Sweet New Sounds from the Ancient City of Jaffa


On Luna Abu Nassar’s Bandcamp-released debut album, Asaper Lakh (“I’ll tell you”) your ears may deceive you. The 24-year-old Palestinian-Israeli singer’s light, flexible voice hits first, and is momentarily mistakable for that of any twenty-something girl with a guitar. But then a hint of scraped harp strings, a little reverb, and the force of Abu Nassar’s lyrics—effortless in both Hebrew and Arabic—makes the album decidedly more earth than sylph.

Abu Nassar, part of the 11-piece Jaffa-based hip-hop group System Ali (which raps in Russian and English as well as Hebrew and Arabic), doesn’t seem to sing in two languages in order to do anything so aspirational/cliché as “straddling a divide” or “blurring boundaries” between Israel and Palestine. Rather, her easy bilingualism, along with the expert mixing of her Jewish Israeli producing partner Dror Rotem, complicates the very notion of boundaries—political, linguistic, artistic.

With songs like “Rakevet” (“Train”) and “Kan ya makan” (“Once upon a time”) Abu Nassar also channels the dark-fairy-tale ethos that made Emmylous Harris’s Wrecking Ball a hit, an ocean and a generation away. Whatever she does next, Luna Abu Nassar deserves to be talked about in at least as many languages as she speaks.

Watch System Ali:

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