Mohammed Assaf tours US to raise money for Palestine
Palestinian singer, Mohammed Assaf—who gained fame after winningthe second season of Arab Idol—performed at Chicago’s Copernicus Center in the first stop of his eight-city tour of the United States.
The theater was filled with fans of all ages, many sporting keffiyehs around their necks, and some holding Palestinian flags. Palestinian-American comedian Amer Zahr emceed and poked fun at Arab-American habits in between introducing opening acts, which included a dabke troupe and a rap performance by Waheeb Nasan.
Assaf greeted guests and posed for pictures in a VIP room before taking the stage to perform popular crowd-pleasers, including his hit single, “Demmi Falasteeni,” (“My blood is Palestinian”) and his trademark song, “Ali al-keffiyeh,” (“Raise the Keffiyeh”).
Smiling amicably throughout his performance, Assaf teased the crowd by joining the dabke troupe for a few steps, and encouraged the audience to sing along to popular songs. At several points during the show, theater security struggled to hold back crowds as many rushed to the front to dance dabke, some holding out their hand for Assaf to touch. He good-naturedly posed for countless selfies and shook many hands.
The Peace Cures Benefit tour, Assaf’s second U.S. tour, is being sponsored by Peace, a non-profit organization which is “dedicated to helping children from all over the Middle East in desperate need of medical care.” In an exclusive interview with Palestine in America before the show, Assaf explained that the main aim of the tour is to raise money for Palestinian refugees and students studying at Palestinian universities.
“I’m very happy to be part of a tour that is benefiting a charitable cause…I’m also happy to be engaging with the Arab, and specifically Palestinian communities in the U.S.,” Assaf said in Arabic.
When asked about celebrating his Palestinian identity through his music, he said that art is always a message, and it should be utilized as a tool to serve the people, whether by simply spreading happiness, or by shedding light on a worthy cause.
“I consider my art to be a way for advocating for the Palestinian cause, and anywhere I perform all over the world, I try to deliver the message of the Palestinian people, specifically that we have a right to live and excel, not only in the fields of academics and literature and athletics, but also in the field of art,” he explained.
His advice to young Palestinians artists is to persevere and follow their dreams.
“I struggled a lot to reach the place that I am at today,” Assaf shares, adding that “those who work hard, find reward.” Reflecting on his own career, he said that he feels he has achieved his goal of having his music heard across the world, and added, “I am one of the first Palestinian artists to be known at such an international level, and that is something I take pride in.”
Many would agree with Assaf that his achievements are certainly something to be proud of. The Palestinian superstar will be continuing his tour for the next few weeks.
Photos by Ahmed Hamad