Syria: One voice less

Syria: One voice less

I’ve often deplored the death of the protest song. So it was stunning to see how big a role music and chanting is playing in the Arab Spring. Shots of men chanting and punching the air in Arabic all sounded alike to me. The horrific murder of Ibrahim Qashoush, however, puts a face and a voice on the aspirations of millions of people.

Revolutionary dabke

Qashoush was a Syrian whose incredible powerful chanting galvanised crowds of up to 200,000 with his performances. The chants are simple rhythmic couplets known as dabke, to which the audience replies with gusto. In the hands of the right singer, it’s simple and hugely effective. Qashoush played with the genre by adding couplets where least expected and then breaking into known songs. The words are blunt and, given the level of oppression in Syria, courageous to say the least. The chant that has gained the most popularity is “Yalla Irhal Ya Bashar (Depart Bashar)”.

You lost all your legitimacy

Depart depart, Bashar

Bashar, you are not one of us

Take Mahir [Basher’s brother] and depart from here

Depart depart, Bashar

Bashar, you are lying

You had bad speech

Freedom is very near

Depart? depart, Bashar

Ibrahim Qashoush was found dead in the river near his home town of Hama on July 4. He had been tortured by the authorities and his throat cut, perhaps symbolically. Hama has been the location of previous atrocities by the Syrian regime, but is refusing to bow to the current attacks.

The American ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier traveled to Hama recently to show solidarity with its residents. The visits have been interpreted as a strong diplomatic warning against escalating violence in the central city, which has been surrounded by tanks for a week.

It would be nice to think that Qashoush’s death caused outrage. But the sheer number of people dying in Syria at the moment makes grief for individual cases almost impossible.

However, as a lyricist I can only salute an electrifying performer who paid for his singing and commitment with his life. His chants will clearly outlive him.

Additional reading on the Index of Censorship


4 thoughts on “Syria: One voice less

  1. He was a great chanter. Got the Government all worried. Shows how these are trying times, and freedom is not won easily. And, people will take it for granted, once they have it.

  2. Too true, Edward. People in Europe sometimes grumble about having to vote whereas in other countries, people are dying to earn the right.

    I hope Ibrahim’s chanting will have served a purpose.


  3. This impostor and terrorist was not only inciting sedition, but he participated in the brutal killing of a law enforcement official from his own town, the reason for killing him was because he would not take sides in the unrest so they hanged him and made fun of him whilst others chopped off his limbs and after that they (The so Called Syrian Revolution) killed “Ibrahim Qashoush” He deserved what he got and soon Syria will be free of Salafi and Wahabi fundamentalists trained and fully backed by America and the Saudi regimes!

    Heres an interesting link if you care to read and know the truth:

  4. Maximum, I have trouble believing that Qashoush was killed by the rebels for “not taking sides” if he was “inciting sedition” and “participated in the brutal killing of a law enforcement official from his own town” (your own words).


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