Checkpoint 303 : The Iqrit Files

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Checkpoint 303
With Jawaher Shofani, Wardeh Sbeit and Jihad Sbeit
The Iqrit Files
Kirkelig Kulturverksted (

An electronic Intifada is the logical—one might argue inevitable—cultural and political product of a zone of effective incarceration and deprivation where children (comprising half the Gaza population) can distinguish by sound between different types of tanks and warplanes, or between mere surveillance drones and those armed with deadly missiles. In the all-out assault on Gaza in 2014, over 500 children were killed and 3,000 maimed and wounded. UNICEF estimates that nearly 400,000 children there suffer from palpable post-traumatic stress disorder. (*1)

Yet an unrelenting seven-decade assault on Palestinian livelihood, dignity, identity, and human rights has not obliterated the creative spirit of a people that continues to engender artistic ensembles such as Checkpoint 303. Over the past decade this sound-catching, sound-cutting collective has carried the message to Tunis, Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut, Prague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Lyon, Birmingham, London, Malmö, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tokyo; and in Palestine (Ramallah, Jerusalem, Jericho and Nazareth) in 2007.

The Iqrit Files concerns the 1948 evacuation and 1951 reduction to rubble of the Palestinian village by that name near the Lebanon border, and more recent efforts of its descendants to return. The CD combines field recordings, radio broadcast clips, ambient everyday sounds, the ritual Upper Galilee singing of Jawaher Shofani and Wardeh Sbeit, and the poetry of Jihad Sbeit. Running through the mix are voice samples including Eleanor Roosevelt's reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the historic UN roll call vote that made it international law (“In 1948”), Albert Einstein's reflections on the example of Gandhi's passive resistance (“My Homeland”), Nelson Mandela's US interview only shortly after his 1990 prison release (“A'ataba”), and a 1980 interview with Bob Marley (“I Climbed the Top of the Mountain”). Add to that the menacing sonic aura of a military checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem (“Road to Jerusalem”) and the chanting of demonstrators returning to Iqrit to bury their dead. As Iqrit's children remark, “They do not accept us living [there] anymore, but we are still allowed to die there.”

Listen "Welcome to Iqrit"
"In 1948"
"Northern Wind"
"They Rode Their Horses"

Produced with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is audio artistry as insistent history and social consciousness, no easy listening or dancefloor dross, just the testimony of a people who continue to struggle for the everyday rights and respect that denizens of the global north pretty much take for granted (and pretend to impose on the rest of the planet). There is something here for anyone who is, in the words of another warrior for justice, Fannie Lou Hamer, “just sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Turn off the smartphone camera and step into the irreducible material frame of those for whom life is anything but a video game. - Michael Stone

The artists online:

A number of pieces from this album will be included on the 163rd edition of RootsWorld Radio, the week of August 8th, 2015.


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