London, Ont. –
A Middle Eastern “dabke” dance group landed a concert of a lifetime when asked to perform at a birthday party for a multi-platinum and award-winning artist in Toronto.
“I was just like ‘Oh my God, this is crazy’,” Omar Hassouneh says, recalling his reaction when he found out he would be performing for a prominent celebrity.
Omar is a member of the Palestinian-Canadian group Al-Asala Dabke based in London, Ontario.
The group were well known for their traditional interpretations of Arabian Dabkeh and Zaffeh, a combination of vocals and percussion, at big events and weddings.
Last weekend, five of their members had the chance to show off their talent at a private birthday party for Canadian rapper Drake.
The group were contacted and booked via Instagram to perform at Drake’s home in Toronto.
“So we walked in and we were all tossed around for a second, we stood there, and we said well, Drake is right in front of us, let’s try to remember what we came up with and so we played right there. , in his kitchen in his house, ”said Hassouneh.
“It was pretty awesome, he was a very genuine and humble guy,” said band member Wasef Yasin.
Although this was their first celebrity concert, the Al-Asala Dabke group, which has more than 25 members, has hosted various events and weddings over the past 14 years.
“It’s been passed down through different generations of guys – and now it’s us, it’s time to shine,” said Omar Barzak, director of Al-Asala Dabke group.
And they shone. Video of their performance for ‘Champagne Papi’ 35th anniversary has gone viral on social media, with over 3.9 million views on TikTok.
“It was really great meeting him, especially growing up, we all listened to his music. I still remember walking to school and playing with Drake, and getting to meet him. and singing a happy birthday to her – it was just an amazing experience, ”Yasin said.
Although most of the group grew up in Canada, they enjoy going back to their Arab roots and mixing the two cultures in some of their performances.
“We like to do it with a little twist, we like to mix the two cultures and almost, you know, create a new culture. This North American and Arab identity, which we love, and it’s something that we love to express, ”said Yasin.