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I learnt this song from a group of women in 'Ein el-Hilweh' refugee camp in South Lebanon. They all came originally from one extended family from the village of Sha'ab near Acre. The women erupted into song when they found out my name. According to Hans Wehr's Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 'Reem' translates as an “addax” or a “white antelope”. In this song, it is a generic term for a gazelle, as is normally the case with various texts in colloquial and classical Arabic.

Incidentally, the group comprised women spanning three generations, beginning with the one that left Palestine in 1948. They showed me a circle dance that they perform when singing this song. When I asked when they
sang this song, they said: “at weddings!”


O gazelle of all gazelles.
You, who plan to go away
As you set out on your journey,
Offer your praise to the Prophet.

My eyes flooded with tears,
I cried over our parting.
Crying over our parting,
I've taken a vow of silence,
I've forbidden myself to dance the dabkeh,
I've dyed my clothes dark and gone into mourning.

I've dyed my clothes indigo blue
Over the loss of the Sprinting Gazelle.
There is none as tall or slender
I've looked everywhere and I haven't found its like.

There is nothing like it left in this world.
The day my fate was written,
I'd planned to send a bird with a message
Asking how my gazelle was faring.

If it were in trouble, I'd rescue it.
As I asked the bird to carry my message away,
The bird soared above me and then abandoned me.

Hey, my coquettish, beautiful one
Hey, my pampered mate
I've lain ill in bed, but you didn't visit me.
Never asked about me, and look at the state of me now!

O Lord of all mankind
You give life and take it away
You bring life to those who've been driven away
My heart has been torn apart because of our parting.

O gazelle of all gazelles.
You, who plan to go away…


from Sprinting Gazelle - Palestinian songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora, released February 6, 2006
Traditional Palestinian, Arr. Reem Kelani.

Vocals: Reem Kelani
Yarghul: Tigran Aleksanyan
Double bass: Oli Hayhurst
Naghghareh: Fariborz Kiani
Dohol, Tar, Dabkeh & Safqah: Reem Kelani
Drums: Patrick Illingworth



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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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