Update: Assaf’s first video as global star affirms role as voice for the voiceless

Israel/Palestine
on 36 Comments

“Ya Hal Arab,” Mohammed Assaf’s much anticipated first video since winning Arab Idol, has been released by MBC Platinum Records and it succeeds beyond the wildest expectations, gloriously showing him as the full fledged artist-star he has become. A coming-out for Assaf on the world stage, it shows the adoration that people of all walks of life feel for this singer from Gaza and for his message of Palestinian freedom.

The announcer’s words in English remind you that he is a global phenomenon. Then out comes Assaf, with his incredible sincerity and talent, and the video imagery is of ordinary Arabs and people from around the world thrilling to his success. This is his role: singing and inspiring the millions who are voiceless, the people’s choice.

The words are by the Lebanese lyricist Nizar Francis. Francis is also the lyricist of Assaf’s ‘winner’s song’ (lyrics here) the night of his victory. We’ll be updating when we have a translation, so check back. (Masterfully directed by Waleed Nassif , composed by Rawad Raad.)

Update with Nizar Francis’s lyrics and translation from Arabic by Enass Tinah:

نار قهوتكم ولعاني
The fire under your coffee is lit
مدخل خيمتكن مفتوح
the entrance to your tent is open
تايه ومضيع عنواني
I am lost, can’t find my destination
دلوني وين بدي روح
Guide me , where to go
وين رحتو يا هالعرب
Where have you gone O Arabs
في لي بديرتكن طلب
I have a request in your land
مجروح وانتو السبب
I am wounded , and you are the reason
قاصدكم ع اخر روح
your are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)
بنية منكم صابتني
A girl from you (your land) caught me
بسهام عيونا رمتني
with the arrows of her eyes she slayed me
جوه بقلبي جرحتني
she wounded me inside my heart
تركتني وحدي مجروح
and she left me alone and wounded
وين رحتو يا هالعرب
where have you gone O Arabs

في لي بديرتكن طلب
I have a request in your land
مجروح وانتو السبب
I am wounded and you are the reason
قاصدكم ع اخر روح
you are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)
جاي واللي بيصير بيصر
I am coming (to your land) and what happens will happen
ذنبي والله ما هو كبير
My fault is not big
سر العاشق ما هوبير
The lover’s secret is in a well
وعيونو بالسر تبوح
But his eyes tells the secret

where have you gone O Arabs

I have a request in your land

I am wounded and you are the reason

you are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)

 

Next Saturday night I will be attending the Arabian Nights Extravaganza XXVII starring Nancy Ajram, Wael Jassar, Farah Youssef and Mohammed Assaf at the Paris Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas . If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in driving down and attending the show as my guest please contact [email protected]. Tell me something about yourself and how much you love Mohammed Assaf.

Enjoy Assaf’s new video. He’s causing an earthquake, it’s just the beginning.

(Previous Mohammed Assaf coverage on Mondoweiss available here)

 

 

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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36 Responses

  1. MahaneYehude1
    October 22, 2013, 3:45 pm

    Mabruk Ya-Assaf!!!!

  2. Enass T
    October 22, 2013, 4:14 pm

    نار قهوتكم ولعاني
    The fire under you coffee is let
    مدخل خيمتكن مفتوح
    the entrance to your tent is open
    تايه ومضيع عنواني
    I am lost , can’t find my destination
    دلوني وين بدي روح
    Guide me , where to go
    وين رحتو يا هالعرب
    Where have you gone O Arabs
    في لي بديرتكن طلب
    I have a request in your land
    مجروح وانتو السبب
    I am wounded , and you are the reason
    قاصدكم ع اخر روح
    your are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)
    بنية منكم صابتني
    A girl from you (your land) caught me
    بسهام عيونا رمتني
    with the arrows of her eyes she slayed me
    جوه بقلبي جرحتني
    she wounded me inside my heart
    تركتني وحدي مجروح
    and she left me alone and wounded
    وين رحتو يا هالعرب
    where have you gone O Arabs

    في لي بديرتكن طلب
    I have a request in your land
    مجروح وانتو السبب
    I am wounded and you are the reason
    قاصدكم ع اخر روح
    your are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)
    جاي واللي بيصير بيصر
    I am coming (to your land) and what happens will happen
    ذنبي والله ما هو كبير
    My fault is not big
    سر العاشق ما هوبير
    The lover’s secret is in a well
    وعيونو بالسر تبوح
    But his eyes tells the secret

    where have you gone O Arabs

    I have a request in your land

    I am wounded and you are the reason

    your are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)

    • Annie Robbins
      October 22, 2013, 4:49 pm

      ahh, just saw this! thank you enass! will add now.

      p.s. i changed ‘your are’ to ‘you are’ for it is either the latter or ‘you’re’, there is no ‘your are’, in english. as well as ‘your coffee’. hope that’s ok. and thank you so so much.

  3. Enass T
    October 22, 2013, 4:21 pm

    The song is the light Bedouin accent. The beauty of the Arabic lyrics is that it has double meaning, it could be understood as a love song , but also as a call for unity.

    • MahaneYehude1
      October 22, 2013, 4:43 pm

      @Ennas: Thank you very much for the Arabic lyrics and translation of this beautiful song. Shukran Jazilan!!!

    • Bumblebye
      October 22, 2013, 4:51 pm

      Taken as a call for unity, does it have the right sound to become anthemic among both Palestinians and other Arabs? That would seem to hit the spot he’s aiming for if it did!

    • Walid
      October 22, 2013, 6:00 pm

      Enass T, when I first heard it a couple of months ago, it came across as a Palestinian nationalistic song reproaching the Arab collectivity for what it has done to the Palestinians. The 2-liner supposedly about some girl is a smoke screen for what was really intended by the song. The video with the Lear jet and the 1001 smiling poses by Assaf and the comedic sketches by the hotel chambermaids and the kitchen staff turned a serious song into a circus act. I had more appreciation for the song before I saw the video. The credits at the end told what was behind the video, among them the cosmetics surgery hospital in Lebanon and the dental lab in Dubai.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a big fan of Mohammed Assaf from the start and sure he’d win the Arab Idol. I like his song but I hated the video. The song was most probably inspired by a Julia Boutros nationalistic song of a few years back asking the same question “Where are the millions of Arabs (doing nothing about what is happening to the Palestinians)” “Wayn almalayeen Al Sha3b al Arabi Weyn”. Lebanon’s Julia Butros singing the song in video with what Israelis do to Palestinians in full colour:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE9nKtAZvps

      • Walid
        October 22, 2013, 6:32 pm

        Here’s another video of Julia Butros singing the same song but with different coverage of Israelis manhandling Palestinians and breaking arms with French translation as I couldn’t find an English one. TGIA will surely appreciate it:

        http://www.fanzik.ma/video_Z9v3r8S47aY_Chant-Anti-Sioniste-en-français-Win-Al-Malayin-french-translation.-Julia-Boutros.html

      • Annie Robbins
        October 22, 2013, 8:47 pm

        walid, it still sounds like a national song to me and from the first time i saw the video it seemed very much like he was singing about palestine. you can tell by the way the men in the kitchen respond, the maids and the people at the airport and in the car, they are all saying ‘yes yes sing for her and you are singing for me too, the way i feel’. i feel sorry you can’t see it thru my eyes, but we hear the same song. the only part visually i didn’t think fit was the woman coming out of the airplane. otherwise, i thought it completely fit with the song, everything. and the child’s face was priceless, the woman in the field, she’s palestine. i thought it was spectacular and exciting. regal in spirit, like palestine. the woman is palestine. I am wounded and you are the reason your are my destination with my last soul. everyone knows what that means.

        i could feel the meaning of the lyrics before i ever knew what they were, and see the excitement in people’s eyes. and i love the musical score.

      • Walid
        October 23, 2013, 3:09 am

        Great song, music and voice, Annie. Palestinians built up a super-great hope in him to deliver the message of their plight to the rest of the world. I hope this first video showing a plasticized version of Assaf will not be repeated as it serves only the interests of his handlers much more than the Palistinian cause, eventhough he has a right to make good money like other artists. He has already quit his native Gaza for the relatively greener political pastures of the West Bank and it’s probably only a matter of time before he again relocates to the commercialized music hub of Beirut; it would be another shattered dream for the Palestinians.

      • Susan A
        October 23, 2013, 9:42 pm

        @Annie @Walid : This evening I went out to a dinner for Richard Falk hosted by the Palestine Return Centre and on my way home I was reading David Samel’s article about MJR’s accusations against Ali Abunimah. When I got home I was going to continue reading the comments on the computer, but then saw the posting on Assaf! I then watched the video, looked at all the links and re-lived the winning night. Annie, I felt just like you when I saw the video! But, Walid, and others, I know exactly what you mean about the video. I then watched the video again two or three times. Still I was mesmerised by Assaf, and like Citizen, I am no spring chicken so it’s not a mere teenage crush! I also watched the two videos that you linked to Walid. I’d never seen either of these videos before (the second of which I thought was absolutely, though horrifically brilliant) although I’ve seen lots of videos like them in visual content. However, I really don’t think that Assaf can reach out to new people who know little if anything about Palestine through the use of videos such as the latter. I have a work colleague who, two or three years ago, said she didn’t ‘care’ about what was happening in Palestine, and for people like her, who are being introduced to the truth, videos such as the latter two would simply put her off. In fact, she actually said that she thought that the French Video, by Generation Palestine and a young woman whose name I’ve forgotten, was ‘brilliant’ and much more effective. I think you posted it once Annie, and when I watched it I realised that I had seen it a couple of years before. (It’s the one where successive people are running, with the flag, and the soldier shoots them all down until in the end the people make the soldier step back (rather like the child in the first video you posted Walid, where the soldier ran away: when ten fall, a hundred will spring up and when a hundred fall a thousand will replace them.) I’ll try and post a link if I’m capable of doing it! My colleague, through a steady drip feed by me has now awoken to the reality of what’s happening in Palestine, but for novices, sometimes real hardcore footage can be off-putting and they don’t want to know. I know that people need to know the truth, but there are ways and means of educating them, I think. Assaf’s video is indeed a creature of the record company, but having said that I think that it shows that the Arab people are Alive, and it’s trying to depict the rest of the world waking up to this, or at least that’s what I like to think. It does show the child with the Keffiyeh on his head and the flag painted on his face, which is at least something. But, having said all that, I do sometimes think that when watching Assaf’s Arab Idol videos that it’s actually better to simply listen so as to really appreciate the brilliance of his singing. Anyway, I’m really happy for you Annie that you’ll be able to see him live on Saturday! Lucky you! :) Finally, I’d told some of my students about Assaf last June and one of them, a young Hungarian woman, who had returned to the school (I teach English as a foreign language) told me a couple of days ago that she’d been to a party recently and that the most popular song there was……..Ali Al Kuffiyeh! So he is indeed beginning to be heard outside of the Arab world thereby helping the world wake up to Palestine. I continue to live in hope since it’s the only way even if cynicism is not very far away!

      • Susan A
        October 23, 2013, 9:51 pm

        Here’s the link to Code Rouge: Generation Palestine, I hope
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSB9ly7te6E

        PS. My colleague has now woken up her son by showing him Peter Kosminski’s ‘The Promise’. He’d worked in New York for a few years but is now back in London. A Jewish friend came to visit him, but now, since he saw ‘The Promise’ they’ve fallen out and he doesn’t think he’ll go to see her again when he next visits New York. That’s another person who’s beginning to see things for what they are.

      • Walid
        October 24, 2013, 2:10 am

        Hi Susan, you’re right about the Julia Boutros-type videos being too much to take for Westerners. It’s possibly due to the their non or very limited exposure to daily violence like the rumbling of tanks in the streets, so a video of Israeli soldiers holding the arm of a young Palestinian boy while another with a large stone breaks it offends them. The Boutros song was not intended for Westerners since it was sung only in Arabic. I posted it to show that Assaf’s song was most probably inspired by it since both ask why are the Arabs doing nothing about their plight. Assaf’s song goes further by astutely accusing them of having stabbed the Palestinians and ending the jab with the bogus girl allegory (Where have you gone, O Arabs, in your lands, I have a question; I am wounded and you are the cause).

        But, it’s perhaps simply my pessimistic interpretation of this song, which of course doesn’t make it necessarily the correct one. Annie called it when she said she wished I’d see what’s in Assaf’s song through her eyes.

        It’s good to hear that you are succeeding at getting the message across to your friends. Code Rouge also good.

      • kamanja
        October 24, 2013, 6:36 am

        He moved from there to Abu Dhabi to give him more freedom of movement.

        I agree about the plasticized version.

        During Arab Idol I looked forward to a time after his certain victory in the contest, when Assaf – then confined to the standard 3-ish minute format for a song – would be given the freedom to riff for as long as he wants; because he’s a phenomenally gifted musical personality too, you can hear it. As the contest wore on and he became more and more spruced and creamed, I would shut my eyes when listening to him. Artists of his calibre don’t need to smile all the time or wear formal suits. I hope he grows into a performer who gets to lay down his own rules and leaves behind production teams with tastes like the one that produced this video. Meanwhile I’ll go on closing my eyes. He’s a wonderful singer.

        Sadly another brilliant Palestinian singer, Shafiq Kabha, perhaps the best-known until Assaf’s appearance on Arab Idol, was gunned down on a northern Israeli highway earlier in the week and died of his wounds. RIP. http://hotarabicmusic.blogspot.co.il/2013/10/breaking-popular-palestinian-singer.html

      • kamanja
        October 24, 2013, 1:11 pm

        Did I say Abu Dhabi? I meant Dubai.

      • Susan A
        October 24, 2013, 9:02 pm

        Hi Walid, Thanks for your kind, considered reply. Ironically, I have sent my colleague a video with that section of the boy having his arm broken in it, in fact I think I even mentioned the broken bones policy when I sent it. I’ve also sent her The Mavrix’ ‘The New Black” which is another ugly video, but no truer words could be spoken. I usually send her videos (I’m a sucker for a song and have eclectic musical tastes) because they’re good for those who may have a short attention span. At least at the outset, I didn’t think she would have the patience to read long, intellectual articles which would inform her of a great deal. Actually, I think your interpretation of the song is an extremely valid one and one I hadn’t though of as I hadn’t compared it to Julia Boutros’ song. I just read Enass’ interview with Assaf again and he more or less said that he doesn’t have much say in the content of his albums, but that he could record singles, so I assume he chose this song, but not, of course, the content of the video. I must say though, that I’ve watched it a few more times tonight. It’s an addiction. I loved Palestine enough as it was, without this amazing singer coming out of there too. And I think he does deserve to come out of there at the moment. Let’s face it: for the time being it’s safer in Dubai. One day he’ll be out of contract and will have more say in what he wants to do. PS. I also watched your links to Abdel Kareem from Syria and thought that he too was a beautiful, moving singer whose pain was palpable, not forgetting Farah who also has a superb voice. Lucky Annie! She’s seeing two of the three tomorrow :)

      • Walid
        October 25, 2013, 4:15 am

        Sorry to hear about Shafiq Kabha, kamanja, I hadn’t heard of him until now; I guess it’s because we don’t hear much about what’s really happening with Palestinians inside Israel and inside of what’s left of Palestine. I watched the video you posted and another and his singing was good. Assaf was lucky to have broken through and even luckier to have acces to sophisticated recording studios and the backing of symphony orchestras after “Arab Idol”. It’s regrettable that Kabha (with his 3 or 4-man band) and many other equally talented Palestinians did not get the same opportunity. I gathered from your name that you’re also into music.

      • Walid
        October 25, 2013, 4:26 am

        “Did I say Abu Dhabi? I meant Dubai.”

        It’s just a question of months before he lands in Beirut. There’s really not much for him in Dubai except for its media city that’s practically all staffed by Lebanese anyway; unless of course, he’s restricted by his Arab Idol/MBC contract to work out of Dubai where the Saudi-owned network MBC is based. If Arab Idol is anything like American Idol, performers that participate in the contest whether they win or not are contractually-tied to the program’s producers.

      • Inanna
        October 23, 2013, 12:35 am

        I agree with almost everything your wrote Walid except I think the video was trying to show that all Arabs, both wealthy and poor are united by the issue of Palestine. Having said that, I still don’t like the video. It deals in too many Arab (and non-Arab) tropes and presents a sanitized gloss over an issue that has real substance to all of us. The lyrics are brilliant though and I’d rather just listen to Nizar Francis’ words sung by Mohammad Assaf than watch a video that could’ve been made for any pop star singing about nothing.

      • Enass T
        October 23, 2013, 1:26 am

        Dear Walid,
        I really get what you mean. But this is a love song first and then follows the call for unity and arabs to stand together. Julia Butrus ‘s song is the exact opposite. It was a nationalistic patriotic song from the start.

        As for the Dental Clinic and the Plastic surgery hospital, they are part of Assaf’s effort as a good will ambassador for UNRWA . Both will be receiving Palestinian and Syrian children, who were affected by the war in Syria, to do reconstructive surgeries for free.
        That’s why the names appear in the credits.

      • Walid
        October 23, 2013, 1:38 am

        Enass, if to help the children, I take back my snide remark about the commercial plugs in the credits. I saw the UNRWA logo among them but did not associate it or the cosmetics surgery and dental clinic with the free surgeries.

      • bintbiba
        October 23, 2013, 7:29 am

        I agree with you on the video, Walid.
        Tacky and disconnected from the lyrics and the voice of that talented Mohammad Assaf!

  4. kayq
    October 22, 2013, 11:00 pm

    I’m not a pan Arabist but I love the calls for Arab unity.

    • Walid
      October 23, 2013, 2:03 am

      kayk, I’m not either, never really had faith in it. Arab unity never existed on much, especially the Palestinian cause.

      • kayq
        October 23, 2013, 4:53 am

        I won’t hesitate to agree with you on that one.

        Pan Arabism can be valued in a cultural and social sense, not so much political. Independence is the only way from here.

      • bintbiba
        October 23, 2013, 7:32 am

        Yup!! I agree.. Big time!!

      • Walid
        October 24, 2013, 3:39 am

        Even culturally or socially, kayk, aside from religion and that to a certain degree only, what do you have in common with Oman, Sudan, Mauritania, Somalia. the Comoros or Djibouti with its 5% Arab population? Does anyone know where to look for Djibouti on a map of Africa?

        Pan-Arabism is not any less racist than Zionism. It has always been used as a tool by Arab dictators and Western anthropological shysters and powers to rally the people to various political agendas or against the Arab collectivity to disparage it as was done at Abu Ghraib by the US and by Israel against the Palestinians, but it was never a natural movement. If it wouldn’t have been for Zionism, we probably we not have seen the birth of pan-Arabism. A typical example is Egypt, the most populous Arab country that only started thinking of itself as an Arab entity in the 1950s when it was told told to be so and at times forcefully; until then, it had considered itself as pharaonic or more simply as Egyptian.

      • kayq
        October 24, 2013, 11:34 am

        I definitely see your point.

  5. RudyM
    October 23, 2013, 12:24 am

    I’m not really feeling this video. Too cutesy for me at times. His vocal performance is phenomenal as usual.

    (I’m pretty fussy about music videos in general. But his art deserves better than this.)

  6. Philip Munger
    October 23, 2013, 2:51 am

    His control of melismatic nuance (ornamental, florid melodic sections on one syllable) impressed me early on. He is getting better at it, and these arrangements are impressive. The video less so, but it sort of defines the lyrics. Looking forward to following this important vocalist. Glad you’ll be hearing him live, Annie.

  7. Citizen
    October 23, 2013, 3:13 am

    I am coming (to your land) and what happens will happen
    ذنبي والله ما هو كبير
    My fault is not big
    سر العاشق ما هوبير
    The lover’s secret is in a well
    وعيونو بالسر تبوح
    But his eyes tells the secret

    where have you gone O Arabs

    I have a request in your land

    I am wounded and you are the reason

    your are my destination with my last soul (meaning last breath)

    It is what it is, and as he is–a new radio station is on the air, world-wide. Who will tune in, keep the dial there? What will happen, will happen. His fault is not big. Surely, you see?

    • Susan A
      October 23, 2013, 8:34 pm

      Yes, Citizen, I see. I Love him; can’t help it and will continue to tune in an keep the dial there.

  8. Citizen
    October 23, 2013, 3:28 am

    It’s interesting to juxtipose Mohammed Assaf and his message with Sheldon Adelson and his message: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/world/middleeast/sheldon-adelson-is-honored-in-jerusalem.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=sheldongadelson

    • Susan A
      October 23, 2013, 8:36 pm

      I love the way he says that Palestinians “want Israel piece by piece.” The irony of it. The usual projection, when it’s clear to see that it’s the other way around.

  9. just
    October 23, 2013, 11:25 pm

    Mohammed Assaf is here to stay. How I wish I could take Annie up on her invitation and journey. I thought that the video was beautiful– the Palestinian “wins” with beauty, grace, poetry, peace, and joy! All of his brothers, sisters, little ones, elders, all have the gracious exposure that they deserve.

    Enjoy, Annie! Tell us, with your own beautiful voice, what you feel– during and after– your audience participation.

    Have fun.

    • Susan A
      October 24, 2013, 6:59 pm

      The perfect ending to this thread just! Yes, Annie, tell us all about it. (and once Assaf is out of his contract he’ll have more freedom to do what HE wants:)

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