“I’m constantly questioning if I’ve crossed a line with my music.”
Whether he’s performing in a wedding dress or singing about LGBT issues, Palestinian musician Bashar Murad is used to taking risks.
As an Arab living in Jerusalem, he says he’s constantly challenging many of the conservative elements of his society.
“I try to be respectful to people – but also try not to.”
As an example, he mentions his song Everyone’s Getting Married, which riffs on his society’s traditional view of marriage.
“We’re always being asked, ‘When are you getting married?’ and we’ve created this concept that if you’re not married by the age of 30, that means there’s something wrong with you.”
So, he dug out a wedding dress.
“In the video I play the priest, the waiter, the groom and then the bride. I love to mess around with the gender roles.”
The dress has been worn at his gigs at various Palestinian venues, which he says has got him lots of support.
“There were some negative comments here and there,” he says. “But people tend to make these assumptions because not a lot of people have tried to take the risks I have.”
Bashar says his songs about gender equality, queer activism and life as an Arab in Israeli society challenge different kinds of people.
“It tends to anger people who don’t believe in full rights for Palestinians and also those from my own society who are happy with the status quo.
“I understand it’s a work in progress to open up people’s minds to new ideas.”
Recently, Israel received a lot of international attention when it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.
Organisers will always say the contest is strictly non-political, which Bashar finds “a little ridiculous”.
“It was already political because it was taking place in Tel Aviv.”
There had been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
“The whole Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv went on without any mention of what is happening to Palestinians.”
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel says it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.
Shortly after the contest finished, Bashar released a duet with Icelandic entrants Hatari, who gained attention for unfurling ‘Palestine’ scarves during the results show.
“I was proud of the guys,” he says. “They were the only contestants who actually made a statement.”
To many people, the use of the name ‘Palestine’ is contentious because some see it as not just pro-Palestinian, but as an anti-Israel expression too.
At the time, the EBU (which produces Eurovision) said it would be investigating the band’s actions.
“It wasn’t an attack on anybody,” says Bashar. “It was a show of solidarity to Palestinians. There were about 200 million people watching the final and I’m sure a lot of them had no idea what was going on here.”
He says people have messaged him since Eurovision saying the incident raised awareness of the wider political situation.
Hatari were eye-catching at Eurovision because of their leather and BDSM stage outfits.
Bashar recently performed with them on Icelandic television, getting a mixture of positive and “hateful” comments from Palestinians.
“I had some saying that I was being disrespectful and if Hatari were to come to Palestine in their BDSM outfits, they would probably get killed.”
However, whilst he says some of the protestors are loud, the Palestinian music scene as a whole might actually surprise a lot of people.
“There is a big electronic, trap and techno scene here,” he says. “We just had the first Palestinian Boiler Room live-streamed from Ramallah too. There are a lot of things people don’t know about.
“The best way is to come to Palestine and see for yourself.”