Music in the experience of forced migration from
Syria to the European borderland
Episode #1, 2/2021 – "Hurriya, Azadi, Freedom now!" – Resonating the Syrian uprising, singing displacement, dancing against the European border regime in Thessaloniki, Greece, 2016.
Hurriya in Arabic and Azadi in Persian are the words for freedom. The trilingual slogan "Hurriya, Azadi, Freedom now!" was chanted in protests, in singing and dancing, in the summer of 2016, in Thessaloniki, a city in northern Greece, by people mainly coming from war-torn Syria, protesting for the re-opening of European borders and against their forced settlement in refugee camps. Throughout the previous months, the refugee movement through Turkey towards Europe was at its peak, encompassing mass border-crossings, traveling by any possible – risky – means, setting up of makeshift camping zones along the "Balkan route," from Greece to the Austrian borders. These conditions led many countries to loosen their border controls and let people pass. However, this did not last more than six months. With the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal of March 2016 the European border regime was reinstated even more strictly. Greece until then had constituted a transit country. With the closure of the borders, about 15,000 refugees, mainly coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, were blocked at the Greek – (North) Macedonian borders, near the Greek village of Idomeni. After two months of protests and border-crossing attempts, all these people, were finally forcibly moved by the Greek authorities into twelve wretched refugee camps, in old warehouses, abandoned factories and military facilities, on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, at a distance of 70km from the border.
Very soon, protests erupted in the center of the city as well as in the refugee camps. What was so unique was that in all these protest-events music seemed to play an integral role. There was no protest without music, and even in the abject conditions in refugee camps, there were people involved in various musical performances. The main – but not the sole – protagonists in these musical expressions were young men of Syrian-Arab origin, who mostly danced to Syrian popular/folk dance music, known as dabke, and sang songs about the Syrian uprising of 2011 and their own ongoing experiences as refugees.
In this podcast, Ioannis Christidis, researcher of the ethnomusicological project "Music in the experience of forced migration from Syria to the European borderland," presents and contextualizes field-recordings of singing and dancing performances documented by him in Thessaloniki 2016, as well as relevant audio samples traced on the internet. He then attempts to interpret them through the experiential perspectives of their own protagonists and by making use of theories and concepts deriving from ethnomusicology, anthropology and political sciences.
List of Audio-Samples
Sample 1 - [00:03:07] - The slogan "Hurriya, Azadi, Freedom Now!" is chanted by refugees during a protest. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Thessaloniki, Greece, 01.09.2016.
Sample 2 - [00:06:03] - Soundscape of a dabke dance performance during the protest "Migrants' Pride". Background song: Dabke mix by Ziad Abboush ([AR]:زياد عبوش) and Ikizmusicplus. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Thessaloniki, Greece, 21.07.2016.
Sample 3 - [00:08:02] - Soundscape of a dabke dance performance during a protest. Background song: Dabke mix by Ziad Abboush ([AR]: زياد عبوش) and Ikizmusicplus. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Thessaloniki, Greece, 28.06.2016.
Sample 4 - [00:10:11] - The song "Janna, Janna" ([EN]: Heaven, heaven; [AR]: جنة جنة) is being sung by hundreds of protesters in Homs, Syria, in 2011. Audio extract from the YouTube video: "جنة جنة جنة والله يا وطنا عبد الباسط الساروت " – link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tocBLyhcXlc [01.02.2021].
Sample 5 - [00:11:54] - The Song "Janna, Janna" by Abdul Baset al-Sarout et al. – link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTn0W7FojcQ [01.02.2021] – is broadcast through a speaker and collectively danced and sung by Syrian refugees during a protest. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Thessaloniki, Greece, 01.09.2016.
Sample 6 - [00:13:43] - The song "Janna, Janna" is chanted as a slogan during a protest by a group of young refugees. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Thessaloniki, Greece, 21.10.2016.
Sample 7 - [00:14:31] - Audio extract from the YouTube video: NDAL KRAM Safarna Ala Europa – كرم سافرنا على اوربا نضال ([ENG]: On our way to Europe) – link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knJESy-paXU [01.02.2021].
Sample 8 - [00:17:23] - A young Syrian refugee sings the song "Safarna A'la Euroba" during a protest outside a migrant detention center. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Greece, 20.07.2016.
Sample 9 - [00:19:34] - The Muslim call to prayer, the adhan ([AR]: أَذَان), broadcast through a speaker at the refugee camp of Softex. Field-recording by Ioannis Christidis. Thessaloniki, Greece, 09.08.2016.
Sample 10 - [00:21:29] - The young women Sedra and Sara sing a rap song at the DIY contest "Refugees got Talent," at the refugee camp of Oreokastro, in Thessaloniki, Greece, 11.08.2016. Audio extract from a video uploaded to the Facebook page of the journalistic activist group "Refugees TV."
Sample 11 - [00:26:05] - A young refugee from Syria, sings for fellow protesters his song about the Syrian revolution, in Thessaloniki, Greece, 21.07.2016 (part 1). Audio extract from a video uploaded to the Facebook page of the refugee activist initiative "Help Refugees."
Sample 12 - [00:38:59] - A young refugee from Syria, sings for fellow protesters his song about the Syrian revolution, in Thessaloniki, Greece, 21.07.2016 (part 2). Audio extract from a video uploaded to the Facebook page of the refugee activist initiative "Help Refugees."
Introduction and background music sample: "Bazar (ID 822)" by Lobo Loco, licensed under a CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Other literature sources
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The English lyrics of the song "Safarna A’la Euroba" were found in:
Mehta, Gautama. (2016). "Every Arab Refugee in the World knows this Song." In: POLITICO on-line journal. https://www.politico.eu/article/every-arab-refugee-in-the-world-knows-this-song-safarna-ala-europa-migration-news-music/ [04.02.2021].
The English lyrics of the song "Janna, Janna" were found in:
Amin Noor’s Blog: https://aminnoorblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/19/syrian-revolutionary-songs-translated-chant-2/ [04.02.2021].