In April 2018, Rim Banna’s last album Voice of Resistance was released by the Norwegian label Kirkelig Kulturverksted – Crossing Borders which was founded in 1974 by Erik Hillestad, a record producer and lyricist. KKV’s slogan is: “Liberation, Dialogue, and Unrest”. They write: “We started as a rebellion within the church. As the years went by we lifted our eyes. Boundaries must be challenged at home and abroad. The world needs this: To see, to hear, to sense and to understand what is complex and deep and different than what we thought. What stirs and concerns us.”
The posthumous album Voice of Resistance coincided closely with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (the exodus in 1948 when over 700.000 Palestinians fled from territories occupied by Israeli forces), which made this year a special one because it clashed with the celebration of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Rim Banna (1966-2018) collaborated with KKV since 2003 which resulted in the first release Lullabies from the Axis of Evil and consists of traditional lullabies sung by women from the region but from North Korea, Cuba, and Afghanistan as well, encompassing the area George W. Bush used to call “The Axis of Evil“.
Rim Banna is not only a musician but an activist, and her personal fight against cancer and her work as a musician and activist left a deep void after her passing on March 24, 2018. For many artists she was a very special person due to her imaginative creations, and she has left a vast legacy of thirteen albums and her voice behind, that will live on through her art and others who care about her music.
After her passing was announced, an array of personalities expressed their regrets over her death. Lebanese artist Tania Saleh, Lebanese author Elias Khoury, Egyptian artist Maryam Saleh, Palestinian poet and author Mourid Barghouti and others have posted on social media, videos and pictures in remembrance. On the day of her passing, Erik Hillestad wrote on Facebook that “Through your songs, your voice and all of your entity, you have shown me the depth of the Palestinian people’s fight. This has changed me and shaped my attitude and my strong determination to do whatever I can to support the Palestinian cause.”
The album Voice of Resistance is a collaborative work of Rim Banna, Checkpoint 303 and Bugge Wesseltoft.
Checkpoint 303 is an “activist sound art project led by sound designer SC Mo Cha.” It was initiated in 2004 and the idea is to cut, track, fragment and reconstruct the soundscape of daily life in the Middle East and across the Arab world, new aid reporting on injustice, an ode to resistance in the face of oppression.
“Bugge Wesseltoft is a Norwegian Jazz musician and Pianist who started his career in a punk-band and has worked a lot with electronic music.” As explained on KKV’s page, checkpoint 303 would remix data from Rim’s medical files (PET and X-ray images) by converting them into sounds to which Rim would then recite (and whenever possible sing) her own poems describing her resistance and her struggle. The outstanding jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, who collaborated with Rim on her last album, immediately accepted to be part of the project and the adventure began. The album is received very positively, and magazines such as The Wire, have published reviews on the album. In its review, The Wire writes “The sonic representation of Palestine – thematically and materially – is Banna’s theme, and she undertakes her project in a way that is inseparable from that region’s contested histories.”
The album contains 15 songs and runs over almost an hour, marking a different take from her last album, not only because of her own personal struggle, but musically and sonically as well, staying true to her own creative journey. In the song I Don’t Care Banna sings: “I am trying to fight against the sickness of the cells like I am fighting against occupation.” This is maybe the frame of the album Voice of Resistance. Many online magazines and news websites such as The National, and Al Monitor have reported on Rim Banna’s album and life.
The album took almost three years to finish, but Banna did not see herself in its release. The songs are very unique and experimental – an album which you have to listen to closely, more than once to understand all its layers and dimensions – and it is a special work of art as well because I don’t think that such an album has been made before. All the elements coming together – while especially Rim Banna’s despite her illness still powerful and strong voice brings all the pieces to a unity.
In many places, Rim Banna will be remembered through celebrations of her work and her life and she will not be forgotten. It is only appropriate to close this article with her own words from the song This is my voice.
“You will never silence my voice
With its one vocal cord which is fighting like a clothesline that the wind can’t reach
My voice is sprinkling from my pores (…)
My voice is the song of my heart
And if its pulse is silenced
My voice is the mirror of my soul
And if my soul is taken
My songs will be sung in the public squares
Like the Blazing Sun that never fades away
The songs will go on.”