Mohamed Assaf’s next album is his most personal yet.
The Palestinian singer and former Arab Idol winner has revealed the new project will comprise songs dedicated to his homeland.
In a video message to fans shared on Instagram on Wednesday, Assaf said the album is called Stories About Palestine and all seven tracks will premiere consecutively online on a weekly basis.
The album will then be made available as a whole on streaming platforms.
A trailer for Stories About Palestine has been posted online, with the first song set to be released next week.
“It is considered a message of love and loyalty to Palestine, its sea, its mountains, its cities, its villages, its good people, and its young men and its daughters,” Assaf said in his video message.
The announcement is not a surprise move by the artist. The Falasteen Enty El Rouh singer has consistently showcased his Palestinian heritage throughout his career.
During the latest bout of violence between Israel and Palestine in May, the singer hosted donation drives, a live question-and-answer session with activists on social media, and released a version of the patriotic song Mawtini.
In an interview with The National in 2013, Assaf said one of his career aims was to raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle.
“I will never forget the suffering of my people,” he said. “I live the Palestinian cause every day. I lived in a refugee camp in Khan Younis, trust me, I know how that feels. I am determined to use my music and fame to give justice to the Palestinian cause.”
Going full circle
Assaf’s Palestinian roots are also central to his inspirational appeal.
Born in the Libyan city of Misrata, Assaf moved to the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip at the age of 4.
After building his reputation locally as a wedding singer for hire, Assaf undertook an epic, near-week-long car trip in November 2012 from Gaza to Beirut (including a two-day delay at the Egyptian border) to audition for Arab Idol.
When he eventually won the competition seven months later, the streets of Gaza erupted in celebration, with fireworks and thousands of supporters cheering his name.
The life-changing experience was immortalised in the 2015 biopic The Idol, which was directed by esteemed Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu Assad.
Assaf went on to build a successful career as a performer and recording artist, releasing more than a dozen singles and two albums filled with various Arab pop styles, including Egyptian and Moroccan.
While occasionally releasing original songs and covers of Palestinian folk tunes, including 2017's Ala Hadhihi Al Ard featuring lyrics of the late Mahmoud Darwish, Stories About Palestine is the first project dedicated to the genre.
In a way, the new work finds Assaf going full circle.
Upon hearing his name called as the winner of Arab Idol in 2013, Assaf immediately prostrated in prayer before dedicating his victory to Palestine.
“This is for all the people in Palestine, from Gaza to Ramallah to the West Bank, who despite the indignities they suffered each day still go out and support me,” he said.
“I hope with this victory I have raised their heads higher even further.”
Israel-Palestine: Mohammed Assaf and Ramey Sabry among Arab musicians who have released new songs in support of Gaza
11 Palestinian independent musicians you need to listen to right now: from The Synaptik to 47Soul