“We’re the people, and this is our time, stand up, sing out for Palestine” these are the words of the newly released song by a group of artists under the name of “OneWorld”. Mixing the tunes of the Arabic Oud and darbouka with South African choir sounds, “Freedom for Palestine” is a musical celebration of solidarity with the Palestinians. Live from Gaza spoke with the writer and producer of the single, Dave Randall, to ask him about the project, its prospects and its receptions.
LivefromGaza: How did this project come into being? What motivated you to make the song featuring artists from around the world?
D. Randall: This song is my small attempt to show solidarity with Palestinians. I suppose I became interested in what was going on in Palestine when I first visited Gaza over ten years ago. I was actually on tour with Faithless, the band I’ve been working with. We were playing in Tel Aviv, and I had a day off, and I thought rather going to beach and look around the shops in Tel Aviv, I thought to myself I am going to go to Gaza to see what life is like in Gaza.
I think you see with your own eyes the way life is made so difficult by the Israeli government and army ,and subsequently I went to the West Bank, I’ve been to the West Bank three or four times. When you see how the Israeli occupation affects Palestinians lives, I think you want to do whatever you can to try to change that situation.
In my case, because I am a musician, the best what I could offer is music. I persuaded “Faithless” that they should join the boycott of Israel, and they did join the cultural boycott last year and around that the same time I decided to start working on this song.
The more the song had a feeling of internationalism, which is a political idea that I strongly agree with, the idea that no matter which country you are from; we are all brothers and sisters. I thought more internationalists feeling the song had. The most exciting recording session of all was the one we did in South Arica with the choir, The Durban Gospel choir, because there are a lot of black South Africans and white South Africans who remember the struggle against the racist apartheid in South Africa and feel a desire to help Palestinians with their struggle against apartheid and the activities of the Israeli state; they understand the type of oppression that is going on in Palestine.
LFG: The artists featured in the song come from different parts of the world, how the universality of music can help to raise awareness about the Palestinian cause?
D Randall: when people see that a group of musicians from different parts of the world have decided to get together to make the song, those who don’t know anything about what going on in Palestine will hopefully become interested and hopefully it will encourage them to find out. And those who do know hope they will feel that this is an act of solidarity. So my hope is that the song will give confidence for people to speak up about Palestine, to speak up against the Israeli illegal occupation.
LFG: Artistically speaking, can you explain how all these tunes were brought together?
D Randall: I have always loved the songs which bring different influences together. I had a band of my own called “Slovo” and on the tunes I made I tried to incorporate different influences from around the world. With this song thought it is important that the Arabic musical world was referenced through the darbuka and the oud. I wanted the song to be uplifting to give a sense of hope and optimism and also a sense of defiance rather than just be angry and confrontational. It is the sense of internationalism I referred to earlier, it was great that we were able to get the South African influence in the song as well as the Arabic influence and the London electronic influence. As it is something I love doing musically any way, it is important that different musical worlds coexisted on this song.
LFG: In the awake of the BBC’s censoring the word “Palestine”, how this will affect the song “Freedom for Palestine” in case it hits the UK charts?
D. Randall: One of the reasons why we’re trying to get the songs into the charts is so it is much harder for BBC radio to ignore it, because, of course, what they want to do originally is to ignore it, because they don’t want to upset people who disagree with the song. But if we get it to the charts, they’ll be forced to play it. There is a chart count on the Sunday, and therefore we will know for sure whether they have a policy of censoring the word Palestine, because it is not official policy at the moment. But it did happen with the Mic Righteous track a few weeks ago. At the moment it is harder for us to promote the song, because radio stations tend to avoid playing anything which might be considered politically controversial. But if the BBC do censor this after we secure the chat position, then this will become a huge controversy in itself. So, all the campaign groups here in Britain will challenge the BBC to explain why they cannot say that word Palestine on radio. This will create a dilemma for the BBC. We hope, we’ll completely remove their policy of avoiding the word. We hope this song will help to break the silence.
LFG: the single was endorsed by the rock band Coldplay and called “Evil propaganda” by the TV persona Glenn Beck, what are the reactions you received from ordinary people?
D. Randall: the overwhelming response has been incredibly positive. I have received messages of support from inspirational people like the American writer Alice Walker; she sent us this beautiful endorsement, and I am just about to post on the internet a video endorsement we received from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. So, the vast majority of people have really felt moved and inspired by the song. I feel humbled by the messages of support we received. But some were critical of the song, but that does not really bother me. Of course, there are a small number of very committed Zionists who like to attack people on the internet. There are people who don’t know much about the issue, they get the wrong impression when we talk about Israel and Palestine that we are talking about some sort of intractable conflict between two equals. But the truth is this is one Western backed heavily armed state, Israel, illegally occupying this place. And this song is on the side of justice.
LFG: In your perspective, what role art in general, and music in particular, play in the culture of popular non-violent resistance?
D. Randall: Music can play different role. The priority for me in this song was to build international solidarity with the Palestinians. I encourage the people in UK to take up the call of boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel, the (BDS). The direct non-violent resistance in the West Bank and Gaza is fantastically important. I’m sure there are lots of Palestinian artists and musicians who writing about that. If we raise any money by selling “Freedom for Palestine”, a good percentage of that will go to the “Stop the Wall’ campaign in Palestine.
LFG: What challenges did/do you face during and after making the song?
D. Randall: It takes a lot of time. And I had to spend some of my money on things like renting recording studios and tickets to Durban and so on, but I felt it was like the least thing I could do to send this message of solidarity. For the problems we face after we made the song is that some people in the music industry that don’t understand and do not want to know what is going on will be upset of such explicitly political song. They will be worried about the business interests they have with Israel and so on. It’s no doubt that when you get involved in any political activity, you will upset some people. I am afraid this inevitable.
I am deviating from your question a bit, but the way the people’s revolutions and the revolutionary process which is continuing in Egypt have inspired people in Britain hugely. So people in Britain are going on strikes and demonstrating against their own government. And they are doing this partly because of the fantastic events taking a place in North Africa and the Middle East.
LFG: What’s next for OneWorld, will the project expand to involve more artists?
D. Randall: I hope this track will give confidence to other people who have been nervous about speaking up for Palestine, nervous for the reasons I mentioned. I hope artists in America will record a song with similar message. I hope this will be one contribution to an ongoing cultural Intifada.
LFG: how can the people support this single?
D. Randall: People in UK should certainly buy a copy from I-tunes or HMV Digital. The single will cost 79 pence. For the people of UK this is potentially the best 79 pence you can spend for Palestine, because if we get the song into the charts, it will be a big story here in the UK. But for people in Palestine and other parts of the world, we just need your help to push the song out through your blogs and through the different social networks online. It is one campaign tool among others that together will move towards the end of occupation and the freedom for Palestine.