Patriotic Lebanese songs

This post is being re-worked on to reflect the discussions that are taking place in the comment’s section.

The main point of this post was to deconstruct some of the main images that are present in nationalistic songs and criticize a general culture of the nation fed by “art producers” when reality is much less eloquent. Unfortunately, I was wrong with the example I took, not knowing the background of the song of Julia Botross who actually took a speech made by Nasrallah in the beginning of the war and made a song out of it (with the consent of Nasrallah according to commentators). The fighters in the movie are effectively Hezbollah’s and the kids are from Bint Jbeil. I still don’t like kids tranforming themselves into fighters but that’s fine.

The final fate of this point is simply unknown as of now. For now I wish to keep the post in order to finish the discussion and also as a self-inflicting punishment for my failure of getting the context right! it is also funny to see how everything I thought suggested in the clip was actually real (nasrallah speech, soldiers were fighters etc). So laugh at my expense for now as I started this post with a laugh!

Nothing makes me laugh more (and cry if I really try to think seriously about the matter) than what I would call “artistic profiteering” (i.e. making money and a name out of stupid songs just because appealing to vague nationalistic slogans) from the latest events in Lebanon. By the way, nowhere maybe in the world you had that many patriotic songs where the facets of patriotism are endless and contradictory.
This clip by Julia Botross is just replete with non-sense statements about the people’s victory, unsubstantial nationalistic slogans, all along a horrible musical composition (like practically all nationalist music compositions, at least for Lebanon).

Still maybe I should clarify what is laughable:
1- You have Lebanese soldiers (of whom you can just see the silhouette) parading here and there amongst the woods (what?). I thought Hezbollah fought against the Israelis. Nevermind. It reminds me of Future’s TV never mentioning the very existence of Hezbollah as an entity fighting Israel (only the “Lebanese nation”).
2- People’s faith, beliefs, dignity are called upon. People are “the promise”: Is this plagiarizing Nasrallah’s speech or am I mistaken?, “mountains of sun coming victory” (I don’t understand why the mountains are always invoked in Lebanon, why not the plains too. Is it just because it’s high that it becomes more imposing? This in any case contradicts the reality of where the resistance came)
3- It seems that according to Julia it is from the people that the Lebanese prisoners will be liberated (yeah the people are eagerly waiting for that, mm, which prisoners, which jails? this can become very confusing). Does anybody know who are the prisoners in Israeli jails (I mean all of them)? By the way, if yes this blog is looking for a complete list.
4- The central concern in this song is who’s talking to the people. Because Julia seems to address the people directly saying sentences like “you are… for us”. who is “us”? Is it also the people? A sort of circular narcissistic apraisal of the people? or is it an abstract concept of nation in which the people can feel safe?
5- Oh and let’s not forget the incontournable mentioning of the “cedar” (again what?). It seems that we are still not moving out of basic traditional beginning twentieth century maronite ideological artefacts. Well someone could say that it is, after all, in the flag so we’re stuck with it.

If only these songs could mirror 2% of the Lebanese reality then they could act as propaganda for nationalistic ideology build-up. But no, even this is too much. In this case, the contradictions can be summarized quickly: there is no “one” people you can address (for example amongst other issues, who really cares about issues like the lebanese prisoners, where and who) and Hezbollah is the only party that has fought against Israel and no abstract national identity.

So I don’t know if this is not just a non-Hezbollah attempt to desperately acquire some credit for the recent Israeli humiliation. If yes, than this is my message to these dudes: you better not use ideological artefacts that are alien to Shiite reality (like the mountains the cedars, etc.) and start abiding by the new meaning-making frameworks that Hezbollah is offering. Of course you don’t need to do that. I’m just saying that if you want to be the patriots you are talking about. Or else just be simply Lebanese and be welcomed to schizophrenia land.

Nota Bene: I would want to specially praise Hezbollah songs of propaganda (please don’t think that I am being biased it’s only natural and you may discover this for yourselves 🙂 They just remind me of the Manga songs (you know like Dragon Ball, Ken the Survivor, “Les chevaliers du Zodiaque” for the frenchies in Lebanon) we used to listen to when we were kids (and still now for some). Same instruments, sounds, rythms and cadence. It’s like video game, but actually it’s real and some dudes are really dying. As a dilettante pseudo-intellectual (maronite if you may) hiding in the now-famous-and-often-cited mountains, it made my daily shot of adrenaline during the war in July while listening to Eza3at el Nour.


12 Replies to “Patriotic Lebanese songs”

  1. Bech,

    I am afraid you got many things wrong about the song.

    I am a frequent visitor to your site and I find it often refreshing, honest, sincere, and very enlightening. But in this case, I do not believe you have enough background about the song itself to necessitate your remarks.

    Firstly, the entire song is a plagiarism of Nasrallah’s many televised appearances during the July war. This was done on purpose, as stated by Julia herself and the song writer (albeit editor in this case) who happens to be her own brother (whose name escapes me right now), where whole sentences were extracted from Nasrallah’s speeches.

    Secondly, the song was shot on location in Bint Jbeil, who, as you know, sustained some of the most brutal bombings from the Israelis during the war. But it was there also where the Israelis suffered some of their worst defeats. The town was symbolically chosen for these two reasons.

    Thirdly, the kids you see in the clip are children from neighboring towns and villages.

    And lastly, the “soldiers” you see in the clip are actual Hezb fighters whom the party lent to Julia and her crew. Hezb fighters, by the way, dress like official army personnel, whose meticulous uniform dress was one of the many “surprises” the Israelis, expecting a rag-tag militia, instead encountered on the battlefield.

    By the way, these facts are known in Lebanon, and to my knowledge, with the exception of the NewTV and Aljazeera, none of the sectarian local stations have yet to play the song.

    I am not sure if the above facts will change your evaluation of the song. Regardless of its sincerity and good intentions, the song has to still succeed artistically and aesthetically. This is, I presume, a subjective read, and is independent of all other factors.

    As for profiteering, I believe the song was done on the personal dime of Julia, her brother, and her sister, who happens to be the producer and director. They did it without any prior contract or commercial sponsorship knowing they may not break even. If anything their patriotism and good intentions cannot be questioned here.

    Please keep writing. We may disagree on this one, but I share many of your sentiments in many earlier posts.

  2. Well in this case, yes, I must admit that I was completely wrong about my judgement of the song.

    unfortunately, without knowing the context i can’t really differentiate this song from other Lebanese patriotic songs.

    Of course, I know that Hezbollah fighters dress like Lebanese soldiers (which in effect was the big surprise for demon-searching commentators), but I must say that my own bias (unfortunately) made me think that it was impossible that actual Hezbollah fighters were doing this.

    As for the profiteering again you may be right. Although I was talking more of an ideational profiteering. Taking a specific cause and stripping it out of its context. But yet again then this song is genuinely referring to the reality it claims to chant.

    I don’t know what to do exactly but I will soon amend this post.

    So I was right for Nasrallah’s speech! 🙂

    It seems that these days I’m wrong on many issues, but see, what can i do, when Lebanon is replete is the likes of Majida el Roumi and others I can’t really make the difference… Musically I still don’t like the piece that much though.

  3. bech,
    Musically u may not like the piece, It is a matter of taste but let me just correct some facts Al-Ghadabulsaati3 stated and I will confirm others as well.

    Just to clarify the image:
    – The lyrics are taken from the letter that hassan nasrallah sent to the resistance men in responce to another letter sent by them to him.
    – Both letters were published in newspapers during the july war. (assafir, alakhbar certainly.. don’t know about annahar).
    – The lyrics are adapted by ghassan ma6ar (a poet politically with SSNP, and it is said that boutros family members are known to be SSNP supporters). The music was composed by her brother ziad boutros and the director of the clip was sophie boutros, the sister. So this is totally a personal effort as you see.
    – The song is banned from air on 14 march channels and ofcourse on arabic satellite channels.
    – The song will be a sort of on going project and is part of a series of concerts for the benefits of the martyrs and wounded of july war. julia’s new album (the usual one different than this song) was released just before the war by like 1 week. She left it aside with no advertisement at all and proceeded in this project with no regret.
    – julia’s interviews on TV were very clear, opposite to those of majida erroumi. erroumi’s songs have been used by FPM since long ago, but she doesn’t like to declare her political opinion on air.
    – I agree with you about the use of some “words” that are symbolic (politically saying) and how they are oriented a certain audience, maybe the wrong audience.
    – The song is directed clearly to the resistance men. This is confirmed through julia interviews on aljazeera or the conferences she held tll now. she doesn’t hide that. Moreover the guys you saw in the clip are HA resistance men.
    – It is the first time I comment here, but I always follow this blog, maybe because we agree on many things, I usually do not comment 😉

  4. Hilal,

    Very happy to know that you are visiting the blog. I am ashamed to say that I just discovered yours today but very strangely enough before you posted your comment. Very nice blog for someone like me for now living in London and in need of some home-grown-fix…

    I take your comments very seriously. I am just thinking what to do now with my post… Thanks for pointing out all of this (thanks to al-ghadabulsaati3 too).

    Though let me just mention that I was not questioning the song’s possible underlying pointing out to Hezbollah’s fighters. Even if this is the case then I may just continue insisting on the point that reality (i.e. a resistance group from part of the population that is fighting) is diluted in a fantasy-like representation of a “nation” with a “people” (a totality people with a cedar and a mountain, etc.).

    To add to this fallacy is the use of symbolism that is completely inadequate and that you have agreed on.

    My other point is that some artists in Lebanon are very quick at showing a certain patriotism without really thinking things through. I am not questioning the honesty of the artist’s feeling, I am just warning from a certain naivete that could be overshadowing deep cleavages.

    Of course the likes of Magida el Roumi and other domesticated products of the 14th of March are amuch more horrible aspect of the state of commercial music in Lebanon.

    But I would even criticize people for whom I have the utmost respect like Z. Rahbani etc. if they would come and compose something generalizing the way Boutross is doing. If she takes from Nasrallah, then quote the guy maybe. or just mention you’re singing about the people in the south (for example Rahbani wrote a song for the South a long time ago). Put things into context. Lebanon is divided, then why not sing of this fact. It is a bit ironic but this is my way of looking at things. For me Rahbani for example was the most brilliant in the songs of felem Amerkeh Tawil. “hayda balad, la’ much balad, hay ortet 3alam majmou3in..”

    All this is symptomized by the only girl with a veil that is running around. It looks like a United Colors of Benetton ad, forgive my harshness here. But I may agree that it is the only way to spread the myth of a nation unfortunately.

    So basically, it’s just a matter of looking at the glass half full or half empty. My views derive from pessimistic feelings. I see for example that on your blog your nostalgia is filled with positive outlooks. the world needs both perspectives i guess (and many more..).

    I will change the post to reflect all these points of discussion tomorrow. So please if you still think I am very wrong then please do point it out.

  5. Well Bech, these singers are after all products of Ziad’s “ortet 3alam majmou3in”. Just out of interest, how would you musically communicate a quote? 🙂 In any case, isn’t patriotism still a dirty word whatever the flavour?

  6. I would say that some HezbAllah songs (both words & music) are pretty impressive. In fact, I have a whole playlist dedicated to HezbAllah songs on my ipod, and I regularly listen to them, though I am by no means a nationalist or a believer. 😛

  7. I agree ya bech, I agree. I was just stating some facts to put the things in context.
    For the Arabic art in general, the trend is always to go to generalizations and to use pre-packaged symbols (mountains and cedars and we won’t bend, etc..).
    This is a major issue that the Lebanese “committed” songs are suffering from. Especially after 1991- the beginning of the claimed peace/compromise.

    For Ziad,
    In fact, I criticized Ziad long ago when he released the 4 announcements saying that they lacked something.. Maybe some depth. But I know also that Ziad’s style differs from sarcasm (with no political view at all) passing by musical experiments (that might have nothing to do with politics and society) to serious political and social analysis.
    Ziad has made a major effect in our sub conscience. I agree with you about “film amaerici taweel”. I consider it the most important play if compared to other ones especially in the political side ( “bennesbeh la boukra shou” was emphasizing more on society, “nazl essourour” was just a beginning with some generalities- not so mature-, while “shee feshil” is a something else totally).
    Lately I re-watched his last two plays on google, and I admit that these plays were not evaluated in the right way in media. They were attacked for their emphasis on Lebanese way of life which was found by some critics to be very severe and wrong. More-over, the “fantasy” world created on stage for both plays was criticized extensively. But for me, I consider that they succeeded in analyzing the way the Lebanese think or act. And it is not a shame, cause this has roots from the way the Lebanese used to live during war (fahlaweh, I am the best, no system, bzabbetlak yeha, killo byetsalla7, ana rabba (I had a post on these phrase not so long ago)…etc). For the fantasy world, I think the conditions during which the old plays were shown, were not found for these two plays. (lack of a country, system, general security, etc…) So, he couldn’t explain explicitly as in the former plays and thus he went many times to the “sarcasm” choice.

    I know I am out of subject, but too many things in mind, so excuse me for that.
    I guess there is no need to re write this post. What you can do is that you can trace how such singers as Marcel Khalife, Ziad Rahbany, Sami Hawwat, Ahmad Ka3bour (etc..) changed throughout years especially after the 1991 compromise. Many ideologies fell, many ideals were ruined. This led some of them to totally different choices in politics and the nature of the musical projects they are suggesting.

    As for my “nostalgia”, well Yeh; I am sometimes optimistic and “happy”. But many other times I can compete you in pessimism and sarcasm. It depends on the nature of the posts. So allow me to disagree with you on this one 😉

  8. besh,
    Imho, (and I might be completely off th emark here) you originally completely miss-understood the song, message and motivation and are unable to break out of your original impression.

    I am not debating the artistic -or lack of- merit of the song.

    But I find strange your insistence even in your latest comments on the usage of “wrong symbols”. The mount being a symbol of maronite/druze (Mount Lebanon)?

    First do not forget that the shia are the people of “mount 3amel” , but it is even much simpler than that as ghadab already said the lyrics are taken from nasrallah speeches during the war. He called the fighters and I quote “antoum el shoumoukh ka jibal loubnan el shamikha, al 3atyati 3ala el 3aty wal 3alya 3ala el mouta3ali” if someone is using the wrong metaphor/symbols it should be nasrallah not julia 🙂

    You ask her -in the comments- to put things into context, you mean other than the fact that she made a press conferences and many TV apearances to say she made a song about hizbollah fighters?
    Should she have a disclaimer att the beginning for people who do not have enough background ? ;-P

    Also you complain about the people and the idealized nation. Those do not figure even once in the song. Every “antoum” is for “the men of the resistance” and not “the people of the nation”.

    A7ibba’i, risalatikoum, rijalou ellahi fi el maydan, wa3doun sadikoun antoum, antoum nasrouna el ati, antoum min jibal el shams, bikoum yata7arrarou el asra … el aroudo .. yousanou el 3ardou … antoum majdou ummanitina, antoum el kada, antoum el sada, tajou rou’ousina antoum, bikoum namdi wa nantasirou …
    All of them refer to the Resistance fighters and -almost- all of them have been used by Nasralla himself while addressing the hizballah fighters during the war.

    You also ask who is talking in the song who is the first person? I did not hear julia say it but to me it seemed obvious. It is Nasrallah.
    Julia starts her song with : “A7ibba’i, istama3tou ila risalatikoum wa fiha el 3izzou wal iman, fa’antoum mithlama koultoum …”.
    Nasrallah started one of his address to the fighters with : “Wasaltni risalatoukoum, w sami3tou makaltakoum, wa’antoum wallahi kama koultoum, na3am antoum el wa3dou el sadik …”

    So the whole thing is basically an “Ode to the resistance” by using paraphrases of Nasrallah speeches, nothing more nothing less and I think it succeeds perfectly in being that (regardless of the technical merit on which I am not in position to comment)

    I really really doubt the shi3a in Lebanon found it far from their symbols and their reality. But I could be wrong 🙂

    Sorry if I am ranting too much over a silly song feel free to ignore me.

    And finally I wish anonymous comments were allowed.

  9. What a tragic thing?
    Before you knew that Julia was singing to the resistance, you rejected the song because it mentions “the mountains” & “the Cedars” which raised your sectarian demons. But when you knew these words were taken from Nasrallah’s speech for the purpose of praising the resistance, you finally accepted the song.
    SHEEP. Lebanese are like sheep who follow their leaders.

  10. march14yuppi, i will enable anonymous comments if this is your wish, and will answer to you lengthily later on. But basically, I am convinced by most of what you’re saying and this does not contradict the crux of my argument who is not anymore really directed at the person of julia botross but at a phenomenon let’s say.

    As for ahmed, I think you did not get much of what’s going on. I do not abide now by the slogans of the song just because it refers to Nasrallah directly. Although, you don’t need to follow Nasrallah like a sheep to give merit to his actions or (and I would prefer that) to the actions of the resistance. Your argument simply does not make much sense.

    I never was criticizing julia just because she is not refering to the resistance per se.

    Now beyond a critique of the symbolism used (cedars mountains et all) I am pointing out a pattern of ‘expropriation’ whatever the parties involved.

    By the way if Nasrallah refers to the mountains then he is himself caught into the prevalent symbolistic sytem that make up the Lebanese ideological artefact. This is called cultural hegemony, and for those interested it comes from Gramsci (maybe the greatest thinker of the twentieth century, but that’s a different story).

    My aim is to demystify and deconstruct all of these. I may go on a bad tangent here and there. But we’re hopefully getting there thanks to your remarks.

  11. hey thanks for enabling anonymous comments!

    If I am getting things right, you are against the jabal thingy because it is lame/cliche/overused … Is that the point?

    abou el zoulouf drives a kawasaki w entou belkon bil jabal wel daweli? hayda el mashkal?

    I suppose better just wait for your updated post/reply.


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