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Israeli Band ORPHANED LAND Unifying Religious Groups

Geo·dissonance: the metal movement is proliferating to all corners of the globe. In its relentless display of vitriolic truths and the ugliest questions of existence, we can hear the resounding riffs of heavy metal in the most conservative pockets of society. As your Punjabi, riff-worshiping correspondent, I've created Geodissonance to report the controversy: as metal unveils dissonance in cradles of brutality around the world.

In Israel, the voices of alliance can be found directly in the underground. Despite the infamous and frequently explosive hostilities between religious groups – namely, Jewish and Muslim populations – Orphaned Land is emerging as the humble yet heavy metaphor for peace in an all too divisive climate. So, who are they exactly? Far from your revivalist political party or religious sect, this is a metal band- that's mending old religious wounds, and uniting the Israeli youth, beneath a much damaged, national surface.

Since their inception, Orphaned Land has garnered fans across the Middle East: from Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, through to Jordan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Despite continent-wide bans on their music, their fans remain no less committed to their music. They have been noted to travel far distances (including across national borders) to attend the band’s concerts – frequently held in Turkey – and have stellar communication with the group on Facebook. Moreover, painters, tattoo artists, local musicians, and wedding dj's have all paid homage to the group – securing Orphaned Land's place as a staple in the Middle Eastern, metal community.

Though Orphaned Land’s music is not overtly political, they have effectively created a musical space, in which individuals of all religious convictions can coexist. With music created to dissolve interpersonal prejudices and challenge societal boundaries, Orphaned Land continues to transform widespread, religious enmities into shocking friendships. Their music addresses, fittingly enough, the ideals of peace, the power of universal art, in addition to encouraging peaceful interactions between Arab and Muslim artists. Moreover, in their desire to disseminate their music and message to a wider fanbase, Orphaned Land has made their music free and available to Middle Eastern and North African communities.

The band’s efforts have gone far from unnoticed; in addition to securing an eight-page spread in Iran-based, rock magazine – Divan – Orphaned Land was also awarded a peace prize by Istanbul Commerce University, for their artistically achieved, harmonizing of relations between Muslim and Jewish populations in the Middle East. Adding to their humanitarian recognition, this past February (and in the wake of Turkey’s tragic earthquake), the band was awarded The Friendship and Peace Award, from Dr. Huseyin Tugcu: the official adviser to Prime Minister Erdogan.

The essential question may then, be: what inspired Orphaned Land’s vast success? The answer lies in the band’s three pillars, or fundamental philosophy: Music, Exemplars, and Community.

Music is a pillar that Orphaned Land has most clearly embraced. With the spread of metal culture throughout the Middle East, especially in recent years, the band’s experiments with metal, informed by Middle Eastern sounds, was a sure success. By closely studying, evolving, and incorporating regional rhythms and melodies into their music, they successfully captured dialectic, aesthetic sensibilities. With the traces of traditional sounds in their music, Orphaned Land reconnected many Jewish fans with their Middle Eastern roots, as well as demonstrated the notion that globalization can occur, without the elimination of one’s original and unique, cultural identity.

This meeting of cultures, within music, was also based in languages; the band’s lyrics are performed in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. These linguistic elements – certainly a very intimate and immediate way of connecting with diverse fan-bases – was elevated by their introduction of quotes from the Torah, Koran, and New Testament. Many have argued that the band has gone “over the top” with their “eclectic” infusion of religious themes; but if one thing is clear, it is that the motif of darkness, and truth – two core themes of metal – remain the cohesive elements of their music.

This past year, the band made their desire for religious harmony all the more evident, when they embarked a European tour with Tunisian and Algerian groups – making this the first, markedly Jewish-Muslim heavy metal tour to grace the continent. This, coupled with Orphaned Land’s known support for Arab, Muslim, and Jewish artists has supported the (heavily scrutinized) possibility of peaceful, religious coexistence. Amongst these groups, many have admitted that it was Orphaned Land’s music alone that transformed their ways of perceiving their community, and that – through this shift – they were able to embrace universal tolerance. The transformation seems credible; during times of national crisis in Syria and France, fans have reached out to each other, on Orphaned Land's facebook page – to provide moral support, as well as the reminder that metal is a powerful catalyst for recovery, and resilience.

Moreover, the band's Facebook page boasts of 60,000+ members, from all over the world – a startlingly wide range of cultural and religious audiences. Thus, if Orphaned Land’s intentions were to create ties across national, religious, and societal rules and boundaries, they were all too clearly achieved. With music – namely, heavy metal – as the common thread that connects Muslims, Arabs, Jews, and other groups, Orphaned Land has epitomized the ideal that art can be a positive and universal agent for change, even in the most religiously divided pockets of the world.

[via Jerusalem Post]

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