Artist of the Month

Nai Barghouti

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Nai Barghouti is a singer, flute player, and composer. She launched her professional singing career in 2011, at the age of 14, with Munyati, a full program of classical Arabic songs of the tarab genre, which was sold out in Cairo, Kuwait, Lebanon, and several Palestinian cities. The media in Lebanon called Nai a “classical diva,” while art critics in Egypt compared her to the legendary Umm Kulthoum. Four of her earliest flute solo compositions have become part of the flute curriculum at the International Institute of Iberian Music in Valencia, Spain.

Nai performed at the United Nations headquarters in New York in November 2013, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Commenting on that performance, the renowned British musician, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), wrote of her: “So charming, so beautiful, so self-assured, soooooo musical.”

Nai toured as a solo vocalist with the Palestine Youth Orchestra in the summer of 2016, in the United Kingdom. The tour included a performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall. In 2017, she led an accompanying band of musicians on her first independent five-city tour in the UK, where she presented both original material and arrangements of classic Arabic repertoire. In May 2018, Nai played a leading role in Orfeo and Majnun, an opera production that combines Arabic and Western music through two love stories: Orpheus and Eurydice and Qais wa Layla. She performed in sold-out concerts at La Monnaie opera house in Brussels and at the famous Aix en Provence festival in France, before an audience of over 6,000 people.

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Nai studied for two years at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and is currently pursuing her studies in jazz performance, focusing on jazz voice, at the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam, Amsterdam University of the Arts, where she is exploring the relationship between classical Arabic singing (tarab) and jazz.

During her jazz studies abroad, she is sometimes reduced to feelings of helplessness and despair as she watches the news of her people who continue to suffer from the crimes of occupation and ethnic cleansing, especially in Jerusalem. She laments, “Singing feels like an escape from my duty to stand with my people in their resistance to oppression. What am I doing here, studying jazz, while Jerusalem, my city of birth, is aflame?” She often asks herself, “What good is music in the face of all this televised oppression and the endless humiliation that my people are subjected to? I don’t want to ‘jazz,’ I just want to be in Jerusalem, where I belong.”

But music is the form of resistance she has chosen, a cultural resistance. So she continues to study, to write music, and to perform in defiance of the attempts to dehumanize her people. “I know I must sing, just as I am certain that Palestinians will one day be free,” she concludes.