The Palestine Youth Orchestra (PYO) was created in 2004 by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) with the vision of bringing together young Palestinian musicians from around the world. The ensemble features 80 or so musicians of Palestinian origin from all around the world. The majority of current members live in occupied Palestinian territories and Israel but some come from Jordan, Egypt and other much for distant countries – including Australia. In recent years, the PYO has toured Palestine, Germany, France, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Greece and Italy.
For its 2017 tour, the PYO had scheduled two concerts in Amman (Jordan) and two concerts in Nablus and Birzeit (occupied West Bank). PYO Manager, Zeina Khoury said: “We try to make a point to come to Palestine because this is home. We do it once every few years, when we feel it is possible, and when we have the funding to do it. We tried this year and it worked out, but not as we had planned originally.”
Touring is no easy thing for the PYO. International tours have faced serious hurdles including obtaining visas for all players, especially those from Lebanon and Syria. Musicians from the Gaza Strip have also previously been denied travel permits by Israeli authorities. Despite the significant difficulties to planning and performing their tours, the PYO recognises the importance of their work. “It’s our message to the world, music is our form of resistance”, said Khoury.
During their most recent your, several players from the PYO were denied entry to the West Bank. Their case was taken up by Israeli NGO Gisha, which specialises in issues of freedom of movement for Palestinians in Gaza. Gisha argued that “the restrictions violate the fundamental right of Palestinians to freedom of movement, which is a precondition for exercising other basic rights such as the right to life, the right to access medical care, the right to education and the right to livelihood.” After a complicated legal process (in the middle of their tour!) and many conflicting communications from the relevant authorities, two young musicians from Gaza were finally permitted to perform with their fellow players at the Naseeb Azeez Shaheen Auditorium in Birzeit (West Bank). The musicians in question are both 16 years old – Sofiya Radwan (Violin) and Raslan Ashour (Trumpet).
PYO opened their concert with the main theme from ‘Star Wars’. Talk about a musical anthem of resistance.
This story was originally reported by Nigel Wilson for Al Jazeera. Read full story.