Members of the bagpipe troupe Guirab play in the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Shemali. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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On a sweltering summer Saturday afternoon, 20-odd young men and women filed up to the roof of a community center in Burj al-Shemali, toting bagpipes draped in Palestinian flags.The bagpipe troupe, named Guirab after one of the Arabic words for the instrument, has been a fixture of the Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon for nearly 30 years. Its members have toured throughout Lebanon and outside, showcasing the musical artform that has morphed from its colonial roots to become a piece of Palestinian tradition.UNRWA lists a total of 22,789 Palestinian refugees registered in the one-square-kilometer camp just east of Tyre, although the census of Palestinian refugees conducted last year found a considerably lower number, listing a total population of 10,218 in the camp, with 8,142 of those being Palestinians.The band's members – who range in age from 16 to young adults – agreed the music helps them cope with the stresses of life in the camp.Recently, the players have also been getting coaching from Tony Collins, a Scottish bagpiper living in Lebanon who joins their twice-weekly practices to work on the technical aspects of playing, including tuning the instruments and reading music.
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