Friday, December 6, 2013

Gaza Youth Sing For Peace: Watar Band- Dawsha- Gaza Sings For Peace- Mohammad Assaf- The Gazans' Impression on Music- Julia Butros- The Palestinian Unit & More…

Watar Band- Dawsha- Gaza Sings For Peace-  Mohammad Assaf- The Gazans'
 Impression on Music- Julia Butros- The Palestinian Unit & More…    

Gaza Singing For Peace Group

Gaza's name has always been connected to the war, electricity cut, occupation and many other crises. It is rare for anyone to get the chance of seeing the positive and beautiful things in it. Like a beautiful strong flower finding its way through the rocks, a group of Palestinian youth sang for peace in Gaza, an attempt that was very surprisingly successful and welcomed.

Gaza sings for Peace is a project funded by the Swedish municipality, the period of the project was 4 months and it ended with two concerts that were attended by 500, 750 spectators respectively.  

For some of these young guys and girls, this was their first experience with music, but the others have been trying for years to achieve their music-related dreams, succeeding sometimes and failing in others.

In this feature, four of them will speak about everything: their lives, music, experience with Gaza sings for peace, previous experiences, the way society looks at them and their future hopes and dreams.  

Mariam Abu Amer:

"My story with music began last year, after a big dream of mine was destroyed. I applied for a scholarship to go to Britain to get my bachelor degree and I was among the five finalists, they were very interested in me, they even paid for the exams that I was supposed to take. For six months, I changed my life completely, I turned everything around me to be 'Britain-like'… I was able to actually taste my own dream. Unfortunately, I was the only one unable to go…. I was crushed, devastated and depressed for long three months.

A girl that I know called me to tell me about the new project, Gaza Sings for Peace, I got really excited and decided to go. The only people who knew about me going were my brothers and friends who have always been supportive of every decision I take, I did not tell anyone else because I knew they would refuse."

Mariam, who is 20 years old  and studying in University of Palestine now, was so passionate about every word she was saying, she continued while eating her breakfast and mentioning how much she loves food!!

"We used to train every day, and despite the hard work,  I became more enthusiastic and full of life, I completely forgot about my depression for not traveling to London, I started to study harder, attend more lectures in my university in Gaza …music became my medicine,  I started to love Gaza again!!
I learned how to use the different levels of my voice, I was introduced to singing a new type of music, which is Jazz, it was a nontraditional experience that changed my whole life. In addition to that, I met a lot of people, made many friends and became happy.

People from inside and outside Gaza were impressed by the two concerts that we did. Here in Gaza, a lot of people think that singing is only about dancing and showing your body, they never think of singing for peace and humanitarian issues. I hope that through this project, some of them have changed their idea about music.. and people started recognizing me after the concerts!!"

When asking Mariam about Mohammad Assaf, she said: "I am very proud of Assaf, we reached a period where people stopped considering Gaza as a part of Palestine, he helped shedding a light on Gaza again. In the past, he was famous in the university, but now he is very famous among all Arab people."

Mariam volunteers a lot with humanitarian organizations. She likes reading books, especially the spiritual ones, her favorite writers are Paulo Cohello and Alaa Aswani. Her favorite singers/bands are: Steven Wilson, Linkin Park, Mashrou' Laila and Muse.

Mariam Abu Amer (second from the left)

 Alaa shublaq:

"My story with music is almost six years old, in 2008, singing was not an idea for me to think of, it was just a hobby and passion that I had. What helped me is meeting people who have the same interest in music, including Khamis Abu Shaban, we simply shared our love of music. We started practicing our hobby and we formed our group which is known now as the WATAR BAND, we never thought that one day we will be singing in front of actual audience!!

Right now we are six members in the group, we complete each others, and being the lead singer does not mean that I am more famous than them. We either succeed as a team or never do. Our friendship is very strong.

Gaza has a lot of talented people, but unfortunately, there are no organizations to help and support them. When we started, no one helped, we had to pay from our own money to buy the instruments and we depended on ourselves to learn playing the music.

In addition to that, the Arabic media in general focuses on the negativities, unlike the European/foreigner one which shows everything.

I believe that people form their opinions by the work you present, since we started, we have focused on the social and humanitarian issues that reflect our own society. Many people ask us to sing in restaurants, but we refuse, we want to get a better focus on the message we are trying to send. It is a matter of principle.

DAWSHA is our first official clip, it is a social song that discusses the effect of the revolutions on the Arab young guys who feel that they have no clear future, no ambitions and living in a state of depression…  but they always have hope because of God. 

Having our own songs means a lot to us, but still we like to do covers, we add our own touch to the song before we re-sing it. You can watch our songs on our Youtube channel.
Khamis Abu Shaban (middle) & Alaa Shublaq (right)
Alaa , 23 years old, graduated and works in a production company and as an administrator says about his experience with Gaza Sings For Peace: " It was a great experience, we learned a lot of things related to music notes and Coral singing…  we were overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who attended the two concerts in Gaza… By the way, we were supposed to have another two concerts in Ramallah  and Jerusalem, but we were not able to get the permission to go there. After the two concerts, many people contacted me through my social media pages, they even stop me in the street to ask for my signature!!!"

About Mohammad Assaf he says:" Mohammad was a talented person who did not get his proper chance in Gaza, but when he participated in the program, he became very famous. He helped us get more attention on Gaza and the art in it, he is wonderful."

Alaa loves listening to Majida Al Roomi, and he hopes to continue his master degree and finish the album he and his band are working on.

Sarah Abu Ramadan:

"Before Gaza Sings For Peace, I used to only sing in front of my family and friends. This project gave me self confidence and helped me to gain many new friendships. The whole experience was new, new type of music and new information. Now, I know how to sing!

When I was young, I used to practice Dabka (a folkloric dance), but it was not an accepted idea for a girl to do so in our society, some people used to think of her as a bad girl. My family has always been supportive of me in any step I take, whether it is Dabka or Gaza Sings for Peace.

Sara, who is 21 years old and graduated from Gaza  University, loves studying languages like French and listening to Majida Al Roomi songs. She is looking forward to taking her master degree.   

Khamis Abu Shaban:

"My family has always been supportive of my talent, they always come and attend the concerts I participate in, but some of my friends who are conservative, got away from me after I started singing, now I never see them!"

This was Khamis Abu Shaban's answer, Khamis who is 23 years old and a graduate from the Islamic University where he studied Banking and Financial Sciences  and working as an administrator in the music school

Khamis continues:"But in general, I have never got negative criticism, the image that people have of your work depends on you and your work.

Talented people face many problems these days. First, there is an artists' union in Gaza, but it is not active at all, we just have a membership there but do nothing. Second, the talented people have so little chances of developing themselves.

I remember when we- Watar Band- wanted to record any song, the people at the studio would tell us that our work is amazing, but they would ask for a lot of money, they wouldn't be punctual and they deal with us as if we were nobodies!

Khamis explains about his experience with Gaza singing for peace:"It was a privilege for me to be a part of this experience. Even though I play many instruments like guitar, piano, violen,etc. I have never tried singing, but the fact that this experience was completely new encouraged me to get into a new field.

After Gaza sings for peace and our first clip Dawsha, People started stopping me and telling me how much they love m e and they ask us to sing for them. Not only that, but also we were overwhelmed  when Julia Butros, shared our clip!!! We really appreciate it."

When I asked Khamis about the competition between singing bands in Gaza, his answer was surprising, he said:" We all help each others. In fact, we formed a new group called the Palestinian Unit, which represents the cooperation between us and two other groups, the Black Unit and Palestinian Rappers. It is very important for all of us to support each other and what matters is the quality of the work that we do."

Khamis will be working on the new album of Watar Band during the next six months.

Left to right: Mariam, Khamis, Alaa, Ziad (the interviewer) & Sara

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About Me

Palestinian/ Freelance writer, translator and Trainer./ I believe that writing is therapy and that is why I write./ 26 years old.
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