The musician Nader Al-Mukarker combines eastern and western music
The musician Nader Al-Mukarker has been living in Växjö for 20 years. The musician grew up in a multi-cultural environment with different cultures and different religions. He was born in Jerusalem and grew up in the city of Beit Jala in the Bethlehem Governorate in Palestine, and belongs to a music-loving family. Mosaik newspaper had a meeting with the musician Nader Al-Mukarker, to highlight artistic talents that contribute to promoting cultural diversity.
Can you tell us about why you are a musician?
– I was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Beit Jala, Bethlehem Governorate. The neighborhood which I was raised in was diverse cultures and religions. There were Muslims, Christians and Jews living there. I grew up in a musical family, my father is an Orthodox canon, he was intone Greek Byzantine tune. my aunt Susan Salah sang songs of Fairouz, and my uncle was a guitar player. I got involved in music since a young age. Because my father used to take me to the church with him since I was five years old. I started in the hymns of the church, and after that I fell in love with music and wanted to dig deeper into it. When we chanted there was no music and we used to make music with our voice. I also learned eastern and western rituals. As well as I was very moved by the singing of Fairouz. Every morning when we woke up, we had coffee and listened to The singer Fairouz. Because Fairouz is a symbol of Arab culture in general, and for us particularly as a Palestinians.
Have you studied music in Palestine, or was it just a hobby?
– There was difficulty learning in Palestine, there were no music schools. There were only music schools in Israel, and it was difficult to study music in Israel. It was forbidden for Palestinian. It was also difficult to travel to other Arab countries because the borders were closed. So I had no other choice. I started playing flute. I also played bagpipe at Christmas, it is a Scottish instrument. But I like keyboard and piano the most. But It was difficult to get a piano or keyboard at that time because it was very expensive and not available on Palestinian land. There was a German school and I was sneaking into it to played piano.
Have you performed at Beit Jala?
– I performed at Christmas festivals. After that I had a Palestinian band called "the Shams Band" at that time there was an uprising , and we used to sing national songs. That was risky, anyone sang this type of songs was arrested. We suffered a lot. Although it was a difficult life, it was enjoyable at the same time.
How did you come to Sweden?
– My father immigrated to Sweden in 1963 and was one of the first Arabs to immigrate to Sweden. Because he studied at a Swedish university in Jerusalem, and Sweden needed workers in the professional side at the time. He traveled to work here and obtained Swedish citizenship. So I got Swedish citizenship when I was eight years old. When I had trouble learning music and developing myself on this side, I decided to come to Sweden after high school. I wanted to develop my music skills. I was also looking forward to learning Western culture and mixing Eastern and Western cultures.
How did you start with music in Sweden?
– Firstly I arrived to Malmö after that, I moved directly to Växjö, and since that time I have been living in Växjö. I went to a language school first. Since it was difficult to start studying music before language. I also faced another problem, which is an unrecognized high school diploma, so I had to learn the language first and then study high school again. I had a lot of obstacles to study music. I took the entrance exam at the Music Institute, but I didn't pass the exam, even though I played in a way that won the approval of the Admission Committee. But there was a difficulty in the theoretical test, which was about the musical note. That was what I wanted to learn about, when I joined to the conservatory, it was the musical notes. Then, I had to continue training and developing my skills by myself.
What music works did you make during your artistic trip in Sweden?
– I created a Swedish band, and another band to play Latin music. After that, I started to compose and distribute music. I played in church's holidays with a Swedish and Arab choir in Växjö. When I left my country I deprived of the practice of the Eastern Church rituals that I used to. But I merged with Swedish culture, and I liked church chanting in Swedish as well. The most important event was my performing in a festival on a national level in Palestine. The festival was broadcast live on satellite channels. I organized the festival with the help of my father. My father trained 120 children between the ages of 10-18 years. He trained them to preforming carols and national songs. There was an extensive rehearsal before the festival for a week. The festival was attended by President Mahmoud Abbas, ministers, and the governor of Bethlehem. About 5,000 spectators also attended on stage. I was the organist in the festival. And it was very successful for me. I was very proud of my self. Everyone called me and congratulated me for my success, and expressed their pride of me.
What is your music plan for the next stage?
– Currently I will perform in Christmas festivals in Göteborg. Then I will travel to Spain, I will perform flamenco and folkloric songs, in addition to playing eastern and western music. There is a great interest in oriental music in Spain, because that the Arabs lived in Spain for a long period of time. I am also training some young people who interested in singing, such as the singer Ali Kassab, and another young man called Alie Saliba. In addition, I recently met some creative young Swedish people in Småland who are looking to play oriental music. They like Fairouz's songs, and they interested in mix eastern and western music. We will have a lot of to do together in the coming days. I hope we provide a very beautiful East-West music. And if we want that success, there must be harmony between us and believe in the same ideas and using language of music.
As a musician, what do you think of the music that is presented today, whether eastern or western?
– Recently the level of music has fallen and has become just for the sake of trading and earning money. Regardless of the type of music being performed. The music became electronic and it is no longer performing in a way that maintained its level, and it is no longer for fun and rapture, it became a trade. For me, I cannot play this kind of music. And I always want to preserve my value as a musician, and perform special and classy music.