In pictures: Rage against the siege - Gaza rock band gives voice to Palestinian plight
Now in its 15th year, the Israeli land, air and sea blockade on Gaza has devastated much of Gaza’s social and economic life. But the Strip's arts and culture has also been heavily impacted as a result.
People in Gaza haven’t been able to enjoy playing musical instruments, since even getting hold of equipment to make music proves difficult. Israeli restrictions on the besieged enclave mean that importing or selling certain items is almost impossible.
All musical and audio equipment is subject to complicated procedures in Gaza, and need special permits to be allowed into the enclave. Often, it can take years for an instrument to be allowed in and high taxes are imposed on items, making them double or triple their worth.
The blockade on Gaza started after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, and has since left Palestinians in what has been dubbed an "open air prison", since they are not allowed to leave unless granted permission.
Although the restrictions heavily dictate which goods enter the country, in 2017, Raji el Jaru, a 32-year-old musician, was able to establish a musical instrument shop. Today, it has more than 70 instruments in it, including guitars and drums. (All photos by Rakan Abed El Rahman)
It took El Jaru over a year and a half to get the instruments into Gaza, with the help of his father who is a businessman with a great deal of connections and experience in importing items.
With his passion for music, El Jaru was determined to use the instruments to create meaningful music. In 2017, he established Osprey V, a rock band, made up of five members. The band was intent on giving listeners an insight into what living in a besieged enclave is like.
As the lead singer, El Jaru says he was inspired by the daily stories of people he sees in Palestine, and thought that rock would be the perfect genre of music to humanise them and depict what they were going through.
“Rock music originally came in World War One and was born out of deprivation, so we felt like this would be perfect for us,” he told Middle East Eye.
For him, the band is a means to telling the stories of people who often don’t get the chance to be heard.
“Osprey V is basically a big message that conveys and covers every aspect of the Gaza Strip,” he says. “We consider ourselves to be the voices of unheard people, especially the people who are deprived and suffering,” he added.
El Jaru and his band members were not fortunate enough to be professionally taught how to sing or play instruments. They were eventually able to produce music after watching hundreds of videos on YouTube that offered free tutorials on how to play certain instruments.
With countless hours of practise over months, they were finally able to get to a point where they felt ready to perform and had developed their skills.
One of the core aims of the band is to reach millions of people around the world, and allow them to see Gaza in a more humanised light.
Over the years, the band has performed at many gigs and concerts, with some of the most notable ones being a live gig with musicians Roger Waters from Pink Floyd and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, just days before Israel's assult on Gaza in May 2021.
The band perform locally in Gaza to fans as well as produce online concerts that raise funds for Palestinian musicians.
Songs made by the band aren’t always dedicated to the people of Gaza. They also narrate global struggles.
Some of the songs are a direct message to European countries or the US, calling on them to observe the injustices taking place in Gaza and take action.
The band say that their core aim is to show that Palestinians aren't just casualties and should not just be viewed as numbers, and allow them to see the human stories behind individuals.
Many of the songs in the band are inspired by humanitarian issues or challenges faced by the local communities. They are based on eye-witness stories, many of which are from families who have lost family members as a result of Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
One of their songs, titled Home, has been viewed over 5,000 times and is well known for its lyrics. One of the lyrics state "we'll scream our pain, can you hear the call?"
Another one of their songs is titled Lost and Insecure, which the band says is dedicated to everyone "who [has] lost a lover due to life's hardships".
Despite the band’s success, they still face difficulties on a daily basis as a result of the siege.
The lack of stability and constant threat of attacks means that the team members live in constant paranoia, which sometimes impacts their ability to meet and produce music.
When the band was first established, one of the main obstacles was the difficulty in getting the right equipment they needed. Since they were not able to get hold of an electric guitar, they would be forced to use alternatives such as using a classical guitar as a substitute for an electric one.
The band hopes to continue making music, with one of their biggest ambitions being able to perform at gigs outside of Gaza.