Friday, May 31, 2024

Songs of Fire and struggle: Dear Internet Sherine’s Kalam Eineh is not about Palestine, but those songs are

This is a quick post as I have a million things to do right now. Recently, I found out that many pro-Palestinian content creators on TikTok and Instagram use Egyptian pop star Sherine's hit song "Kalam Eineh" as background music for their videos about Gaza.

"If my voice is gone, your songs will remain"
said Naji Al-Ali in one of his poems and cartoons in 1980s

I don't know how or when this started, but the song, musically composed by Hassan El-Shafei, has become a global hit strangely.

People visit the original song on YouTube and comment that they came from TikTok and shout "Viva Palestine," which makes me happy.

Yet I have to say, this song “Kalam Eineh” has nothing to do with Palestine or Gaza at all. “Kalam Eineh” or “The Love Words of his eyes” is a romantic song.

Here is the translation of the lyrics in English.

That is the first part which is usually shared in the videos.

" The love words of his eyes are sweeter than songs
From a couple of words, from a greeting, I become someone else
When he sways, my heart sways with him
I may sacrifice my eyes and whole life for him, and it's too little
The love words of his eyes are sweeter than songs
From a couple of words, from a greeting, I become someone else
When he sways, my heart sways with him
I may sacrifice my eyes and whole life for him, and it's too little"

I know it may sound exotic, but it does not fit the hard times the Palestinians are living currently in Gaza.

Still, as an Egyptian Arab, I know the perfect songs with the perfect lyrics and their history too.

Art including music has played a fundamental role in the Palestinian struggle since the 1930s.

Among the songs the world must know is the Palestinian "Al-Maloula, or Al-Tarweedah”

Al-Maloula or Al-Tarweedah is a type of Palestinian folklore with lyrics designed to sound like an incomprehensible code that was born technically in the 1936-1939 Palestinian revolution.

In reality, this seemingly incomprehensible language was invented to prevent the British colonizers then, who understood some Arabic, from comprehending it.

This was particularly important for passing private messages between detainees and their families. This code continued to be used after the Nakba, and even today, many camp residents still speak this language fluently.

Al-Tarweedah works by reversing the last letter of each word and adding the letter 'L' in Arabic at the end. This code was sung by the families of prisoners to inform Palestinian detainees in British colonial prisons of their impending release.

The original lyrics of the song with the extra “L” in the word would be translated into English to the following:

And tonight, I send a message with the northern wind

Reaching and searching for the beloved, oh father

O wind, go and greet them for me

Exile has been long, and we miss them dearly

O bird, go to our loved ones and convey to them

The second most famous Al-Tarweedah is “Ya Taleen Al-Jabal” or “To those of you climbing the mountain.”

Here was the late and fantastic Reem Bana “The second Palestinian woman I miss after Shireen Abu Akla in this war” singing it without music.

Here is its most recent cover released by Palestinian singer Dana Salah including English subtitles.

On the occasion of Spain officially recognizing Palestine as a state last week, here is the most popular version of “Ya Taleen,” featuring Palestinian singer Terez Sliman and Spanish singer Sophia performing “Ay, Que Panadera.” This beautiful fusion took place on a fine night on the Nile in Cairo in 2020.

Moving to the 1970s Pro-Palestinian songs were flourishing, there is a song many of us as Arabs remember when we see any news report about Gaza right now.

That song is called “Ounadikom” or “I call you”. It was composed as well and sung by veteran Lebanese singer and activist Ahmed Kaabour.

That song was actually a poem written in 1966 by late Palestinian activist and Poet as well as former Knesset member Tawfik Ziad. Ziad was among the founders of the Land Day.

One June day in 1975, 19-year-old Ahmed Kaabour read the poem and decided to turn it into a song just as the Lebanese civil war was getting started.

Egyptian composer, singer and activist Sheikh Imam also sang “Ounadikom”, but his cover was different with it comes to mix.

Here is a very grainy and rare video recording of Sheikh Imam singing Ounadikom along with none other than legendary Egyptian colloquial poet Ahmed Fouad Nagm in a Paris concert in 1984.

Still, the most popular version is Kaabour’s

Aside from the songs of struggle and blood, there is another Palestinian Levantine cheerful folklore song that became a hit in recent years “Ya Zareef El-Tool”.

The most recent and popular cover of this folkloric song was presented by Egyptian singer Hamza Namirah featuring Palestinian Jordanian 47 Soul electronic music band.

I can’t mention 47 Soul without also mentioning other Palestinian singers and bands.

We got Mohammed Assaf’s “My Blood is Palestinian” which ironically is banned from time to time on music platforms for unknown reasons.

Here is the song and its lyrics translated to English “Click on the CC”

Those girls dancing were students at the Catholic Rosary Sisters High School in Jerusalem

FYI, Assaf is a Palestinian from Gaza, and that song already makes the Israeli army so angry. When it became a hit on Tiktok, the Israeli army released a countersong called “My blood is Israeli”!! It was an epic embarrassment. The epitome meaning of cringe for real.

This is what we deal with.

There is also the 2021 hit “Inn Ann” or “If It Was His Time” by Daboor feat. Shabjdeed

It is considered the most famous Pro-Palestine +18 rap song.

When it comes to rap, there is also internationally famous Palestinian rapper Saint Levant.

Saint Levant aka Marwan Abdel Hamid who was born in Jerusalem lived his childhood in Gaza where his dad owned a hotel overlooking the sea. No need to guess what happened to that hotel.

Saint Levant made history at Coachella 2024 by presenting live performances right from the displacement camps in Rafah in his concerts.

Three months ago, he released a song called “Deira” or “Home” featuring MC Abdul.

A personal discovery in the Gaza war which I found via Instagram is the amazing “I remember that I was once in Yafa” or “We will return to Yafa” or “Yafa” alone.

“We Will Return to Yafa” was composed by the Rahbani brothers and sung by the underrated Joseph Azar in the 1960s.

Azar, who was among the stars of the Rahbani brothers’ musical theatre sang it as a fisherman from Yafa who returned home after a fierce storm.

Joseph Azar’s song “Bektob Ismak ya Balady” or “I shall write your name my country” trended again in past months despite it does not speak explicitly about Palestine.

It is a patriotic cheerful song composed by Lebanese singer and musician Elie Choueriri in 1973 while he was travelling from Lebanon to the United States as he felt that he messed home in Lebanon.

Here is a rare version where Choueriri sang it himself in 2013.

Joseph Azar was the first to sing it. It became a hit in the 1970s many Levantine actors and singers covered it above them veteran Syrian comedian Duriad Laham.

“Bektob Ismak ya Balady” was back to the trend thanks to this haunting video showing Al-Jazeera veteran correspondent and head of its bureau in Gaza Wael Dahdouh singing it with members of his family including his late wife Amna, his late daughter Sham and his old mom in 2014. His daughter who lost her firstborn “Adam” appears in the video as a young girl.

In his 80s now, I hope that Azar knows that his songs are trending again.

I can't mention the Rahbani brothers without noting their song with Fairuz, which became the national anthem of displaced Palestinians around the globe: 'We Will Return One Day.'

During the current war, there were not enough songs to truly express the level of anger felt by Arabs, particularly Egyptians, due to the control of Arab regimes, especially those in the Gulf, over the media. Egyptian and Lebanese singers care more about their concerts in the Gulf than anything else.

Only the underground independent scene was bold enough to express part of the young Arabs’ anger as early as November.

Egyptian rock band “Cairokee” released its hit single “This is an issue and that’s an issue” criticizing the double standards of the West towards Palestine in November

The lyrics were composed by the famous Egyptian poet Mostafa Ibrahim, who is considered part of the young generation of colloquial Egyptian Arabic poets.

Hit the CC for translation or open the description on YouTube to read the verses in English.

This is not the first pro-Palestine song released by Cairokee. In 2014, Cairokee covered Ahmed Fouad Negm’s poem “El-Khat Da Khatty” (This Handwriting is My Handwriting), which addresses Palestine as well as Egypt’s years of war with Israel.

In 2022, Cairokee presented the symphonic version of the song live and it was even better.

I would dare and say that it is even better than the original song by Sheikh Imam.

Ahmed Fouad Negm and Sheikh Emam made many Pro-Palestine songs but the ones I can remember and can fit to be “background music”.

Aside from Cairokee, in early November 25 underground young singers and rappers from the West to the East of the Arab world presented “We will return”.

It was another hit that was seldom covered in the mainstream media that does not recognize them.

The last verses in this long song are actually from another song or rather poem composed by none other, than Naji Al-Ali, the creator of Handala. The name of the poem is "If My Voice Is Gone" and I used the cartoon he made for that song as a cover for this post.

In 1985, Syrian protest singer Samih Choukier presented the poem as a song since then it became another song that celebrates freedom and art as well as music.  

Here are the lyrics translated into English. 

If my voice leaves, your throats will not depart

My eyes are on tomorrow, and my heart is with you

If the singer goes, the songs remain

Gathering the broken and suffering hearts

If it leaves, hope does not go away

If my voice leaves and my sail disappears

Do not rejoice, enemies, and do not gloat, hyenas

The echo of my voice, my voice that never yields, will mourn your joy

And like the horizon, it cannot be bought or sold

My voice

I can't conclude this post without mentioning MacklemoreMacklemore's great song "Hind's Hall" in English.

The Hind mentioned in Macklemore, the Hind which the brave students of Columbia University named their Hamilton Hall after is little Hind Hamda who was killed and left to rot in her family's car in February in an incident that left its mark on all of us.

Back to Shirene and her “Kalam Eineh” hit

I believe the global success of “Kalam Eineh” is like a divine gift to Sherine during this difficult time. Sherine is undoubtedly one of the best voices Egypt has seen in the 21st century, but unfortunately, her personal life has overshadowed her career in recent years.

Sherine was, or perhaps still is, on the verge of becoming Egypt’s Britney Spears—or I would even dare to say Whitney Houston—because Spears does not have the vocal talent that Sherine possesses or that Houston had. Sherine’s head-shaving incident was her "Spears moment" in the media.

From personal drama with her on-again, off-again ex-husband, to battles with recording labels—Sony MEA wants her, but she signed with Saudi Rotana—to her own addiction struggles (she says she is clean now), Sherine has become a hot topic for tabloids.

Despite all this, I believe her family, especially her now-teenage daughters, are trying to support her as much as they can. Sherine, who comes from a working-class background in Cairo, is a tough cookie.

FYI, “Kalam Eineh” was recorded at the peak of her problems, which showcases just how much talent this woman has. I really pray for her full recovery.


  1. This is so welcome! I needed that art and the translations. Thanks a lot!

  2. Songs of hate. Killing. Rape. Brutality. Release the hostages. Surrender. Repent.. Maybe the fat presenters on Al-Jazeera should share their food..


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