It’s easy to understand why everyone loves Mohammed Assaf— his gorgeous smile, honey voice and love for his country, Palestine. But the phenomenon of his popularity tells us as much about Palestinian society as it does about a young man who lives in a Gaza refugee camp. When one magnificent artist can unify people the way Assaf has, it shows us the essence of Palestinian culture– and its universal appeal, because so many of the rest of us adore him, too.
Assaf is now among the final four contestants, and the final is June 21.
Take a look at Al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah where hundreds of people converged last Friday and Saturday nights to watch and cheer on their local hero performing as he heads into the latest round of Arab Idol. From Palestine’s Wattan TV:
From the young women at 00:55, 1:02 and 1:38 respectively:
We’re very proud of him and we love him. We listen to his voice all the time. I always vote for him.
I get the feeling of pride.
I really don’t know what to say. I am really happy he’s got enough votes. He deserves it.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably wasted way too many hours watching Mohammed Assaf videos, but that’s okay. I’m going to indulge a little more with some of my current favorites.
The following segment is from Arab Idol’s “Super fan” question where one of the fans gets to ask one of the contestants a question. A Moroccan man asked Assaf if he would sing using more Arabic dialects and he replied, “Of course, I can sing with an Algerian dialect, with a Libyan dialect.” The host then asked him to sing with an Algerian dialect and Assaf chose the famous folk song Wahrane, Wahrane in the Raï tradition, by the legendary king of Raï, Algerian singer and songwriter Cheb Khaled.
Wahrane is the name of a seaport on the coast of western Algeria known in English as Oran. Raï music originated from Wahrane and laments social conditions that came about as a result of European colonialism. It’s understandable why Khaled’s song, about homesickness and the longing of a refugee for his beautiful country, is a song close to the heart of many people around the world, not just Palestinians. (Lyrics here).
This next video is the Global March to Jerusalem’s 2012 promotional video. Mohammed Assaf sings a heart-stirring song about Jerusalem, which includes English subtitles. He comes on at 1:30 in the video.
Here is an embed to Mohammed’s very first recording. He’s a young boy in Gaza in the video.
Oh and in case you live under a rock and have not heard Mohammed Assaf sing on stage in English for the first time, enjoy:
This is the song Assaf sang last weekend:
This next fantastic video was previously brought to our attention from commenter seafoid. The song is called Ya Rait Khabbeeha “I wish I could hide her“. Watch the audience and judges go wild. The description provided here sums it up, a must read if you cannot understand Arabic.
And last but not least …because so far it’s my very favorite.
Mohammed Assaf is going to win Arab Idol. How do I know? I just do. And if I’m wrong so be it, I will be in good company. And I don’t care if I make an absolute fool of myself. Like millions of others, I have Mohammed Assaf fever. He’s Gaza’s global celebrity.
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf is seen on a building in Ramallah, May 13, 2013. (photo by Mohamad Torokman/Reuters )
(Hat tip Rawan Yaghi)