Rim Banna, a leading Arab-Palestinian singer, songwriter, and composer, has died after battling breast cancer for almost nine years. The 51-year-old died in her home town of Nazareth on March 24, and is survived by her mother, brother, and three children.
The Chair of the Knesset’s Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), wrote on Twitter that Banna was “one of the pillars of progressive Palestinian poetry,” and stated that like many others, he was inspired by her music.
According to Hadash activist Abir Kopty “I remember Rim from her early days when she used to perform in political events in Nazareth, our city, and I remember her performing in the evenings of Nazareth Volunteer Camps in the late 1980s. Right from the beginning, Rim chose her own way. She chose to be an artist of principles and set an example of inspiration. She chose values over profit and authenticity over fame. A humble and modest musician and singer, who dedicated her life for what she believed in, her voice was rare in a world of ‘celebrities’ and stardom.”
Banna studied music in Moscow, with a scholarship from the Communist Party of Israel, and was an active musician who had released 13 albums. She wrote, sang and composed including musical renditions incorporating works by prominent Palestinian poets like Tawfik Zayyad, Samih al-Qasim and Mahmoud Darwish, as well by her mother, Zahira Sabbag.
Last week, Banna’s family issued a statement that emphasized her deteriorating medical condition, telling her fans that she was receiving treatment in one of the hospitals in Nazareth. “She is continuing to resist … she will even announce new plans and reveal details of an upcoming musical tour,” the statement read. The artist, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, lost the ability to sing two years ago and said she was stepping down but would continue to compose and create music.