Revolutionary Hit Parade

The medium of song relates to every aspect of the Syrian uprising, from chants to pop and unusual hybrid forms such as Kurdish folk song mixed with reggae, or heavy rock or rap and dub fused with classical Aleppo-style maqam. Interestingly, the revolution has spawned a new wave of bands and singers who now release tracks anonymously through the Internet. Some singers take their lead from previous political struggles or write ironic ditties that subvert the official state line. The music of this revolution is an unlikely hit parade filled with the real-life stories of singers who have been murdered for inspiring the people.

Featured in the exhibition:

Shadi Ali – Kirmal yali raho (‘For the people who went away’)

Shadi Ali is a singer and member of the Arab rock band Gene. The song is dedicated to the revolution’s dead.

Nos Tohafa – “Lish Darb Al Nar” (‘Why are you shooting at us?’)

A mix of pop and traditional music that features both Arabic and Kurdish lyrics. Nos Tofaha has emerged as the band of the Syrian uprising. Known for their work with Palestinian singers and activists, they collaborated with the anonymous Syrian artists’ group Masasit Mati and their music features in the second series of Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator.

Wasfi Masarani and Mohamad Abdelhamed – “Yamma Mwail al Hawa”

A traditional song from over 200 years ago before colonial powers created the separate political and national entities of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. Yamma means ‘my mother’; mwail al hawa refers to a traditional melody – the mwail is a melodic refrain each time accompanied by different lyrics. This revolutionary version of the song is sung by and dedicated to Mohamad Abdelhamed, a Syrian activist killed in the field. Wasfi Masarani is a professional musician who can be seen singing the song to and with crowds of Syrians on the internet.

Anonymous – “Bayan Eakam 1” (‘Manifesto No. 1”)

An early song from the revolution which urges people to go onto the streets and demand their freedom.

Monma, Al Raas, and Saied Darwish – “Thorat – Lajeaat la Sabaia” (‘Revolution – female refugees are not the spoils of war’)

This track explores a highly sensitive issue. There have been incidents of wealthy Arab men going to the Syrian refugee camps and taking the prettiest young women there as third or fourth wives. These rappers from Syria and Lebanon perform the song from the point of view of honourable young men who condemn this practice. They are part of a Hip Hop movement called Sufi or Dervish Rap.

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