Music as an Act of Revolution

08 May 2014


“We are united by our dream of change, more than by our love for music. Our music is just our modest contribution to the struggle against tyranny.” These are the words of one of the members of a Syrian band called Sama [“sky” in Arabic]. The band unequivocally frames its art as a as a tool in a struggle, rather than for the sake of art itself.

The band was founded in January 2012 by six friends, most of whom still live in Syria. Their first album, entitled “Raise your voice”, reflects the spirit of the early stages of the revolution, when Syrians took to the streets and broke a five-decade long wall of fear and silence.

“We started to create songs quite spontaneously, echoing the feeling of the Syrian street during those long sleepless nights at the beginning of the revolution. There was no intention of turning them into an album at first”, they explained to SyriaUntold.

The evolution of Sama’s music, from the initial “What’s this joke?” -- in response to Assad’s first speech after the outbreak of the uprising -- reflects the evolution of events on the ground. Some of their songs address the official discourses with songs like “We don’t love you”, in response to the pervasive “We love you” that regime loyalists chanted during the 2007 presidential elections. Others focus on the effects of repression on Syrians, such as “I want to assure you”, and “Sleeping to the sound of Kalashnikovs”.

The members of the band have suffered the repression they sing about, most of them having faced detention. “After detention, that’s when we really started Sama”. 

The members insist that Sama is not a professional band, but an initiative that emerged as a reaction to repression. “The technical aspects are probably our weakest point”, they admit. The fact that the band is forced to work underground, in a small room in a Damascus neighborhood under regime control, and without the proper recording equipment, has affected the quality of the sound. The increasing militarization and repression has also made it extremely difficult for the band members to meet in order to record their latest album. 

“Some of our newest songs, which we haven’t managed to record, are being sung in certain inner circles, through informal exchange and sharing.”

Contrary to other musicians and artists, the Sama team believes that the revolution has not diverted from its original civic and peaceful roots, although the space for civic action is increasingly suffocated by the regime’s pressure and brutality. 

“The future will be brighter, as soon as Syrians achieve their freedom.” To pave the way for this future, Sama continues to work under the most difficult circumstances. In the band’s own words: “For a free music, we need a free Syria.”

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad