Four young Palestinian musicians left the Gaza Strip on June 3, 2016, heading for Brighton to perform music.
Singer, Najlaa Humaid, guitarist Mohammed Shoman, oud player Mohannad Abu Safia and qanun player Farouk Abu Ramadan, left Gaza for the first time in their life accompanied by their teacher, Ismail Dawoud. They arrived in the United Kingdom last Saturday, only a couple of hours ahead of their planned concert in Brighton.
The musicians spent these two hours preparing to perform their first concert in the UK. “We spent those two hours preparing for the concert,” Shoman told MEMO.
“Even though they had not slept since they left Gaza on Friday morning, their performance on Saturday earned them a standing ovation,” Agnes Baetens, the visit’s coordinator from Brighton and Palestinian Artists Together told MEMO.
During their short stay in the UK, the children performed in Brighton, London and Worthing. “This visit has been fantastic; like a dream,” Shoman said enthusiastically. “It is the first time we represent Palestine in concerts abroad, and I hope there will many more such opportunities to come,” he added.
The four children are students at the Gaza Music School, the only music school in the besieged territory founded in 2008 at the Palestinian Red Crescent premises in Gaza City, with funding from the A. M. Qattan Foundation and the Swedish government.
Humaid, the group’s singer, said her family has always supported her. “Now I feel accomplished and I have made my family proud,” she continued.
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“I wish my sister was here with me,” Shoman added, “but she is still happy for me and I am achieving both of our dreams.” Mohammed and his sister Ghada are known in Gaza as the Shoman Duo. While Mohammed plays the guitar, Ghada acts as the singer in their mini band.
Last year, the Shoman Duo spoke and performed at Gaza version of TED. They challenged the stereotypical image and the judgmental attitude people had after seeing them performing among Gaza’s rubble.
Gaza’s children have found in music more than a mere distraction from Gaza’s troubles. They have found a way to call for peace and freedom.
The last few months saw more music performances in the Gaza Strip after years of absence, following the Palestinian rift and Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The Dawaween band has performed several times in the Gaza Strip, bringing national and romantic songs to the stage.
“I hope the Israeli siege of Gaza will end soon, and the borders will be open so that we can have a wider music culture and more openness to the world,” Shoman stated.