Ibrahim Qashoush’s Revolutionary Popular Songs: Resistance Music in the 2011 Syrian Revolution

By Sadam Issa
Submitted to Session P5326 (Music and Resistance, 2018 Annual Meeting
Art/Art Hist
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Revolutionary Arabic songs, particularly surrounding the eruption of the uprisings in 2010/11, or what is called “Arab Spring,” have been an increasingly strategic means of cultural resistance. Ultimately, they mobilized Arab audiences to unify and oppose the repression and tyranny which characterized the ruling governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria etc. This study examines the forms and understanding of resistance in the Syrian uprising setting by analyzing Ibrahim Qashoush’s popular songs that he performed at the advent of the ongoing Syrian revolution in 2011. The study uses two theoretical concepts that cultural studies helped to introduce to the study of popular culture: “articulation” and “affect” (Rodman, 2015) in the analysis of Qashoush’s songs. I argue that the music of Qashoush is a cultural genre that ‘articulates’ the mood of the Syrians under the regime that helped forge the Syrian national identity in opposition to the Syrian regime. The songs were retrieved from YouTube and were mostly filmed live when the protests were going on. Some of the videos included images of the protesters demonstrating in yards and marching in the streets while Qashoush was singing. These were posted on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites. Qashoush wrote the lyrics of his protest songs in the Syrian dialect, and they are similar to old Syrian wedding and celebration melodies. These old wedding melodies are called “arada.” Qashoush uses “arada” because the protestors are familiar with it, which allows them to memorize and remember his pop songs. The findings indicate that Qashoush’s songs used revolutionary musical texts as an inspiration and a vehicle to 'articulate' political messages that advance the power of the Syrians by giving them hope and optimism in their collective struggle, and critiquing and ridiculing the regime. The songs and lyrics try to whip up patriotic feelings and move the protestors to defend their country. They also provide cultural raw material, which enable the Syrians to create personal and collective identities, and to counter the dictatorship. They raise awareness, educate, and enlighten Syrians about political and social issues as well as the corruption inside their own country.

Works Cited:
Rodman, Gilbert. B. (2015). “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards: Mixing Pop, Politics, and Cultural Studies.” The SAGE Handbook of Popular Music. Eds. Andy Bennett and Steve Waksman. SAGE Publications. 2015. 48-63. Print.