Ghosts of Dier Yassin
Brisbane-based singer-songwriter Phil Monsour has just released his latest CD, Ghosts of Dier Yassin. As those familiar with the struggles of the Palestinian people may recognise from the title, many songs convey the hopes and spirit of the Palestinian people longing for freedom and security.
The CD booklet includes an explanation about the significance of Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village that was the sight of a massacre in 1948. It features the amazing artwork of a well-known Brisbane illustrator, Teresa Jordan.
The CD’s 12 tracks are musically and lyrically powerful, with intense bass and drums, captivating guitars. Monsour’s vocals are as heartfelt and engaging as his lyrics are profound and fervent.
Many of the songs were written on the road during Monsour’s recent journey through Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan.
The opening track, “Everything But Stop”, explores modern society’s destructive momentum economically, militarily and environmentally. The song sets the musical tone of the CD with its powerful upbeat tempo and guitar driven energy.
The CD’s second track, “Fires Are Burning”, a favourite among Monsour fans, is an inspirational song about the resistance against all odds. Monsour sings, “Guns are not enough they can only kill me/we are never turning back on the road to victory”.
The CD’s title track, “Ghosts of Deir Yassin”, captures the tragedy of the Palestinian catastrophe between 1947 and 1949, when half the population was driven from their homelands by Israeli military and paramilitary forces.
The video for the song was shot on location in Palestinian refugee camps and captures their spirit and their steadfast hope of return. It features Palestinian poet, Rafeef Ziadah reading a Fadwa Tuqan poem in Arabic on the right of return.
“I Left My Heart in Palestine”, is a love song set in the context of Israel's apartheid wall that separates family, friends and lovers in Palestine. Monsour says: “I wanted to write something about ordinary daily life and the tragedy of the wall.”
Following on from this theme is “Dark Tunnels”, which features Graham Jackson’s brooding guitar work and reflects Monsour’s personal observations in Palestine. The song was written during Monsour’s visit after he and other members of a delegation who were of Arabic background were separated from the main group.
Prevented from entering the Gaza strip, Monsour directly experienced the attempts of Israel to isolate the people of Gaza. He sings” “We are connected never apart/through the dark tunnels connecting our hearts”.
“The Other Side” is a new incarnation of a Monsour classic. The altered lyrics and melody give a new vibe to a great anthem of hope for victory that often concludes Monsour’s live shows.
Addressing broader human rights issues facing the region, the eighth track, “Who Locked the Door”, was written about the desperation of guest workers, usually-young women-in Lebanon, forced to work under tough conditions including long hours with no days off, locked in houses, and powerless against the employers who assert complete control over them.
This sense of powerlessness and domination by others continues on the ninth track, “No Distance Only Time”, which tells of the daily grind of Palestinian life, where travel to nearby towns and villages take hours or is impossible because of the wall and checkpoints.
On the final tracks of the CD, Monsour turns his sights to the politicians who allow or are directly responsible for the suffering and injustice endured by so many. The song, “Gods of Men”, was written after the election of US President Barack Obama and tells of the hope for and illusions of change that accompanied his election.
The CD’s final track, “Big Country Small Heart”, is closer to home. With a traditionally Aussie hard rock sound, this song is an indictment of our own treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
The Ghosts of Dier Yassin is a great rock album with intelligent and meaningful lyrics to boot. Its power and passion is surpassed perhaps only by Monsour and his band’s live shows, which are must-see events that move, entertain and educate audiences.
Monsour addresses one of the most important issues in human rights and international relations today. Musically, the CD is a unique collection of rock anthems and folk ballads combined to capture both the distress and optimism of current times.
[Phil Monsour will be launching the CD in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney in late September. Check his website for details. Dr Halim Rane is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities at Griffith University. He has published widely on issues concerning the Middle East, politics and human rights and is a lifetime music enthusiast.]