Based on recent ethnographic work, we explore the ways in which transnational cosmopolitan music crosses, creates, and reinscribes borders as it is performed by Palestinian Arab wedding musicians in northern Israel. While Palestinian nationalism and the hard political borders between Israel and its neighbouring states frame immediate questions of identity and mobility, in describing their musical practices, musicians turn to a complex, interleaved series of geographies that highlight past and contemporary processes of musical flow. On one hand, they foreground the continuing relevance of the historic al-Sham region as an area of shared musical practice, identifying with the jabali (mountain) musical style of the elevated region that marks the borderlands between today's Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. On the other hand, they embed this regional style within a series of micro- and macro-geographies, from detailed knowledge of the subtle differences in tempo and style between neighbouring Galilee villages to connections with the wider Arabic-speaking world via old and new media. While recent research on music in the Middle East has often foregrounded the role of music in constructing and reinforcing national identities, this research illustrates how transnational flows continue to shape the experience and imagination of musical borderlands in the region.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This research was supported by the ISRAEL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (grant no. 1495/16). The authors are grateful to Shvat Eilat, Sarah Goldberg, Amalia Sa’ar, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts, and to the musicians we cite for their generous sharing of time and expertise.
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