Out of the Syrian conflict, there are echoes of sounds teeming with fury and relentless in their honesty. These sounds manifest themselves through Syrian hip hop artists that have documented the war and the plight of the Syrian people through their music.
These Syrian rappers are also providing a new spin on the old Arab tradition of Mua’llaqat and Zajal. In doing so, these revolutionary artists have made sure that the art of Arabic spoken word remains relevant, and very much alive.
Dealing with issues such as identity, oppression and culture, the rappers of Syria have contributed toward the advancement of the hip hop scene and given it a flavor of its own, quite distinct from American hip hop.
Adding elements of Tarab and sampling Arabic folk tunes in the music, coupled with vivid rhymes that draw images of a war-torn country, these Syrian rappers are channeling their hardship to further their poetic innovation.
Here are a few of the big names that are giving a voice toSyria’s downtrodden youth:
1. Hani Al Sawah AKA Al Darwish
Fleeing from Homs to Beirut in 2012 after finding out that his name was on the Syrian Intelligence list, Al Darwish has become active in the Lebanese music scene.
On his 2016 album Ard Al Samak, Al Darwish alternates between Fusha and colloquial Arabic, relying heavily on metaphors to document the experiences of a revolutionary rapper at odds with his ideals, and unsatisfied with the status quo.
2. Bu Kolthoum
Adopting his stage name as a tribute to Oum Kolthoum, the iconic Egyptian singer, and Bin Kolthoum, the Arab warrior and poet from the pre-Islamic era; Bu Kolthoum raps from Amman Jordan.
His 2015 album Inderal marks a departure from his early style of sarcastic humor. It paints a darker picture of a Syrian refugee suffering from alienation and trying to come to terms with his reality.
3. Abu Hajar of Mazajj Rap
Currently based in Germany, Abu Hajar asks the audience at his live shows to refrain from dancing while he plays. He has a message to get across, and he wants the world’s undivided attention.
A self-proclaimed political activist, Abu Hajar doesn’t hide behind any metaphors. Instead, his lyrics convey a harsh reality and provide a definitive statement on the state of his home country.
4. Assasi Non Fuse of Bilad Al Sham
Already in the hip hop scene since 2008, Assasi was one of the earliest rappers to incorporate elements of Oriental music in his beats. Currently in Lebanon, Assasi tackles heavy issues in his lyrics such as dishonesty in the media and youth immigration.
These Syrian rap artists have laid the groundwork needed to further Arabic hip hop as a genre that can stand on its own two feet; a genre proud in its authenticity and unashamed in its brutal honesty.