Said Murad


Oud player Said Murad is a Palestinian musician and composer from Jerusalem. He started the iconic band Sabreen, which later developed into a record label.


Murad was born on March 31, 1958, in the Old City of Jerusalem. From a young age, he displayed a passion for music. He began his career playing in wedding bands.1 He also ran a record store, and there he had access to cassettes of all kinds of musical styles. From his exposure to different genres, Murad had a great desire to sing folk songs—a desire that would influence his future composition.

In the 1970s, Murad joined different bands, all of which broke up, including al-Kawakib (1972) and al-Manar. From 1973 to 1974, he studied music theory and the piano at the Ramallah Institute for Fine Arts.2


Sabreen’s Said Murad introduced a blend of Western and Arab sounds to create modern Arab music.

Said Murad during a Sabreen photoshoot playing the oud, 1989


The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, Item 185262

Style and Projects

In addition to composing songs, Murad produced music for movies and theater production, including plays and dances performed at the Palestinian National Theatre, El-Hakawati, and Al Kasaba Theatre and Cinematheque. He created scores for “Night and the Mountain,” Romeo and Juliet, and Al-Zeer Salem.3 One piece, a collaboration with the Iraqi American sculptor Michael Rakowitz, presented a Beatles’ song in a performance held in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Murad’s style combines traditional folk music, Arabic classical music, and Arab pop songs in his compositions, revolutionizing and renewing Palestinian music.4 When he founded a band in the early 1980s, Murad detailed his desire to experiment with sounds and go beyond convention:

The Palestinian National Theatre El-Hakawati

The first (and until the early 1990s, the only) Palestinian public theater and cultural center in Jerusalem

We destroyed all classical standards—not only Palestinian ones but Arab as well. Music specialists can appreciate the transformations we have accomplished at the level of musical composition, in the distribution of music in songs, in the use of bass.5

Said Murad playing the flute in a performance held at Al Kasaba Theatre, Ramallah, 1994

Said Murad plays the flute during a performance at Al Kasaba Theatre, Ramallah, 1994.


The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, Item 141954

“We destroyed all classical standards—not only Palestinian ones but Arab as well.”

Said Murad

Jerusalem’s Soundscape

Jerusalem had a profound influence on Murad’s music. In an interview with Kamal Boullata and Joost Hiltermann for Middle East Report magazine, Murad described Jerusalem’s music scene:

What prevailed in Jerusalem were several kinds of musical work: traditional folkloric bands that sang the zajal [a type of poetry]. They depended on a zajjal [the person who sings the zajal], on the dabka dance, the flute player or the rababa [a kind of cello] player. There were also political celebrations. Finally, there were bands that emerged from private schools, like the Freres, Lutheran and Mutran, where students learned about Western instruments and music.6

Murad spoke of a Jerusalem in which Arab music began to transform:

Jerusalem plays a vital musical role. It has lots of schools that teach music. It has halls where bands could perform. There are traditional folkloric groups that perform at ethnic weddings in villages. And there are other groups that are Western-oriented and perform in hotels. They first sing wedding songs, and people dance the dabka. Then they perform foreign songs. Some used to create Arabic disco, with the same beat but translated lyrics. We started asking why we should import and reproduce this music. These were the seeds of the idea that became Sabreen.7

Said Murad and Odeh Turjman at Sabreen band’s studio in Jerusalem, 1988

Said Murad and Odeh Turjman during a recording session in Sabreen’s studio, Jerusalem, 1988


The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, Item 185575


Murad founded the band Sabreen (which means “patience” in Arabic) in 1980, and its music, all of which he composed, brought a musical revolution throughout the Arab world. Suhail Khoury described his style as one that “drew upon both Arab and world musical traditions to create a distinctive musical fusion.”8 At first, though, all of the band’s music was criticized and rejected.

Based in East Jerusalem, the band found its inspiration in Western rock and jazz music, blending it with traditional Arab soundscapes. Its lyrics often expressed resistance against Israeli occupation, Murad intentionally drawing inspiration from Arab poetry, such as that of Mahmoud Darwish, Hussein Barghouti, and Samih al-Qasim, and music that focused on specific events in Palestinian history or broad themes. When asked about why he chose “political poems,” he responded: “These were the most expressive of how we felt. We also felt the audience could understand. I’m talking about the pre-1981 experience, where we used Western instruments for our compositions.”9

Sabreen itself went through different transformations. Pre-1981 and for its first album, the band used Western instruments for its compositions. For the second album, however, the band wanted to reach a wider audience, and therefore introduced more traditional instruments, such as the oud and canun, and used colloquial Arabic.10

Sabreen performs its song “Oghniya Wataniya” in Jerusalem by the Old City, 1990. Featuring Kamilya Jubran (vocals) and Said Murad (oud).


Sabreen Productions YouTube channel

Jerusalem had a profound influence on Murad’s music.

The band produced a total of five albums, each one released during a political episode. For example, the first coincided with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982; the second with the period before the First Intifada in the late 1980s; the third with the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s; and the fourth after a period of peace negotiations.11 The fifth and last album reflects Palestine’s current political and economic situation.

Sabreen’s music, with its unique blend of traditional music, new sounds, and political voice, continues to influence Palestinian music today.

Jerusalem’s Said Murad plays the oud at a Sabreen show held in the UK.

Said Murad playing the oud during Sabreen’s trip to the UK, April 1991


The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, Item 141936

In 1987, Sabreen became the Sabreen Association for Artistic Development, a registered NGO based in Sheikh Jarrah that aims to develop and fund musical programs in Palestine. The Sabreen Association organized events such as music festivals, school workshops, and summer camps. It also helped aspiring Palestinian musicians receive their training, mentoring the next generation of Palestinian artists. Of this endeavor, Bashar Murad, Said’s son (also a musician), said: “So many artists passed through that studio, every Palestinian artist you can think of.”12

The Sabreen Association established a full-service music studio with professional quality and state-of-the-art digital recording facilities. The recording studio facilitated all types of vocal and instrument recording. It also offered an event space and a gallery.

Short Take Sheikh Jarrah: The Northern Gateway to Jerusalem

The neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has historically been the northern gateway to the Old City and a home to powerful Palestinian families and consulates.

Although the studio served Jerusalem’s musicians for 35 years, it had to close its doors in 2022 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the widespread lockdowns it required.

Sabreen Association persisted and soon was able to open a new space located on the top floor of Dar Al-Tifel Al-Arabi Institute for Culture, Arts, and Literature, in August 2022, after a crowdfunding campaign. The association has successfully continued with its mission of “empowering local musicians and preserving cultural heritage, providing opportunities for artistic growth, and advocating for the transformative power of music.”13 Murad’s son, Bashar, a globally famous musician in his own right, currently serves as its director general.

Dar Al-Tifel Al-Arabi School

A Jerusalem school that lists the following values as its guiding principles: integrity, transparency, innovation, responsiveness, and cooperation 


About.” Sabreen. Accessed May 17, 2024.

Austin, Alice. “Spinning Discs in Sheikh Jarrah.” +972 Magazine, August 8, 2023.

Boullata, Kamal, and Joost Hiltermann. “Improvisation and Continuity: The Music of Sabreen.” Middle East Report 182 (May/June 1993).

Khoury, Suhail. “Palestinian Music: Blending Levantine Sounds and the Power of Poetry.” Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question. Accessed May 17, 2024.

Said Murad.” Jafra Productions. Accessed May 17, 2024.

Wikitia. s.v. “Said Murad.” Last modified August 11, 2023, 06:18.


[Profile photo: The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, Item 185755]



Wikitia, s.v. “Said Murad,” last modified August 11, 2023, 06:18.


Wikitia, s.v. “Said Murad.”


Said Murad,” Jafra Productions, accessed May 17, 2024.


“Said Murad.”


Kamal Boullata and Joost Hiltermann, “Improvisation and Continuity: The Music of Sabreen,” Middle East Report 182 (May/June 1993).


Boullata and Hiltermann, “Improvisation and Continuity.”


Boullata and Hiltermann, “Improvisation and Continuity.”


Suhail Khoury, “Palestinian Music: Blending Levantine Sounds and the Power of Poetry,” Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question, accessed May 17, 2024.


Boullata and Hiltermann,“Improvisation and Continuity.”


Boullata and Hiltermann, “Improvisation and Continuity.”


Wikitia, s.v. “Said Murad.”


Alice Austin, “Spinning Discs in Sheikh Jarrah,” +972 Magazine, August 8, 2023.


About,” Sabreen, accessed May 17, 2024.

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