In 2012, I was asked by French film director Axel Salvatori–Sinz to compose the title music for a documentary chronicling the lives and dreams of a group of young men and women in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. I was honoured to learn that it was the very subjects of Axel’s film who had asked him to commission me to score the music. To this end, I contacted Glasgow–based Palestinian poet and son of Yarmouk, Iyad Hayatleh, and asked him to write a poem which I could set to music and perform.
The film, Les Chebabs de Yarmouk (The Shebabs of Yarmouk), was made for Adalios/Taswir Films and released in late 2012. It went on to receive multiple awards, including the Regard Neuf for Best First Film at
Visions du Réel 2013 and the RTP Award for Best Researched Film at Doclisboa 2013.
This song is dedicated to the memory of three special individuals:
- Lamees Tayyem, the activist wife of poet Iyad Hayatleh, who left us some months after the film’s release;
- Hassan Hassan, the main character in the film, who was picked up by the Syrian authorities after having released a series of short films criticising the status quo. A few months later, Hassan’s family learned that he had died in detention;
- Debbie Purdy, the wife of Cuban violinist Omar Puente, and campaigner for a change in the law as it relates to assisted suicide. Omar performed on the original film score.
As a tribute, Axel prepared a specially edited video to accompany this live rendition of ‘Yarmouk’; it is on the second disc of the album.
This is Yarmouk!
Your light will wipe the darkness of the siege
On your white doorsteps…
The children’s smiles will vanquish
The pains of my demise…
And the martyrs’ blood
Will breathe life into me…
And through the blessings of old mothers
I’ll imbibe the anthems of my triumph…
This is Yarmouk!
My song... my desire... my yearning
Are all for my home...
This is Yarmouk! This is Yarmouk!
from Reem Kelani: Live at the Tabernacle
released March 11, 2016
Lyrics: Iyad Hayatleh (b.1960)
Music: Reem Kelani (MCPS)
Reem Kelani - vocals
Bruno Heinen - piano
Tamer Abu Ghazaleh - 'oud
Ryan Trebilcock - double bass
Antonio Fusco - drums
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