Songs Return to the Syrian Revolution

12 March 2016

Whenever we heard the words of the revolution—sung as we went along our daily lives, drinking our coffee, working, or getting ready to leave—oftentimes, we would find ourselves humming, singing, inadvertently, perhaps emerging from within the depths of our pain and longing for freedom… We do not know much about how they were written, or composed, but we know that hundreds of thousands throats are raw from singing them since the beginning of the revolution.

The Ba’ath party buried five of Syria’s accents in the name of Arabism. There was no institution that dealt with folk songs, especially those sung by children living in remote villages. There was no urgency around studying and documenting them. The Syrian revolution, however, was also a revolution of information. It revived these dialects and diffused them across social media. These dialects were instrumental in birthing songs like, ‘Hanin Lilhurriyeh hanin’, ‘Yalli byiqtl sha’abo khayen’, ‘Ma’alesh, Dara’a, ma’alesh’, ‘Yalla irhal ya Bashar’ and ‘Halabiyeh halabiyeh’.

These songs, though the same, varied depending on neighborhood, city, and province. In Homs, for example, the village of Deir Ba’albeh, came up ‘Ani tale’ itzhar’ in the Bedouin dialect.

Over time, these songs have become part of Syrian heritage. For example, ‘Janna janna’ has matched the popular ‘A'lzozanah, a’alrozanah’. As it is, each song from the 20th century has a legacy and each song in the revolution is developing one too. There exists an intertextuality between the revolutionary songs and traditional songs. The revolutionary songs, which echo the traditional songs, include familiar melodies like ‘Skaba ya dumoo’ il’ayn’, ‘alef ba bubayeh’, and ‘alnadda alnadda alnadda, ya Bashar manak adda'.

On the Friday of the Revolution Continues, March, 4 2016, these songs resurfaced. The truce allowed Syrians who live in areas beyond the control of the regime and ISIS to go out and protest. The songs and the way they are performed did not change across the country. In Talbiseh, they sang a song famous in 2011, ‘We’re the Homsis, We’re Homsis and we want to send Assad to the nuthouse’. In Hama, children chanted ‘Leave, O Bashar’. In Bosra al-Sham, they chanted ‘O Revolutionaries, we are with you until death’ a throwback to what they chanted 5 years ago, ‘O Homs, we are with you until death.’

In Naseeb, chanted in their local dialect, ‘O Bashar, you are good for nothing.’ In Saqba, Damascus, rebels sang ‘Janna, janna’. In Aleppo, the protestors sang a song lyrics from Dara’a, ‘long live Syria and down with Bashar al-Assad… Syria is ours and now the Assads’ and ‘the revolution was peaceful, here is my olive branch. We want to depose Bashar, no matter who he is.’ These songs, and others, had disappeared since 2013. Their return today signals a nostalgia felt by many for the first days of the revolution and its glory.

This return was not spontaneous in all participating areas; in Aleppo, it was coordinated by the revolutionaries, who had established a unified command to organize unified slogans and chants, a member of the network told us. On the Friday of the Revolution Continues, the unified command focused on songs and chants, harking back to the beginning of the peaceful movement across Syria.


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad