She Was a Star of New Palestinian Music. Then She Played Beside the Mosque.

She Was a Star of New Palestinian Music. Then She Played Beside the Mosque.


“People on the conservative side saw this as an example of the weakness and absence of the Palestinian Authority, and the impotence of the Palestinian condition,” said Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian intellectual and former head of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Though Palestinian society was once more accepting of diversity, it has grown more conservative in recent years as the struggle for statehood sputtered and some Palestinians turned to tradition and religion to sustain their identity, Prof. Nusseibeh said.

Ms. Abdulhadi was born on the eve of a more hopeful time, in October 1990. Her family had been living in exile in Jordan since 1969, after the Israeli authorities expelled her grandmother, Issam Abdulhadi, a leading women’s rights activist.

But as peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians gathered pace in the early 1990s, Israel allowed certain exiled leaders to return with their families, in a gesture of good will. Among them were Issam and her family, including young Sama’ and her older brother and sister. Her father, Saad, is a publisher and events manager, and her mother, Samira Hulaileh, runs a forum for businesswomen. She met for this interview in their hilltop home, as Ms. Hulaileh served homemade lamb dumplings.

As a child, Ms. Abdulhadi was always a trailblazer. With her grandmother, she successfully lobbied her headmaster to let her form a girls’ soccer team (she later played for the national team). As a teenager, she organized hip-hop battles and break-dancing events, and acquaintances from the time remember her as a powerful presence.

“It was the same feeling that you still get today,” said Derrar Ghanem, a contemporary who also later helped build Ramallah’s electronic music scene. “She walks in and you think, ‘Who’s that?’”

Ms. Abdulhadi began to experiment as a D.J. amid the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising that killed about 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians during the early 2000s. She used her father’s sound equipment to play music at friends’ events.



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