Music can bring people together, and here are two bands proving just that
American author Henry Thoreau, best known for his literature on civil disobedience, once famously wrote: “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” And now, over 150 years later, Thoreau’s quotation rings truer than ever. Music and disobeying the rules have often gone together like eggs and bacon, but rarely does music have the potential to aggravate and unite two separate countries at once.
If you’re a metal music fan, there’s a good chance you may have heard of Orphaned Land and Khalas – both bands have an enormous reach with their unique sounds – and both bands just completed a large European tour together. But fans might not know that these two bands come from completely different places – two places that, at first, means that it is surprising that they’re touring together.
The All Is One tour brought together Orphaned Land, an Israeli band and one of the original bands in the oriental metal scene, and Khalas, a band drawing from Arabic and Oriental roots, hailing from Palestine. Many eyes go wide at the mention of an Israeli and Palestinian band touring together, but the members see it a different way.
“I would say that the All Is One tour was the one that made a remarkable historical moment for us in the history of the band. An Israeli band touring with both Palestinians, Jordanians and French people on one bus – living together for two whole months in perfect harmony, I think showed the world (even if a small part of it) that there is more to us than just hate on each side,” said Chen Balbus, who plays the guitar and keyboard for Orphaned Land.
To the outside world the conflict between Palestine and Israeli appears to be a red-hot bed of coals waiting to be fanned, but the bands both have fans on the “other side” of the border, and use their music as an international language. The bands take pride in the fact that their “concerts prove most different than what is shown on the media. In the media it shows that there’s only hate – at our shows you can see Jewish, Muslims, and Christians singing together and having fun as one big family.”
Khalas and Orphaned Land see through the politics that normally envelope their countries. While the leaders of their respective countries go for power grabs, the bands see a more productive partnership by working together and spreading a message of unity. And the government has taken some notice of this approach: “Our music speaks about uniting people, no matter from which religion or background. We truly believe our music goes hand by hand with the message we send out. At home we receive lots of support even from the government and even from people who don’t listen to metal, but they support our message and how we promote it.”
Both bands have had support from their fans at home, and both have received some negative reviews, even being called traitors for working with a band from the opposite country. The members of Kahlas point out: “You always have those people who never get the idea behind it or consider us traitors ‘cause we are on tour with a band from Israel.” Although at one point during the tour the band encountered a venue in Ramallah that would not let them play due to the partnership, the bands have been overwhelmed by the energy of their fans both inside and outside of their country’s borders. But Balbus believes that fans see through the cultural divide: “I believe that people [who] listen to Orphaned Land find their way to our reality in the Middle-East through our music, either by the lyrics that speak about our everyday lives in the Middle-East, or musically when listening to many instruments that you don’t normally hear in metal music.”
“Our music speaks about uniting people, no matter from which religion or background”
During their European tour together, the bands lived the touring lifestyle, sleeping on tour buses, waking up in different cities, seeing European history, and meeting their fans. Khalas called it an exhausting experience, but “spiritually satisfying,” and Orphaned Land can’t wait to tour Europe again, saying that they couldn’t pick a single best part during the tour.
Thoreau wrote that music made him fear no danger over 150 years ago, and Orphaned Land and Khalas have demonstrated through their bold partnership that when you have music on your side and fear no danger, people will notice. The bands toured together because they have a similar musical style, but the response that they generated by working side by side was greater than any of them expected. Among a historical conflict of different religions and languages, Orphaned Land and Khalas have found a universal tongue to cut through the babel- music.
Featured image: Century Media and Arabic Rock Orchestra