“Music & Dance in Palestine” with Issa Boulos




Music & Dance in Palestine:

Folklorization, Appropriation, and Colonial Discourses

Issa Boulos


Music and dance have been embedded as cultural practices among Palestinians for hundreds of years. They are used to disseminate news, entertain, celebrate, affirm social values, and express collective or individual positions. However, there are differences in how such practices are performed or presented in the public sphere, especially with modernization and urbanization. 

Traditionally, music and dance in Bedouin, peasant, and urban settings may sound and look very different from each other despite playing similar roles. Although many of these traditions continue to this day in some form or shape, many factors impacted how they evolved after World War I, especially since the British had a different plan for Palestine and the Palestinians, followed by Jordan and then the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

During the first half of the 20th century, the Near East became the center of cultural activities, folklorization, and appropriation. Festivals were organized, and stage productions and performances started to emerge, promoting various types of music and dance traditions.

 But as the Near East was splitting up into nation-states, governments began to advance local nationalisms and identities and used the arts to promote them. Between folklorization, appropriation, and colonial discourses, the Near East emerged as a significant hub for transformation, modernization, and folklorization.

 In this lecture, Issa Boulos shares various segments of his research examining  these dynamics by focusing

on music-making and dance, revealing unknown historical narratives and perspectives.


In this talk, you will learn…

  • How traditional dances in the Near East were approached and transformed.
  • How the dance component integrated with the music of the time in stage presentations
  • The choices that composers and groups made to advance productions that included
  • dance.
  • The causes and effects of folklorization and appropriation.
  • The approach of choreography versus traditional dance.
  • Performance facets of costumes, colors, designs, staging, lighting, and context

This lecture replay is available for 30 day streaming.

Issa Boulos

A composer, lyricist, songwriter, performer, and researcher, Issa Boulos has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music composition and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology. He composes instrumental and vocal music for orchestra, chamber, traditional, and mixed ensembles. Among his commissions are pieces for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Silk Road Ensemble and scores for award-winning documentaries, plays, films, and musicals. He specializes in ʿūd, buzuq, voice, and percussion and has put out many albums and scholarly publications.