Lost and Found family: the story behind The Picture of Rafael

January, 2018:
Somewhere between Paris, Cairo, Strasbourg and New York….

My new album project The Picture of Rafael (Le Portrait de Rafaël), scheduled for release this year, was inspired by a special connection and an incredible discovery I made in the spring of 2015, while I was still living permanently in New York. On the morning of April 17, right on the sad 16th anniversary of my father’s accidental passing, I received an unexpected message on my Facebook music page coming from a high school girl based in Cairo.

Mariam, the young teen girl, was doing genealogical research on a great great-uncle named Rafael Ohayon. Born in North Africa in 1900, to a family of Spanish-Jewish ancestry, Rafael was a singer and free-spirited poet who traveled and lived in Europe during the first and second world wars. The diasporic and adventurous life of this brave family man, former volunteer soldier, and multicultural artist was cut short after he was arrested in Paris and deported to Auschwitz in 1942.

Rafael was my maternal grandfather. All I had left of him was an old photograph I had posted on my music website to pay homage to my Mediterranean roots. Thanks to this archive visible on the internet, Mariam found me across the ocean. Through her relentless research, she also connected with  Strasbourg-based French painter and illustrator Francine Herzog-Mayran, who created in her honor a portrait of Rafael based on the same photograph. This painting was to be exhibited at multiple memorial events across Europe. In addition to discovering new extended family, I was then instantly connected to a whole community of artists, intellectuals, good-hearted, well-intentioned people celebrating the memory of my long lost grandfather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted my new disk to be not only about Rafael but also about the themes that this touching story inspired in me: family bonds, love, exile, cultural heritage, resilience and the transmission of our collective memory. Despite the rather serious subject matter and tragic starting point, I did not want the album to dwell heavily into melancholy. In contrast, I actually wanted to feature festive music, positive and cathartic songs to honor the curious, joyous and luminous soul Rafael was.  I started imagining what countries and musical styles my grandfather would have explored, what other artists he would have admired, had he survived and lived through the post-war decades that preceded my birth: the 40’s, 50’s and the 60’s.

My grandmother who survived Rafael for forty years on once told me her diseased husband’s dream was to take the whole family on a ship leaving from North Africa or Marseilles and cruise across the Atlantic all the way to New York or Buenos Aires where they could start a new life in a land of freedom and opportunities. I feel like the dream of my free-spirited grandfather lived through mine, a grandfather whose countenance I never saw in person, but whose presence remains forever in my heart, for his courage, dignity, and inspiration. 

The album is the soundtrack of this quest and journey. I would like to dedicate it to Rafael, to my late father and loving mother, to my newly-found little cousin Mariam whom I recently met in person in Paris, to my newly-born baby girl Liora and her mother, to Francine the Holocaust painter and to the memory of all the victims of tragic events and barbaric acts whose hopes and dreams were taken away from them way too soon.

May the world be filled with joy, love and peace, and be rocked by the music of the heart. May we never lose face or faith ever again.
Never forget, Ne jamais oublier, Ha-Shoa Le’Olam Lo Shuv
Pascalito

A former Wall Street risk analyst and competitive waterskier, Pascal Lorenzo Sabattier is a French American writer, consultant and translator who divides his time between Paris and New York. As a musical artist, he has released four albums under the moniker Pascalito, produced by his independent label Neostalgia Music NYC. His original works have been licensed and featured in the popular cable network TV shows Burn Notice (USA), Damages (FX) and NCIS Los Angeles (CBS).

Photo: Meeting Mariam in Paris

 

Music Video (below) by Arié Ohayon @ Acoustic Sterling Studio, Brooklyn

 

The Picture of Rafael (Theme song – In the studio)

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