Overcoming several challenges, including conservative backlash in Gaza, the band continues to tell the story of Palestine to the world.
SOL is a band of musicians that formed in the besieged Gaza Strip in 2012. Its founder, Saeed Fadel, plays keyboard; Fares Anbar is a percussionist; and Ahmed al Hadad plays guitar. There’s also Hamada Nasrallah - a singer/composer; and Rahaf Shamaly, the band's only girl member - who complements the group with her melodious voice.
With their motto "Gaza loves life," the band has so far had a great run, participating in several music festivals since 2012. These include the Arabesque Festival in France, the Cuba Cabana Festival in Belgium, and the Palestine Music Exhibition PMX Festival. They also won the French Institute of Music competition in 2020.
SOL is now in Turkey working on their first album.
"We hope that fans will love it," Hamada, SOL's lead vocalist, told TRT World.
While the pandemic brought challenges to the band, it also brought new opportunities.
"Any harsh conditions must be employed to create a spirit of competition and the ability to achieve success and progress. Without tough situations, we will not reach success," said the band's business manager, Rami Warasna.
From Gaza to Turkey
Although the band initially came to Istanbul for an art project, they loved the artistic culture and Istanbul's diversity and decided to settle here. The freedom of movement and countless opportunities available in the city also informed their decision to relocate. That freedom contrasted sharply with Gaza, where the band had to navigate soul-crushing restrictions and siege.
Back in Palestine, the band did achieve success, but there were also hard times like when Rahaf faced a conservative backlash after a live performance at the Nejmeh Square in Gaza in 2019.
The angry and abusive trolls on social media questioned Rahaf's presence amongst her male bandmates and attempted to shun SOL from the Palestinian music scene.
But Rahaf prevailed. She continued performing at concerts and singing patriotic songs made famous by legends like Umm Kulthum, Wadih Al-Safi and others.
"Because we live in a conservative society that adheres to certain customs and traditions like preventing girls from appearing in the field of music. We faced many problems. They thought I was challenging the society's social and cultural mores," Rahaf told TRT World.
What binds the band together in good or bad times is their love for music and Palestine.
"Our success in Gaza was one of the most difficult stages the band went through, and whoever succeeds in his or her country can succeed anywhere in the world," Ahmed said.
"We always work on producing songs to stay on social media. Our work has spread fast. Many have started to invite us to participate in various events."
The band members have known each other from the age of 10. They would all meet after school, play different instruments, sing, and compose music.
As they entered adulthood, people began inviting them to house parties, where they sang and danced and laughed. From that point, they were invited to play in restaurants and at hotel parties, doing everything budding musicians do to move up in their careers.
"Our only chance in life is music. It's what we adore. We wanted to do the impossible; we insisted on proving our existence in Gaza and worldwide. Using our music, we wanted everyone to know what was happening inside the Gaza Strip," Saeed said.
The band has established a music school in the besieged strip, hoping to guide raw talent and train the next generation of musicians to move the story of Gaza and Palestine forward.
"We provided the school with the necessary, simple instruments and supplies; then we started working with the elderly who desired to learn music. Many of them didn't have a chance to do that but we thought we should help them make it happen," Saeed said.
SOL's manager Rami is now working on taking the band to major international events and festivals. Their goal is to take their music to new heights and deliver the Palestinian voice to the world.
"We dream about attending all the festivals, expressing ourselves through music, and telling the world how it is to be born in Palestine."