Renowned Palestinian singer and musician Reem Kelani is launching a crowd-funding appeal to enable the production of her next album.
This collection of songs will reflect Reem's journey through the musical cultures, not only of the Middle East, but of many 'others'. It will be, says Reem, ‘a celebration of diversity and difference’.
Reem will take listeners across the world into the passionate, creative and humane musical world she inhabits. She plans to dive deep into the musical sources that have influenced her since her formative years in Kuwait – and some of them are both revealing and remarkable.
Whilst in Kuwait, Reem was a member of Kuwait Players, Kuwait Singers and the American Community Theatre, with whom she performed a wide repertoire of songs from musicals, the American songbook and the folk music of England and the USA. That’s where she was introduced to the work of radical American singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie, whose famous song lends its title to her album. Meanwhile, Reem’s doctor father encouraged her to read Arabic poetry and to recite the Qur’an whilst at the same time he introduced her to the music of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin through his love for the films of Fred Astaire.
Reem says that this album is her “modest attempt to invoke the spirits of Woody Guthrie and of the Big Mamas, the repositories of Palestinian folk music”.
In 1950s Brooklyn, Guthrie rented a room from millionaire landlord Fred Trump, and he wrote a blistering broadside against Trump Senior's refusal to rent property to black people. Some of Guthrie’s lyrics seem sadly relevant today, a rejoinder to the racism, xenophobia and injustice which threaten to envelop our world. In the spirit of Guthrie, many of the songs Reem will perform on the album come from countries that happen to be Donald Trump's travel ban list.
An un-ending journey to discover 'home' Reem Kelani was born in Manchester, England, to Palestinian parents in exile, but spent her formative years in Kuwait. She says it's where she learned to be a Palestinian, politically and culturally. Several of the songs that mattered to her as she was growing up – both indigenous to the Gulf and from Palestinian refugees in Kuwait – will feature in the album.
Kuwait drew in professionals from across the Middle East, including Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Moreover, many Kuwaitis were of Iranian and African origin. Their songs, which provided the musical surround during Reem’s formative years, will also feature.
At home in London, Reem’s Somali neighbours and Mexican friends introduced her to their cultural heritages, and Reem has chosen some of their songs for the album.
We invite you to join us on this journey as we make this album. Along the way, you will gain insights into Reem’s song selection. You will be treated to regular updates as she proceeds through the steps of researching and arranging the songs, rehearsing with the musicians, recording, and mixing and mastering of the recordings.
Reem is already working hard on the project, finalising her song selection, arranging and transcribing them. We hope to begin rehearsals in April with her musicians, most of whom are European Jazz professionals, whom Reem has trained in Arabic music and in her repertoire over many years. Reem will also be inviting guest musicians to perform on particular tracks. With luck, we hope to start recording the songs in a studio in early summer. The editing and mixing work will extend over several months, depending on the availability of Reem’s faithful sound engineer the wonderful Steve Lowe.
We would hope to have the album ready for release by late 2018.
The sum needed: £18,000 sterling.
Allocation of funds
The budget covers the research, arrangement and transcription of songs, rehearsing and recording with the band, mixing and mastering the final sound as well as research and writing of a detailed accompanying e-booklet. The funds we hope to raise via Kickstarter will complement Reem’s award from the PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music programme; together these two sources of funding will provide what is required.
The means of distribution of this album will be digital only. Unfortunately, not enough people still buy CDs to make production of them economic.
The total budget will be allocated as follows:
- Transcription of the songs, rehearsals and recording (68%) - Planning, production & project management by Reem (15%) - Mastering & album artwork (7%) - Office costs, marketing & promotion, & contingency funds (10%)
What they say about Reem
“Kelani is more than a musician: she’s a teacher, a scholar and a broadcaster. She is also a force of nature, reminiscent in some ways of the Argentinian great Mercedes Sosa.” The Australian, 4 June 2016 Mahir Ali
“Her voice combines the poignancy of Billie Holiday with the glass-busting power of Aretha Franklin.” The Independent, 15 July 2011 Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
“Palestinian singer Reem Kelani was a new name in my world, but the woman was so endearing I'll never forget her.” Seattle, 15 May 2008 Gary Bannister, Artistic director, Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
“When she told me earlier that she did not see any difference between jazz and Arabic music, it sounded a stretch; here, for a moment, the two spin together so fast they sound like one” The Financial Times, 16 January 2007 David Honigmann
"Rarely has the entire tragedy of a people been condensed into artful melodrama by such a powerful and stirring voice. Her range extends from the deepest lows to the brightest highs, in between which she launches herself unselfconsciously into unending notes, enriching melodies with slides and glissandos." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany, May 2003 Norbert Krampf
Risks and challenges
As we said on our previous Kickstarter project, the challenge for any musician is to combine work on his or her long term projects such as production of albums, alongside the day to day pressures of being a performing artist, preparing for the next concert or workshop.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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