Saturday, October 25, 2008

reem kelani & bruno heinen in pre-'poetry international' gig

Palestinian singer and musician Reem Kelani, with Bruno Heinen on piano, played a gig early yesterday evening in the foyer (now, post-South Bank makeover, dubbed 'Front Room') of the Queen Elizabeth Hall as a prelude to the first event in this year's bi-annual Poetry International festival.

The gig came after readings by young people - including actors and members of the South Bank's Emerging Artists in Residence project and Street Genius - of poems by Palestinian poets such as Mahmoud Darwish and Samih al-Qasim, and Israeli peace activist Tal Nitzan. The readers injected a special energy and engagement into poems such as Darwish's great early classic Identity Card.
During the gig, artists from Creative Connection (Southbank Centre Artists in Residence, led by Tim Casswell) made sketches on a wall of paper to the side of the Front Room and brilliantly captured the event's faces, spirit, and characteristic Reem in-performance asides. Below are samples of the mural, plus comments on the performances from members of the audience [click on the pictures to enlarge]. The event ended in a wonderful spontaneous jam session in which the poetry readers joined Reem & Bruno on stage.

Later, a passer-by with dark curly hair could not resist taking out his pen and, where it said Free Palestine, adding Eretz Yisrael. In itself symbolic.
The Palestinian theme continued during the opening session of Poetry International, featuring John Berger, Rema Hammami and David Constantine. The focus was the much-lamented Palestinain poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died on 9th August. The event started with a film of Berger's reading of Ghassan Kanafani's story Letter from Gaza. Berger and Hammami read from their translation of Darwish's great poem Mural, written after his 1998 heart attack and there was a screening of Darwish's last poetry reading. The Spring issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, which David Constantine edits with his wife Helen, features poetry from Palestine, including the translation of Mural.

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