Against a backdrop of debris, a young rapper from Syria fearlessly berates warlords and dictators. His name is Amir, and he will stop at nothing to share his voice with the world.
The 20-year-old hip-hop artist who goes by the pseudonym "ALMUARRI," which translates to "exposer of lies," recently released a music video capturing the war-torn city of Idlib, where three million civilians reportedly live under siege in a constant threat of attacks. In the track, titled On All Fronts, ALMUARRI takes aim at all warring factions and portrays the plight of Syrian citizens.
StepFeed reached out to ALMUARRI to learn more about the emotional and mental processes that come into play while producing his work, the forces that drive artists in areas devastated by war, and the significance of art as a means of political activism.
Activism on 'all fronts'
On All Fronts marks ALMUARRI's most overtly political track to date. Filmed in Idlib over the past two months, its music video captures ALMUARRI alongside 62 locals who risked reprisal to support the rapper's message.
The song touches on a wide range of issues that not only affect Syrians but other populations as well, including media bias, corruption, poverty, human rights violations, and the exploitation of religion to further political agendas.
"We asked for dignity but are buried without it. There's no point in protesting when their minds are never open when schools are shut down and promises are broken," he raps in the song.
Another verse reads, "When they're the ones with mansions, with their fancy cars and guns manipulating markets, talking sh*t to crush the working ones."
Released in mid-September, On All Fronts has already garnered over 34,600 views on YouTube.
According to ALMUARRI, the music video was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback online. Apart from the occasional warnings and negative comments, he has not been subject to serious pressure nor faced threats due to his political content.
"Even if I did face threats, it wouldn't affect my work and I would still follow through with my music and my production. I'm not afraid as long as I'm telling the truth," he noted.
Who is ALMUARRI?
ALMUARRI braved the Syrian revolution in his city of Maarat al-Numan, in northwestern Syria, where he witnessed bombings and attacks on civilians, including children. He fled as a refugee to Turkey but returned to his family in Idlib after his older brother was killed.
He then pursued a university degree in media studies, but his education was cut short after the university was shut down despite students' protests. He then took courses in graphic design and enjoys it in his free time. However, he still hopes to complete his university education as soon as living conditions allow it.
As for his journey as a rapper, ALMUARRI has been rapping for over one year, but his passion for music - and rap in particular - dates way back to his childhood years. He started off by writing lyrics without any tune and later started writing and recording songs with the help of friends via the internet.
"I started off with limited resources for sound engineering and production, and I learned some tips online from friends living abroad," he told StepFeed.
Music: A coping mechanism and a political weapon
When asked about the significance of tackling oppression through art, ALMUARRI said:
"Each person has their own way of expressing what they are going through, be it a war or any other tough experience, and each person has their own way of discussing political corruption, through poetry, painting, singing, or simply writing. As for music, it constitutes one of the major means of universal expression. Media, in all its forms, can serve as a political weapon and a tool that influences public affairs."
On a personal level, music has helped the Syrian rapper cope with the crises around him and offered him a platform to express himself.
"My passion for music and my writing skills have helped me describe what is going on around me in Idlib, including humanitarian, economic, and sustainability crises. Rap has helped me express myself, rather than bottle up my feelings, thoughts, and experiences within me," he told StepFeed.
When it comes to rap, ALMUARRI noted that government entities around the world tend to portray it as explicit content and depict it as a method for gangs to promote murder, criminal activity, drug abuse, etc.
"They do this to drive future generations away from rap, which can actually serve as a tool to expose governmental and political corruption, racism, and oppression," he explained.
As for the message he hopes to send through his work, it is rather evident in the powerful lyrics used in his songs, it aims to shed light on the ongoing troubles in Syria and calling for immediate action.
"I hope my words reach people who care about Syria, influential parties, and all the states responsible for what Syria is going through. Perhaps they come up with honest solutions for our situation, or at least take a closer look to the people of Idlib and understand that the latter are not terrorists as some media outlets suggest," he concluded.