Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria
#BarakabilityMusicThe Arts

Shining with Pride of Place

By Radia Androun

Four Arab stars whose love songs embrace social justice for their homelands.

1. Mohammed Assaf, “Arab Idol” winner and now the first-ever UNRWA ambassador, has become a national symbol with anthems like the new “Abu Ammar”, a tribute to Yasser Arafat. On International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people he sang before the UN at its headquarters in New York.

2. Lebanese-Palestinian Julia Boutros uses her crystalline voice to defend the oppressed and criticize inept leadership. In “I Breathe Freedom“, the ardent supporter of the Lebanese resistance vows, “The voice of freedom remains louder than all voices“.

3. Known as the singer of the Syrian revolution, Assala Nasri has a sarcastic new hit, “If Only The Chair Could Speak”, which chides the Syrian president for clinging to his position. “We want a country…that we own a small part of,” she declares in it. “We don’t feel a country can be owned by one person.”

4. Romantic singer and composer Majid Al-Muhandis Al-Otaibi–aka “the Iraqi ambassador”—also calls for hope and peace for his people in songs such as “Heaven, Heaven“, while ballads like “Do not weep, O Gaza” show solidarity with broader Arab issues.

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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