Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

This is Gaza too: Making music however you can

Ahmed Elqattawi | 21-07-2015


It was almost noon when some friends and I left class for a bit of fresh air, laughing while posing in the sun for pictures.  

We sat down, and I noticed that next to me was a fellow English literature major, a sophomore named Mohammed Ballour. My attention became riveted on him as he tapped away on his laptop. Instead of text or numbers appearing on his screen, I was awed to hear a beautiful melody. 

I asked him what he was doing and Mohammed told me about his love for music. It is his lifelong dream to own a keyboard organ. As with most people in Gaza, it is a lack of money that prevents his dream from becoming reality. Such an organ would cost about $1,500 (USD) in Gaza—a life’s fortune.

However, what Mohammed does have is a laptop. With the help of special software, he is able to simulate the sounds of an organ, playing his favorite kind of music—classical music with Arabic lyrics—by memory. 


Of course, it’s not quite the same as holding a real instrument in your hands; when I ask Mohammed about his dreams for the future, and what would make him truly happy, he says immediately, "Well, if I had a keyboard organ, I would be jubilant."

"I believe that one day you will have one," I say, wanting it to be true. "You just need to keep practicing your talent, and find a way to show it to the public." 

Encouraged by my words, he said excitedly, "Listen to this!" 

Beaming proudly, he positioned his laptop carefully on his thighs, and within moments, he was humming while playing the most beautiful music I had ever heard. Truly, I was in awe.

"Just because I can't afford to buy a real instrument doesn't mean I don’t have musical talent," he insisted. 

I told him he should play his music more in public.

"People might laugh at me if I play my music in a public place," he said tentatively. “But I suppose if I have faith, everything will be OK.” 

Mohammed discovered his ear for music when he was almost 10 years old, and owning his own instrument has been a dream ever since. As much as his family would like to help him, his father makes very little as a barber in the Al-Nusairat refugee camp.

Money isn’t his only challenge. Another is Gaza’s daily blackouts.

"One of my biggest frustrations is that my laptop's battery is always running out of power due to the constant electricity blackouts," Mohammed explains. Currently, due to the electrical outages, most Gazans get only six to eight hours of power a day.

I am thrilled and inspired by Mohammed, but he is not the only one. Gaza is full of amazing people with untapped potential.

Many talents have been lost to war and the desperate desire to escape the blockade that is crushing us.  But those of us who remain will continue to pursue our dreams and develop our skills and talents.

Mentor: Hanan Chehata

Posted: July 20, 2015

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