Political Resistance and Nationalism: Women Singers in Lebanon Defying the Drums of War

By Guilnard Moufarrej
Submitted to Session P4969 (Music and Politics "min al-Mashriq ila al-Maghrib", 2017 Annual Meeting
Unknown
Lebanon;
Music;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
In Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds, Jane Bernstein writes about female musicians who have transcended the boundaries of performance to assume a commanding position within their society. She argues that these women have not only reflected the hope, anger, pride, and longing of their communities, but touched the social conscience of their audiences, and in so doing have helped shape the course of history (2004). My paper examines the role of female singers in Lebanon during the last forty-five years, a period that includes the civil war of 1975 to 1990 and the social upheaval that continues up to this day. I refer specifically to four singers—Fairuz, Majida al-Rumi, Julia Boutros, and Pascale Sakr—who at different times and under different circumstances became influential on the Lebanese scene, especially during the war, advocating for peace and fighting for justice and human rights. Under such political and social circumstances, they have given voice to their people and have emerged as national figures, earning popular respect and extending their fame to other parts of the Arab world. The paper highlights their influence in areas such as female activism in a male-dominated society, empowering resistance, inspiring revolt by popularizing rallying cries, strengthening a sense of identity in a fractured nation by creating common causes, and using star power to address issues and problems that politicians do not dare get into. Drawing on research I have undertaken since 2010 on music, gender, and nationalism, on extensive personal encounters and audiovisual examples, and on interviews I conducted in Lebanon in the summers of 2010 and 2012, I show the role and power of music in reflecting political changes and embodying political meanings.