them with singing lullabies.
“Apartheid violence is everywhere, but Palestine is also where I feel most comfortable. There, community is everything,” she explained. “We look out for each other with enveloping warmth, generosity and love. The song is spontaneous and intertwined with our daily life, whether it rolls warak dawali in the kitchen or cheer up at checkpoints. »
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, USA, Mariam majored in music and philosophy. She made her operatic debut as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore at the Nissay Theater in Tokyo. She also recently played the title role in Madame Butterfly.
Respected around the world, she has performed for the Emperor and Empress of Japan and the King and Queen of Jordan. She has been described as having “a particular flair for French melodies” and praised for her “lucid musicality” and “virtuosity”.
“It’s an art that requires focused dedication and passion more than anything,” said Mariam. “The willingness to practice in great detail, for hours a day, for decades and decades and the humility and curiosity to be a lifelong student of music.”
Currently based in Paris, Mariam composes new songs on Palestinian texts, which she records with musicians in Palestine.
Highlighting the importance of drawing attention to the Palestinian struggle, the soprano explained how the social space of music is an effective site of socio-political and cultural resistance.
Cultural resistance has been associated with Palestinian music and songs since the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their villages in 1948.
“We do what we can with what we have,” Mariam said. “We are most effective in our own spheres of experience and influence. I am convinced that we must communicate with courage and from the heart so that our messages are deeply heard and felt and, to this end, there is no no better language for me than music.”
“There may also be something to be said for the raw human voice trained to reach thousands of people without amplification. What moved me deeply was that people all over the world – South Africa, Hawaii , Vietnam, to name a few – wrote to share their stories. People who know what it is like to suffer under colonialism said they learned more about Palestine and have the feeling that their struggles are also represented in my music.It keeps me going.
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While following in the footsteps of her aunt Tania Tamari Nasir in musical activism and representing the poetic and political voices of Palestinians by singing Palestinian texts, Mariam also sings works by Japanese composers.
“My aunt, Tania, is the pioneering soprano for singing classical art songs in Arabic, working closely with Palestinian poets such as Mahmoud Darwish and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra,” Mariam said.
“Although Western classical music has often been used and associated with European aristocracy and white supremacy, Tania has always shown me that we can use the power and beauty of music against colonial forces, to elevate our voice and celebrate our own cultures,” she added.
Tania Tamari Nasir is a classical singer, writer and literary translator, with several publications on Palestinian embroidery and cultural heritage. She gave the first concert in 1993 after the opening of Darat Al Funun, one of the region’s first art galleries and non-profit residencies, with pianist and composer, Agnes Bashir, and performer, Rania Qamhawi, celebrating the poems of Palestine. writer, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra.
She thinks there is nothing new about merging the two cultures, as both Japan and Palestine are part of Asia and she focuses on their innumerable similarities. “Both are incredibly warm, graciously welcoming and deeply artistic cultures. We can bypass the West and work together,” she said.
For many Palestinian composers and singers, the Palestinian crisis has continued to figure in their work as a symbol of the struggle to establish political sovereignty and, moreover, the commitment to creating modern forms of Palestinian Arab culture free from influence. western.
According to Mariam, Western classical music has a deep-rooted issue of racism and discrimination and as a result, she collaborates in politically informed projects with other musicians from marginalized identities to speak out against these issues.”
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“At a time when it is normal in the theater world for a black woman to play Hamlet, major opera houses still produce shows featuring blackface and yellowface, as often seen in Othello, Aida or Madam Butterfly. This needs to stop,” she said.
Music transcends time, space and social divides, making it the ideal tool for political change.
Through music, Palestinians continue to express hope for future generations through artistic resistance.
Mariam concluded: “I’m very rooted in the fact that whether I sing in front of an audience of five or five thousand people, in a refugee camp, in front of royalty or in an audition, what happens is not nothing but communication between the most human parts of myself and the most human parts of you. The intimacy of this connection gives me strength.”
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.