- 9:00 am
Since its release, the anthem [Ali Barakat’s “Seal Your Victory in Yabroud”] has, perhaps predictably, become yet another flash point in the Syrian civil war. Those backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad have spread it on social media. Rebels and their supporters have recorded their own musical rejoinders and accused Mr. Barakat of sectarian incitement.
In the early days of the Arab Spring and the Syrian uprising, I often posted about musicians who entered the fray by recording songs in support of or opposition to those who demanded Bashar al-Assad’s departure. While a new New York Times piece suggests that South Lebanese singer Ali Barakat’s pro-Hezbollah, pro-Assad “Seal Your Victory in Yabroud" ("The soldiers are coming/they will give you dark days/O Hezbollah, God be with you/seal your victory in Yabroud") has opened what it describes as a "new musical front in the bloody civil war", it is not quite true that this is a new phenomenon. After all, this blog documented several anti-Assad songs, and pro-Assad musicians have been producing songs for some time.
Nevertheless, this article does a good job of documenting the impact of Barakat’s song both on his own personal life (“The insults and threats flow to the singer…around the clock” and “make his cellphone perpetually ring and buzz”) and in inciting reactions (“Those backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad have spread it on social media. Rebels and their supporters have recorded their own musical rejoinders…”). BuzzFeed’s Mike Giglio also wrote about Barakat in December, noting that the singer “hoped his songs would help to prepare Hezbollah and its supporters for the continuing battle” (Barakat believed that he had helped to inspire Hezbollah fighters triumph in the battle over the Syrian town of Qusayr) as well as to memorialize the fighters killed in Syria (“We don’t cry when our martyrs come home. We make a nice song”, said Barakat).
You can the New York Times article here, but I would suggest reading the BuzzFeed piece first for more background details about Ali Barakat.
- 5:18 pm - Sat, Mar 1, 2014
Freemuse, an international organization advocating and defending freedom of expression for musicians and composers around the world, released its 2013 annual statistics on violations of freedom of expression for musicians this week [full table above or here]. According to Freemuse, there were 109 violations of rights (from simple censorship to assassination) in 33 countries in 2013; these figures account for 19 musicians who were killed last year, as well as several instances of censorship in several countries that are ostensibly rights-based democracies (including Canada, Sweden and the USA).
While such numbers are disturbing, Freemuse notes they “are not a complete survey and do not give full picture of the situation globally; they only represent the tip of the iceberg”, as they only include publicly known violations. In fact, the real numbers could be much higher if unpublicized threats in fundamentalist or totalitarian regimes as well as the effects of internal conflicts on musicians were to be included in these statistics.
You can read Freemuse’s full report here.
- 2:17 pm - Tue, Feb 25, 2014
Old(ish) News: Nadia Tolokonnikova Models for Russian Online Clothing Store
I apologize if this is old news to some of you, but I came across this series of photos featuring Nadia Tolokonnikova modeling clothes by brands such as American Apparel, Guess, Evil Twin and Glamorous for Russian online store Trends Brands just yesterday (the shoot is titled Nadia Tolokonnikova: Beautiful and Free). The photos were taken shortly after Tolokonnikova’s release from prison.
While the notion of modeling for an online clothing store may appear to be in contradiction with both Pussy Riot’s anti-capitalist and feminist views (which members of the Russian feminist collective re-emphasized in an open letter to Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina earlier this month that described them as former members of the group), The Calvert Journal reported that Tolokonnikova justified this on her Facebook page by saying that she wanted to thank her “capitalist friends” for the clothes that they donated to her while she was serving her prison sentence.
Nevertheless, this still seems a bit strange coming from someone who founded an feminist activist collective of women who originally challenged the Russian social order “[b]y hiding their faces and raising their voices” (here, she quite literally is beautiful and silent!) and rejecting the notion that women “are there to look pretty” and “to have babies and cook and clean”, as Miriam Elder pointed out in an excellent piece on Pussy Riot for BuzzFeed.
I am very curious to hear what you think of this.
- 12:24 pm
Those detained included Aleksei A. Navalny, the anticorruption blogger, and two members of the protest group Pussy Riot — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina…