Samah Sabawi: In A World of Chaos – Gaza’s Watar Band Seeking Love, Peace and Freedom
By Samah Sabawi
Gaza’s new music sensation Watar Band has just released their latest song and it is making a lot of noise! The song Dawsha which literally translates to noise is a reminder to the world that creative rhythm and harmony still exist in Gaza despite the chaos and the depressive realities that prevail not only within the tiny strip but in the region as a whole.
I interviewed Watar Band’s lyricist Hassan Nigim about the song, the band and the triumphs and tribulations of making music in Gaza:
Samah Sabawi: Thanks Hassan for talking with me. I understand this is a very busy time for you as you prepare to release your video clip for Dawsha. Tell me how important is this work for you?
Hassan Nigim: Thanks for the interview Samah, we appreciate your support. I believe this work is very important even though it started as a hobby, I have worked hard to improve my skills and have been blessed with the support of my friends especially the Egyptian poet ( lyricist) Khaled Tag Al Deen who wrote many songs for super star singers like Amr diab, samira saed, Nawal Alzoghbi, Hamaki, and others. His support has been instrumental and we’d like to thank him for being the first to share our song on his FB fans page.
SS: What inspired you to write Dawsha?
HN: I got my inspiration from people’s experiences and from my own personal experiences as well. I wrote the lyrics for Dawsha when I came home to Gaza this year after completing my university degree in Egypt. I wanted to describe how we live and what we feel and do in a few simple words. The song is not just about us in Gaza but it is also about how we in most of the Arab World live these days…
SS: I noticed the song express both hope and despair at the same time. Was this contradiction deliberate?
HN: Yes. It’s important to give people hope that one day they can find love and freedom and that they can reach their dreams.
SS: There are no women in your band. What is it like for female artists in Gaza especially within the music scene?
HN: True, there are no women in our band but there is a female artist who sang with our band at the Centre Culturel Français (CCF) concert, Sara abu Ramadan, she sang a French song. We also had five young girls singing a part of the song Dawsha and you can see them in the video clip. There are more and more talented girls in Gaza who have started to learn music, but for sure there are still some people who hold on to old traditions and who are not supportive of women in music.
SS: What would you say is the biggest obstacle that stands in your way of making music in Gaza?
HN: The biggest obstacles that stand in our way at a personal level as well as an artistic one are daily problems everyone else encounters in Gaza like electricity shortages…but on top of that, I would say we don’t have much support from the media and we need that in order to publicize our work. As it stands, we do our own publicity. We also don’t have professional producers here, we don’t have enough instruments for our band, and we don’t have advanced studios to do the recordings in.
SS: Describe how an average week in your life looks like?
HN: All of us in Watar Band are well educated. I’m a Biomedical Engineer, we have 2 doctors, an IT engineer and music teachers. We all have jobs even though as you know in Gaza it is hard to find employment, but we are hard workers and most of us have lived in different countries and were educated outside Gaza. An average day in a week is usually full. First we go to work, then we play sport and after that we meet for coffee and discuss our plans, projects and music. We would like to practice daily, but unfortunately we often face hurdles that get in the way. Some are personal problems with work and family commitments …etc. But the biggest hurdle is usually finding a place to practice. So whenever we get a chance to practice at the music school here in Gaza we make sure we don’t miss that chance. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for the opportunity to come. For example, when we worked on Dawsha, the melody came to us while we were sitting in a restaurant but we waited a long time to get access to the studio before we could record it.
SS: What message does your band want to send to the world?
HN: We want to say to the world that love, peace and freedom are in our thoughts and in our dreams. We want the world to see the positive side of our people the beautiful side of our country and culture. We want them to know that we have the right as human beings to live in peace, love and freedom. We also want to give hope to our people and to the whole world that this dream is possible.
Dawsha was composed by Alaa Shuplaq and Khamis Abushaban, arranged by Anas Alnajar, with lead singer Alaa Shuplaq on vocals. Solo Classic Guitar was performed by Dr. Mohanad El Hadad, solo Electric Guitar performed by Mohammed Lomani with Eyad Abulila on drums. The video clip was directed by Ahmed Nasr.
-Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer, playwright and commentator currently residing in Australia. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.