50. Ala Dal’ona (The Spoilt One)
Written by Unknown, Afif Alvarez Bulos, Shams, & Maisa Assi
Performed by Shams & Maisa Assi
From the CD Needle In The Groove – Women Singing For Social Change (Needle in the Groove, USA 2006)



This performance of Ala Dal‘ona was recorded at Radio 194, Ibdaa’ Cultural Center, Dheisheh refugee camp, Bethlehem in or around 2006 as part of a project called Needle in the Groove which also involved Flowers Against the Occupation. More on the soon. There’s an earlier version, performed by Afif Alvarez Bulos on his 1961 album Afif Bulos Sings Songs of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan (Folkways FW08816). Mr. Bulos performs the song as part of a medley which also features Al Yadi – The Valley / Ali-’Imayyim / Ya Ghzayyel – O Gazelle. From the liner notes to that album, there is the following information on Bulos and his works:

Afif Alvarez Bulos whose home is Beirut, Lebanon, is a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University where he has spent the last three years before getting his Ph.D. in Linguistics in June 1961. An Associate of the Royal College of Music in London, he originally intended to follow an operatic career. […] He has published monographs on Arabic music as well as piano and voice arrangements of Lebanese folk songs. He has also lectured in three continents on Arabic music, with the help of a tape recorder and a harpsichord.

Here is Rima Tarazi, President of the Administrative Board of the General Union of Palestinian Women in Palestine, with a few words on Palestinian folk music:

In Palestine, the distinct events that marked its modern history were strongly reflected in its musical landscape. Folk music, a great Palestinian tradition that boasts a large number of folk poets with superb improvisational talents, has been coloured by the suffering of the Palestinians and the loss of their homeland. Folk poets would improvise words to traditional tunes on the spur of the moment, depending on the occasion. ‘Ala Dal’ona,’ for example, a traditional love ballad, became a song describing the loss of homeland and the yearning for freedom.

These events, coinciding with the emergence of Arab renaissance and nationalist movements and with the exposure of Arab musicians to Western classical music, gave rise to what has become known as the national song. This was initially based on the form of the anthem which became very popular at the beginning of the 20th century and was shared by all Arabs of the region.

Our generation recalls with nostalgia the times when ‘Nahnu Ashabab’ and ‘Mawtini’ were chanted with gusto by enthusiastic young men and women during congregations, marches, or picnics. The words reflected the aspirations of the times. The call for Arab unity and brotherhood amongst Moslems and Christians as a means of achieving independence and restoring the glory of the past featured prominently in the verses of that era. The Lebanese Fleifel brothers, among others, stood out during the first half of the 20th century as writers of anthems that were taught in schools mainly in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. They put music to the words of the Palestinian poet Ibrahim Toukan (Mawtini), the Lebanese poet Bishara Al-Khoury (Nahnu Ashabab), the Syrian poets Omar Abu Risheh (Fi Sabeel El-Majd) and Fakhri Baroudy (Biladu El Orbi Awtani), amongst others.’

- The Palestinian National Song – A Personal Testimony, by Rima Tarazi. This Week In Palestine, Issue 108, April 2007.


We have some background information on Needle in the Groove and Flowers Against the Occupation, but we thought we’d preface it with a final line from Bulos’s album as we think it relevant to the use to which the song has been put and the fact that it has been selected by the performers: ‘The folksongs of a nation or a people are part of its cultural heritage and every effort should be made to preserve them – particularly in this era of swift adaptations of other cultures or art forms. Songs, particularly, are a mirror of the souls of people and a spontaneous expression of their true feelings and attitudes.

Here now is Needle in the Groove and Flowers Against the Occupation:

Needle in the Groove brings together the subversive beauty of quilting with the far-reaching joy of music. It is a patchwork quilt, a CD, and a consciousness-raising tool. Hannah is an activist and a quilter, Sarah is a singer/songwriter, and we have put our vision and skills together for the sake of art, hope, and justice. The fifteen musicians on this album responded to our call to ‘contribute a patch about any one of your songs that you feel contributes to social change’ and to donate the song to us to include on the CD. All proceeds will go to the Palestinian girls’ group Flowers Against the Occupation, a group Hannah came to know and love through her solidarity work in the Salfit region of the West Bank with the International Women’s Peace Service and Birthright Unplugged.

Eighteen girls from Flowers Against the Occupation also made quilt patches for Needle in the Groove, and the final track on the CD is of two of the girls from the group singing a beautiful song about the importance of women’s participation in liberation struggles. The result is what you see here. And now you get to listen to great music and support a good cause at the same time!

For more information about us, this project, or how the quilt can come to you, write to us at info@needleinthegroove.org.

Flowers Against the Occupation

Flowers Against the Occupation sprang from Women for Life, a Palestinian women’s group that works to support Palestinian women and struggles non-violently against the Israeli occupation. In July 2004, Women for Life planned and ran a summer camp for their daughters and other girls in the region. Girls attended from many of the Salfit villages affected by the Wall the Israeli government is building through the West Bank. Around 100 young women and girls attended every day for two weeks. In addition to arts and crafts, health education, dabke (Palestinian folk dance), singing, drama, and outings, the girls participated in lectures and discussions about the Wall, the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe of 1948), girls’ health and confidence, and violence against girls and women. As a result of the camp many of the young women formed Flowers Against the Occupation.

Flowers Against the Occupation has been meeting since summer 2004, with workshops in English, art, banner making, poetry, and more. With more money, they hope to offer computer training and internet access for the girls to make more connections with groups in other areas (like Jerusalem and Bethlehem), and to publish a monthly magazine in English and Arabic written and designed by the girls.

- Flowers Against the Occupation


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