“Bahrain’s Mandela” dies

February 24, 2010
Majeed Marhoon

Majeed Hameed Marhoon, one of Bahrain’s best-known composers, died on Tuesday from illness.
Born into a poor family living in Manama, Majeed, 65, is known as Bahrain’s Mandela after he spent 22 years in prison for attempting in March 1966 to kill a British officer and his assistant who were allegedly in charge of local prisoners when Bahrain was under British rule.
Majeed, who received special fighting training abroad in 1965, placed two bombs in the two cars and the early morning explosions resulted in serious injuries for the two officers.
However, Majeed was not arrested and continued to work for the local oil company Bapco until February 1969 when the police seized him after a detainee in another case was forced to divulge his name. After a 30-minute trial, he was sentenced to life in jail. He spent the first four years in solitary confinement.
During his time in prison, and when he was allowed to spend time with other prisoners, he composed several pieces and started work on a music dictionary. He also helped many inmates as well as policemen gain insights into the world of music by teaching them its basics and eventually formed a small orchestra that played music on special occasions. A harmonica that was smuggled by his mother during a visit in 1975 helped him while the time.
According to friends, several people smuggled Majeed’s “sheets” out of the prison to hand them, through intermediaries, to Moscow, the radio symphony of the Democratic German Republic and to the Royal Academy in Sweden. The music was recorded and played in international students and youth gatherings.
“Many people fell in love with his music and sympathized with him. A huge rally was for instance organized in Egypt to pay tribute to his prowess and a group played some of his compositions, such as Nostalgia and Esmeralda,” a former prison companion said.
Nostalgia, one of the best compositions, was written on wrappings that Majeed collected to record his work. He later said that he was inspired by the sight of the moon on the sea waters lapping on the shores of Um Al Nassan Island, today a main part of the King Fahad Causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Majeed is survived by one son, Ridha, an accomplished piano player.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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