PJ Harvey and Egyptian recording artist Ramy Essam have come together to write and record ‘The Camp’ – a track which they hope will raise awareness and much needed support towards the health and educational well-being of displaced children in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.
‘The Camp’ will be digitally on Friday 9 June 2017. Harvey and Essam recorded the track in Bristol with Harvey’s longtime collaborator John Parish, who produced and mixed the track, and also appears on drums and guitars. The artists will donate all net profits from the track to Beyond Association in the Bekaa Valley, a national Lebanese non-Governmental Organization. Beyond Association provides services such as access to education, healthcare, and psycho-social support mainly through art therapy, neuro-physiotherapy, and recreational activities.
“It is hard to comprehend the scale of the crisis in Lebanon, a country of 4 million now hosting over 1 million Syrian refugees,” states photo-journalist Giles Duley whose arresting photographs feature in the official music video, edited by Rick Holbrook. “The infrastructure of the country is pushed to its limit, and nowhere is that situation more desperate than in the Bekaa Valley. However, there are some amazing organizations doing incredible, effective, and selfless work on the ground there, and all of the NGOs I have documented, none have impressed me more than Beyond. To visit their schools and witness their programs is to see hope – and that is something we have to support.”
Discussing how the project came to be, PJ Harvey explains how she instinctively knew that she wanted to collaborate with Essam; be it as a contribution to one of his ongoing projects, or something entirely new. “I began putting some ideas on paper, and sent over rough demos of two or three songs in their early forms,” recalls Harvey. One of these songs would ultimately become The Camp.
When discussing the subject matter of the track, Ramy Essam speaks of his experiences during the revolution in the streets of Egypt. “I dealt with fights, beating, torture and the loss of friends,” he explains. While Essam’s struggle continues, he speaks fondly of the unique opportunity to work with PJ Harvey. “She is a humble person and true artist that I only could dream to even meet – and now I’m singing with her for this important cause, for humanity,” said Essam of the collaboration. “It was an honour to work with PJ Harvey, and I found it so inspiring. It gave me a chance to live my dream for a while.”
“When Polly and Ramy asked me to help provide some of the visuals for The Camp, I had no difficulty in deciding what photographs we should use,” says Giles Duley. “In my work I have documented the effects of conflict and humanitarian disaster across the world, but little has had greater impact on me than the human drama I witnessed on the island of Lesvos in 2015. I thought I had seen it all, but I can honestly say I have never been so overwhelmed as by the human drama that I watched unfolding on those beaches. Its sheer scale was hard to comprehend; the lack of response impossible to explain or excuse. So it is those images from the beaches, and the refugees’ journey from Greece to Germany that we used in the video for The Camp.”