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Syria’s Music Wars

Omar Adam Sayfo describes how both the Syrian government and the rebels have employed music as a weapon in the Syrian conflict.
Members of the Free Syrian Army chant as one of them plays the guitar near Nairab military airport in Aleppo February 26, 2013.   REUTERS/Hamid Khatib    (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS) - RTR3EBGO

Once upon a peacetime Syria, listening to Fairouz was an indispensable ritual on sleepy weekday mornings. Emotional songs extolling an idealized country life, love and patriotism flowed from radios, offering temporary mental respite from the problems of day. The Lebanese diva from an Orthodox Christian background united Syrians regardless of age or religion. However, with the unfolding sectarian-flavored civil war, the idylliic Syria of Fairouz seems to be gone. In war-torn Syria, music has become a tool for hostile fractions to fuel and mobilize their supporters, and the new hits are dividing the country along political and sectarian lines.

At the beginning of the uprising, an unknown young man called Hamwee Ibrahim Qashoosh appeared at a demonstration in the city of Homs singing his song “Yalla irhal ya Bashar” ("Get Out Bashar"). The catchy tune, blending traditional dabke music with anti-regime verses, became an instant hit in early anti-regime protests. The sarcastic lyrics mocking President Bashar al-Assad and accusing his brother Maher of being a coward and collaborating with the Americans, broke down the walls of fear and silence.

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