There was a world of music in her head growing up in Israel’s Galilee.
Sting and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. But there was also Um Khalthoum and Fairuz plus traditional and modern Bulgarian music
Like a salad of a soul’s favorites, the melodies and harmonies have been mixed and melded again and again.
And that is how her music came about, says Mira Awad, who is appearing Friday (March 23rd) at the Old Town School of Music. She will sing in Arabic and English, most of of Arabic songs her own creations.
The musical mixture that she creates , she explains, “is not a conscious decision.”
It is rather the fruit of being the daughter of a Palestinian father and a Bulgarian mother, of growing up an Arab among Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens and of feeling very proud about being an Arab but also believing strongly in coexistence with her Jewish fellow citizens.
Within Israel, she has performed regularly on tv and on stage. She has made a solid career for herself.
Indeed, Awaḍ represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow along with the well-known Israeli singer, Achinoam Nini, who is known outside Israel as Noa. The two have been singing together for a number of years.
But more significantly, Awad was the first Arab-Israeli singer to represent Israel in the contest.
They composed the song together and it is about coexistence. But it came on the heels of the Israel’s fighting in Gaza, a moment that only fanned hatred and fears between Arabs and Jews.
Her appearance in Moscow on behalf of Israel wrought much criticism from Arabs, who accused her of “being a sellout or politically stupid,” and urged her to step down.
“It was a hard time for me,” she recalls. “I had already had thoughts of quitting. I didn’t know if I wanted to represent Israel. But I took two days and my conclusion was that at the end of my life I want to do everything I believe in and that would be carrying on with the dialogue.”
So, too, she wanted to make another point: that Israel’s Arab citizens need to be recognized and not marginalized.
Her willingness to speak her beliefs has cut her off from Arab audiences. She has never sung in the Palestinian territories, or before an audience in the Arab world, or let alone a strictly Arab audience outside of Israel. These are audiences she dreams of reaching.
Once she wanted to just be a musician and not a symbol.
“But the years have taught me that I cannot separate between the two and I was built strong enough to carry the burden.”