How does heritage evolve?

How does heritage evolve and develop? I think it is a mixture that stems from a deep understanding of one’s cultural heritage as well as having a creative vision on how to bring on new advances and forms. Watching the following video of Le Trio Joubran performing with the First Ramallah Group dance troupe at the Olympia Music Hall in Paris got me thinking, are we creating a new heritage for our grandchildren? Will it be remembered and appreciated by them as we appreciate the inheritance we received from our ancestors?

Besides the good music and the great enthusiasm of the dancers, something else tickled my senses and got me thinking of what made this performance so special. In my opinion, a number of elements contributed to this success: the refined and well rehearsed show, the beautiful yet simple stage setting, and the balanced mix between dance, music and poetry.

What more? How does a simple traditional tune became a show? The Dal’ona song, a well known simple tune that is part of our tradition in the Middle East was turned into a masterpiece. It reminded me of Franz Schubert lieder and how he turned small tunes like Die Forelle into elaborate works of music.

Congratulations to Le Trio Joubran on their 10th anniversary and to the First Ramallah Group for their Parisian show.

— Jack Rabah

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You may want to read this: Sharon and my Mother-in-Law

For many years, I heard about the Palestinian architect Suad Amiry as the head of Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation. When TEDxRamallah was held in 2011, unfortunately, I couldn’t attend, but was glad to watch the speeches a couple of months later on YouTube.

The speech that I enjoyed the most, and was very inspired by, was that of Suad:


Last year I got a copy of her book, Sharon and my Mother-in-Law, and read it cover-to-cover in a couple of days. The book gives the reader a vivid and visual image of what life was like under Israeli incursions and curfew, through real life, and in many times ironically funny stories.

I encourage you all to read it!

Sharon and my Mother-in-Law

Sharon and my Mother-in-Law

— Jack Rabah

Hidden Inside a Book

Folded inside a book I found two birth certificates. The certificates were very old and scripted in Turkish. Since old Turkish, like Farsi, uses the same characters as Arabic, I was able to decipher enough to figure out that it is the birth certificate of my great great grandfather Yacoub Elias Khashan.

He was born around 1859 (1275 Hijri as it said on the certificate), and died in 1933 as engraved on his tombstone at the Ramallah cemetary. According to Aziz Shahin’s Ramallah book, he got married on Dec 7, 1883 to Hilaneh Salim Yacoub Ajlouni and had two sons (Ayoub and Musa) and two daughters (Nimeh and Hilweh).

Now, why is this specific grandfather so special? No, he did not fight with another bull! It is the fact that he is the reason our family name today is Rabah. See, he used to work in selling olive oil, and apparently, made good money doing so. Eventually, people starting calling him Rabah which means the one who makes good profits. Consequently, his grandchildren took Rabah as a family name until today.

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The birth certificate is from the times of the Ottoman Empire’s rule in Palestine. Someone detached the duty stamps from the document. The other certificate I found has the stamps intact, but we’ll leave that one for another time.

— Jack Rabah

My grandfather the Arab Matador

The city of Ramallah was established when Rashed Haddadin settled there after coming from the other side of the Jordan river (Jordan). He and his grandchildren’s families grew into the eight clans of Ramallah. Our clan is called the Abu Jaghab clan.

It is said that our great grandfather was going to water his bull at the spring. He was known to be a stubborn man, and when his bull refused to drink he was pissed. He took the bull by his horn and started pushing his head down towards the water while shouting: “ijghab” (drink) or I will break your horn!

Apparently he was more stubborn than the bull and he broke his horn. From that time on the name “Jaghab” stuck to us. Alternatively, the clan of the horn “dar abu karin” in Arabic is used to refer to our clan.

Nowadays when we are caught practicing any stubborn behaviors they say .. Well you are really from the clan of the horn 🙂

— Jack Rabah

Singing Out of the Silence

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Singing Out of the Silence was a CD we, Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers of Earlham College, recorded back in 1994. I would like to share with you parts of a thread one of the women who sang with us started on facebook. I wish for each one of you to experience what we did during those years…

Laurie Arnold So, after a tip from Wangden Kelsang, I am reuinited with the 1994 “Singing Out of the Silence,” recorded by the Earlham Concert Choir. It has been many, may years since I heard these recordings, and if you had asked me to imagine the solo voices in these pieces as anyone other than Kathy HatchScott Taylor , Marilyn Brown Robinson, Wangden Kelsang, Sho KawasakiJennifer Quick Jones, and, Kristi Foster, I could not have. I also recently found another choir’s recording of “Quicksand Years” and found myself disappointed not not hear David May‘s voice. It is a bittersweet time to recall, but to hear your–our voices–in their youthful prime is an intimate way of knowing that I have for no other group of people in my life. Scott Buquor, Meer Meera Collier-Mitchell, Drea Pedisich, Jack Rabah, Mike Dalrymple–believe it or not I can hear the sound of your voices as if it were yesterday. David May, I second your post. This album is beautiful, and I am proud to have been a part of it.


Meera Collier-Mitchell You choked me up, Laurie, with this post. I adore all of you more than you know.

Kathy Hatch These memories made me tear up, too…such a precious time in our lives, and to have our lives forever connected through friendship and through the process of making music together….well, nothing compares….so grateful for every moment we shared!!!! Xoxo

Chris Dennett Thank you for the memories Laurie. I often listen to that CD around the holidays because the music reminds me also of the east coast tour we did.

Wangden Kelsang Such good memories. One of my favorites from that term (and that CD) was the Mendelssohn—singing in a quartet with Scott Taylor, Kristi Foster, and Kathy Hatch. Hands down the most amazing quartet-singing experience of my life. I thought about it a lot when Kristi passed away

Jack Rabah I can say without hesitation that I have yet to experience again the buzz and warm feelings I got after we sang in practice or concert.. in Concert Choir .. in Madrigal Singers .. on tour .. in Vienna.. Those were the days! I’m happy that we are able to recall and share these moments together again .. even if it is virtually  I was shocked to hear about Kristi, but one day we’ll be all gone and the music will remain to enrich the lives of new generations. Love you all!

A special thanks to Dan Graves our teacher, conductor, and friend for all these wonderful memories.

1996 Earlham College Vienna Choral Program

Trip to Budapest, 1996 Earlham College Vienna Choral Program participants.

— Jack Rabah