Sprinting Gazelle (Ah! Ya Reem al–Ghuzlaan)

from by Reem Kelani

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The lyrics are seemingly sad, yet paradoxically the song is performed at Palestinian weddings, with a poignant narrative that shows resilience as well as heartbreak. I worked out the riff and devised this arrangement after
watching a group of refugee women sing this old and little–known song in 1999, whilst they performed a circle dance with foot tapping and synchronised clapping. In the original, the melody motif remains the same as in the first stanza, in an ostinato style, common to many of the folk songs of Palestine and the surrounding region.

Personally and collectively, this title track from my first album represents a journey of profound pain interlaced with ecstatic hope. Palestinians refer to this as sumoud (‘steadfastness’). I felt this eerie beauty at the end of the frenzied rendition by the women, when the matriarch of the group – then in her nineties – quietly retorted: “We had no shoes on our feet when we left Palestine!” No wonder this song can also be heard on occasions
when loved ones are about to embark on long journeys.

You can hear me on this rendition encouraging Tamer Abu Ghazaleh on ‘oud and Ryan Trebilcock on double bass: ‘fight!’, in a challenge between Arabic and Western instruments. All of us on stage were trying to catch
up with the manic state of defiance of which the song speaks, culminating in a climax with Antonio Fusco’s dynamic drum finale.


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

My eyes flooded with tears
I cried over our parting
And I’ll continue to cry over our parting…
I’ve taken a vow of silence
I’ve forbidden myself from dancing the dabke
I dyed my clothes dark, and I’ve gone into mourning...

I dyed my clothes indigo blue
Over the loss of my sprinting gazelle
There is none as tall or slender
I’ve looked everywhere
And I haven’t found its like...

There’s nothing like it left in this world...
The day my fate was sealed,
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…

O Lord of all mankind!
You give life and You take it away
You bring life to those who’ve been driven away
My heart has been torn apart
Because of this parting…

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


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

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



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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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