Al Jazeera World

Rim Banna: The voice of Palestine

The dramatic life of outspoken Palestinian singer and musician, Rim Banna – her talent, struggle and untimely death.

This is the story of a much-loved Palestinian singer-songwriter whose life encompasses creativity, artistic success, political activism and personal tragedy.

Rim Banna was born into a creative family in Nazareth in 1966. Her mother was the Palestinian poet Zouhaira Sabbagh and she was raised listening to famous artists like Fairuz. At 16, she was deeply affected by the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres, something that would later heavily influence her music. She studied at a conservatory in Moscow and her own compositions often put Palestinian poems, including her mother’s, to music.

Banna began her career recording Palestinian children’s songs, but her powerful and emotional music ultimately reached an international audience. In 2003, she sang on the Lullabies from the Axis of Evil album, through which female singers from the Middle East, Norway, North Korea, Cuba and Afghanistan sent an anti-war message to a world embroiled in the Iraq War.

Banna’s music is poetic and emotional; her political message uncompromising. She often performed in colourful embroidered gowns and her songs focused on Palestinian suffering, especially in the West Bank.

She was a genuine artistic talent, but her life was tragically cut short. In 2009, Banna was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a nine-year battle with a terminal illness, she died on March 24, 2018. Thousands attended her funeral in Nazareth where she was born 51 years before.