Jerusalem24 – Majd Hajjaj is fueled by her passion for the arts, especially performance arts. She is a Palestinian cultural facilitator, manager and fundraiser with multiple Palestinian organizations, and the representative of Delia Arts Foundation in Palestine.
“It’s an area where I am still learning as I go, and I try to benefit as many musicians as possible,” she tells Jerusalem24.
Hailing from a background from an early age in theater, acting, dance (both Dabbke and contemporary), and the Palestinian Circus School, Majd then got an MA in Marketing Management of Performing Arts – which she has been putting to use in assisting Delia Arts Foundation in its mission in Palestine.
In Majd’s own words, Delia Arts Foundation helps Palestinian voices through music in a place where voices are suppressed.
“A get-together place”
An NGO registered in Greece, founded by an Irish musician called John Keating – who has visited Palestine – Delia Arts Foundation boasts physical centers throughout Africa and the MENA region.
These locations include a physical center in Gaza where Delia offers training in music production, workshops about different production phases, and a music-awareness project geared towards girls specifically.
Crucially, musicians get together at the center and “cook” music projects, says Majd. “So if, say, a student is done with their classes at the national conservatory of music, then they come, they get together – it’s more like a hub – where musicians get together, write lyrics, compose music, train together, and then we have a studio where they can also record their music.”
“It is a beautiful get-together place for musicians.”
A novel approach
Beyond the budding and established performers that Delia aims to nurture, children ages 5 to 18 – the performers of tomorrow! – also benefit from an innovative idea thanks to Delia’s Creative Corners project: a “music box” of sorts, named “The Note in the Wall”.
The box consists of a tablet, a music application, headphones, and a midi-keyboard (like a mini studio!), allowing children to be exposed to and experiment with music from a young age.
The idea came about after Delia’s research found limited access to music and arts education in many of the areas the organization serves, and builds on the idea of Dr. Suggata Mitra, “The Hole in the Wall”, where he and his colleagues sunk a computer into the opening of a wall near their office in New Delhi in 1999. Local children began congregating around the computer and taught themselves to use it.
Delia created their own music-themed boxes, which were manufactured in Greece and shipped to Delia’s locations across the world.
“It was such a challenge to start with,” explains Majd. “Sometimes the boxes arrived absolutely in pieces, because, say, the power bank was not allowed in, or there was such a high cost for customs and everything…”
Delia decided to have the boxes manufactured locally instead, with attractive colors for children and resembling the Delia logo – a globe wearing headphones. “Luckily, the first unit in Palestine was just fabricated in Bethlehem, and the first prototype has been installed at Tamer Institute’s library. So it’s here, it’s on the wall as we speak. It’s available for anyone to go and try.”
“Getting the artist heard in the outside world”
But beyond musical training, recording facilities, and other physical resources, how exactly does Delia contribute to raising voices “in a place where voices are suppressed”?
This is where production and distribution come in, according to Majd.
“The one problem faced by Palestinian musicians is production – especially producing video content is really expensive and needs a lot of resources. So Delia realizes this is a need, so we totally provide the resources for the production. And then later when this content is online […] we distribute the music to Spotify and other platforms to get more streaming and to get the voice of artist heard in the outside world.”
As for the financial remuneration of the artists, 50% of the profits goes to the artists themselves, while the other 50% is reinvested in Delia’s projects.
Something’s always cooking
Among some other projects of Delia’s, the dual project Sada and The Palestine Music Space (which Delia runs in partnership with the Goethe Institute in Ramallah) aim to foster the capacity of emerging musicians, and offer them a space to train and get familiar with recording equipment.
“It will be offered by Palestinian, Arabic-speaking trainers – and I think that’s really important,” affirms Majd, “because having this training offered by Palestinians, by musicians who have come from this environment, who know the challenges and who know the context, I believe they would have so much valuable information to offer emerging musicians.”
Palestine Music Space curator Ahmad Eid, a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and music producer, runs “more of a hub”, says Majd, “or a kitchen, a music kitchen.”
Majd reminds us that in Palestine, “we love food. So when you say cooking, everyone says, oh yes: something delicious is coming up.”
To find out more about Delia’s projects, visit their Facebook page, and watch the full interview on Vibes.