Giving Praise (Il​-​Hamdillah)

from by Reem Kelani

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about

A few weeks before her passing in 2004, my mother taught me several lines of this praise–giving song, which is also performed during house building and at weddings. This left a lasting impression on me, as until that point, my mother had not approved of my metamorphosis from biologist to musician.

I collected the other lyrics from field recordings of Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as from family members in Palestine. I wanted the arrangement to make use of the title of the song through repetition, thereby turning it into a mantra, as in a Sufi zikr (remembrance of God) session.

There’s a second song inserted into the main structure of this rendition (‘You built a room, and we built a room’), and I arranged it as a melodic modulation from the Il–Hamdillah motif, before I returned to the mode and lyrics of the original song.

The Imhaaha chant which precedes the main song is a distinctive form, sung mainly by women to herald songs, festivities and social announcements. This profound chant is so rooted in tradition that it has survived social pressures and religious restrictions on women singing in public to this day.

As a child, I used to laugh at my father’s mother and aunts when they performed those ‘shrieks’, as we referred to them. The tables are now turned, and I welcome this karma with open arms, ears and vocal folds.

This song is now a regular feature of my shows. I use it not just to give praise as in its original context, but also as an opportunity to feature the musicians in the band. That night at the Tabernacle, they were ‘in the zone’, alongside the very spirited audience.

I would like to think that my paternal grandmother is looking down, smiling, nit–picking, gloating and celebrating!

lyrics

Imhaaha:

Aweeha!
Praise God, my heart’s patience is finally rewarded
Aweeha!
And the wound of longing is healing after so much pain
Aweeha!
I swear by Him who created the clear stars above
Aweeha!
I’ve waited endlessly for this day

Song:
Praise God, praise God, praise God!
Praise God, that evil is no more
We planted peppers in the heat
Our foes said they wouldn’t turn red
Praise God, our peppers grew and turned red!
Praise God, that sorrow is no more
We planted carnations in the heat
Our foes said they wouldn’t bloom
Praise God, our carnations grew and bloomed!
You built a room
And we built a room
Our brides are finely dressed
In the ways of our fathers and forefathers…
Fill up the builder’s pitcher
You, with hands dyed in henna!
It’s neither in the bragging of women
Nor in the boasting of our song…
You saddled your horses
And we saddled our horses
Our young men are serving coffee
In the ways of our fathers and forefathers…

Praise God, that evil is no more
We planted peppers in the heat
Our foes said they wouldn’t turn red
Praise God, our peppers grew and turned red!

“O Abdul Qadir al–Jilani, our love for your message brings us closer to God!”

Praise God, that sorrow is no more
We planted carnations in the heat
Our foes said they wouldn’t bloom
Praise God, our carnations grew and bloomed!
Praise God, our peppers grew and turned red!
Praise God, our peppers grew and turned red!
Praise God, our carnations grew and bloomed!

Praise God, we built a house!
And it’s now full of newlyweds!
Praise God, praise God, praise God!
Praise God, praise God, praise God!

credits

from Reem Kelani: Live at the Tabernacle, track released March 11, 2016
Traditional Palestinian
Collated & arranged by: Reem Kelani (MCPS)

Reem Kelani - vocals, frame drum & dabke dancing
Bruno Heinen - piano
Tamer Abu Ghazaleh - 'oud
Ryan Trebilcock - double bass
Antonio Fusco – drums

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about

Reem Kelani London, UK

Reem Kelani is a Palestinian musician born in Britain & brought up in Kuwait. Her debut album “Sprinting Gazelle: Palestinian songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora” was released in 2006 to critical acclaim. Her next album "Reem Kelani: Live at the Tabernacle" will be released in March 2016. Reem wrote & presented “Songs for Tahrir” for BBC Radio 4 on the music of the Egyptian Revolution. ... more

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