Pining for Palestine: Mohammad Assaf made his way back to his refugee camp roots
The 24-year-old Palestinian who now resides in Dubai is not, however, returning for good, but rather to make a video for his second song...released on Thursday, April 10, during a Good Morning Arabs broadcast on MBC 1.
“He has been around the world now, and he became a very big name, and a household name,” said Taymoor Marachi, director of Platinum Records, the production company that is producing the song. He was referring to the several trips Assaf took around the world since last summer, during which time he was welcomed by his huge fan base.
“We wanted to bring him back from where he came from and where people voted for him in the first place and he became famous,” Marachi added in an interview with Gulf News.
Platinum Records, which is owned by MBC, has signed a 10-year-contract with Assaf after he won Arab Idol in 2013. The show airs on MBC.
“We have a very big plan for him and a lot of things in the pipeline,” he added.
The video clip was filmed in the West Bank city of Ramallah and the Burj Al Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut.
Filming took almost a week to complete and then nearly 15 days of production, said Marachi.
Assaf received the support of not only Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza strip, but also in the diaspora, as well as the rest of the Arab countries. All reacted to Assaf’s winning with joy.
The young Palestinian singer, who came from one of the refugee camps in Gaza, one of the most impoverished regions in the world, was named goodwill ambassador for peace by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA). He was also named ambassador of culture and arts by the Palestinian government and offered a position with “diplomatic standing” by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
Making a video in a refugee camp is not related to Assaf’s appointment as a goodwill ambassador for UNRWA, said Marachi.
The song, titled in Arabic Yahalali Ya Mali, (“rightfully mine”), “manifests Palestinian and Arab unity, in defending the Arabs’ central cause,” Assaf was quoted as saying in a press statement.
“I will never forget my background and the starting point of my path,” added Assaf.
“We were able to capture the essence of the spirit of the camps with the people,” said Marachi. “It is purely a real video, absolutely no acting and no actors… it is with the people on the street, it is with the crowds, with the mothers, with the babies and with the kids.
“It was a very emotional experience”.
It is the first video made in a refugee camp. The fact that filming was done in such a crowded, small place constituted one of the challenges, said producers.
“The fact that the crowd grew so big,” was among the main challenges. “Once [people] heard he was there and once they realised what was happening, it was an incredible energy. It was amazing how many people ended up coming — in the hundreds. The security was incredibly tight.”
“Me, as an Iraqi,” said Marachi, “I was affected by the sort of expressions, emotions between the artist and the crowds… these are the things, an important thing, that I want to capture in this video,” he added.
By: Jumana Al Tamimi, Associate Editor
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