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Shibat, Rocking Christmas

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 17.01.2008:

By Margo Sabella

Christmas is often associated with the usual Santas, red and gold decorations and blinking lights. But for the past three years, Shibat has become the refreshing new tradition during the Christmas season in Palestine; one that young and old look forward to each year.

This group of six rocks audiences with old Christmas favourites played to Rock & Roll tunes, making it more of a party and less of a musical concert, where audiences interact and leave the show with a sense of wellbeing, faces all aglow. Ringing in the Christmas season has never been more fun for the entire family.

The six talented men used to play in different bands before they all teamed up for this Christmas band. At the height of the Beatles glory, Serop Ohannessian, one of Shibat’s members, formed the band “The Flintstones” in the 1960s, whose repertoire consisted of many Beatles’ hit songs. Hints of the Beatles tunes are weaved into the Christmas songs each year.

The idea of Shibat was cooked up in Hani Murad’s kitchen, another member of the group, while he and Serop were jamming old favourites and wishing they could play in public again. They proposed the idea to a group of like-minded artists: Garo Demergian – the famous one-man band, Fredo Hazu and Ibrahim Murad, both former members of the Silverstones, and Vreij Najarian, who all agreed that the joy of the holiday season needs to be brought back. And so was Shibat born.

Coming up with a name that properly represents the group can be very difficult. Wanting to be original, they toyed with naming the band Still Crazy or Last Chance, but somehow those did not quite represent them. After some time deliberating and with a sparkle in his eyes, Garo suddenly shouted out, “Shibat,” in reference and reverence to the men’s graying hair.

The men practise at the Frères School in Jerusalem, just like they used to when they were schoolboys. They take risks in their music, adapting the classic Arabic songs of Fairouz and Fareed Al-Atrash into their style, to which audiences seemed to respond enthusiastically. They also write their own lyrics and music. It is hard to compete with today’s musical genres but they hope that with a lot of support, these Christmas concerts can extend throughout the year.

The band members are out to enjoy themselves, but it is also about keeping some of their long-held traditions alive. Serop’s home in Ramallah used to be open to friends from all over the country during the Christmas season, with music and laughter flowing, all of which has disappeared with the advent of the second Intifada, and slowly the house fell sadly silent. Shibat is a resolute message that life must go on, and does go on, despite the challenges of daily life. The name may allude to a generation of men who have aged, but with that comes the wisdom of knowing that the secret to a long and happy life is enjoying it to the fullest, all the better to the tunes of Rock & Roll.

This Week in Palestine

January 2008

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