Going up the Mountain (Ya Taali’een ‘ala el​-​Jabal)

from Why Do I Love Her? by Reem Kelani

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An old song from the Galilee, it’s believed that Palestinian women used to perform it as they visited their menfolk in prison. Through the seemingly confusing lyrics, the women would convey subversive messages, perhaps informing their loved ones that they would soon be liberated by freedom fighters.

This repertoire is called Imlolaah, an onomatopoeic word from the syllable ‘L’, followed by a vowel which is repeated in order to mask the original word. In so doing, a secret language is formed through singing in code using tongue trills and repetitive fillers.

Some believe that the song dates to the Ottoman rule; others date it to the days of the British Mandate. I tend towards the former explanation, possibly because of the recurrent use of the Turkish word (of Arabic origin) Aamaan, and because there was a rich repertoire based on the theme of women visiting their men who had been detained by their Ottoman overlords.

This song is dedicated to the memory of Nazareth-born singer and musician Rim Banna (1966-2018), who first introduced it to a wider audience, and who rejected normalisation throughout her career.


from Why Do I Love Her?, track released November 30, 2018
Traditional Palestinian
Arranged by: Reem Kelani (MCPS)


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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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