February 27, 2014
Those students who ventured into the Fillius Events Barn last Thursday night looking for an escape from their usual routine of frigid weather and stressful schoolwork, or enticed by the sounds of what seemed like an Acoustic Coffeehouse, became part of a musical experience rarely held at Hamilton. Traveling all the way from Israel, HEARTBEAT, a musical group made up of young Israeli and Palestinian musicians, kicked off their 2014 U.S. tour right here on he Hill for an energetic and jubilant audience. Spearheaded by Hamilton’s Hillel and co-sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, Tumbling After, the Chaplaincy, and the Arabic and Middle Eastern Club, the event provided a refreshing break from the ordinary and from the sounds of past musical acts that have come to campus. With its employment of folk, rap, blues and rock music to spread a message of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, HEARTBEAT is not only a music group, but also a movement.
According to its website (heartbeat.fm), the group itself is part of a larger contingent of young (ages 14-23) Israeli and Palestinian musicians collectively called “HEARTBEAT” that works to build strong and positive relationships between Israeli and Palestinian youth through the power of music. It was founded in 2007 thanks to a Fulbright-mtvU Scholarship, and it continues to bring together participants through retreats, workshops, camps and overseas exchanges, as well as local ensembles in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem to create opportunities for mutual learning and respect.
What distinguishes the group that performed at Hamilton, however, is that its members are unofficially known as the all-star troupe within HEARTBEAT. Each member lends the group his or her unique lyrical and musical talents that help make the band truly unique. HEARTBEAT is comprised of Guy (acoustic guitar), Dana (vocalist), Moody (Palestinian rapper), Ziv (drums), Avi (electric guitar and harmonica), Tamer (Oud) and Aaron (bass). This eclectic mix of sound is a reflection of the diverse experiences each band member has had with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Aaron, the founder and executive director of HEARTBEAT, is actually American. He said while he was a student at Georgetown during the second Intifada, roughly from 2000-2002, he was inspired by the divisiveness he saw on campus between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian student groups. After working with Seeds of Peace, an international non-profit dedicated to building relationships between Israeli and Palestinian youth, and partaking in various service projects in Israel, he founded HEARTBEAT to use music as new avenue towards peace for Israelis and Palestinians. All the members are close friends and have incredible chemistry on and off the stage.
Though their backrounds are fascinating, their music abilities are arguably even more impressive. The band opened the night with upbeat and lively songs, augmented by the powerful vocals of Dana, the rhythmic words of Moody’s rap style and the rock and roll image of Guy. Students clapped and danced to the mix of folk, rap, blues and rock music.
Before each song, the band explained the song’s inspiration and message, helping the audience connect with the essence of the music. One song, called Kulshi Sababa, was written after some of the band members witnessed missiles falling in Israel while sitting on a rooftop. The nature of HEARTBEAT’s music makes you feel like you are listening to the voices of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians wanting peace. Their music transcends the stage into one’s mind, heart and soul. About halfway through the set, the band members introduced themselves and held an informal Q&A session with the audience about their work and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shortly after, the music came back and Hamilton students cheered and danced until the end of the concert. Having a band like HEARTBEAT come to Hamilton was a special opportunity for students to learn and have fun. The College has now established a warm and friendly relationship with the band that hopefully will lead to future visits and more concerts.