By Aurora Ellis
When silence equals complacency with the fate of those whose voices have been stilled by violent conflict, music can become an act of agitation that reminds us to not forget the victims of war.
In the dusty buildings of Downtown, Cairo one such protest has been made. Classic electric guitar riffs mixed with strong but light, soulful vocals help bring the plight of Syrian refugees back to the forefront of the world’s consciousness. The project is the result of a collaboration of local and international musicians and producers.
Combining the hard rock sounds of Syrian guitarist Mohamed Tayara and the delicate vocals of Rosina Al-Shaater, an English singer, Earthling Media produced its first music video titled Exodus: The Syrian Refugee Crisis, last week on YouTube and online social networks.
The musical power of this duo amplifies the images of displaced Syrians, especially children, whose faces compel the listener to view the crisis not just in terms of ever-growing statistics but as a real experience faced by millions of human beings across the world.
According to Tayara, who came to Egypt almost a year ago, the main purpose of the video is to bring attention to the refugee crisis.
“I think it’s important to raise awareness about the situation that’s happening in Syria. I mean 10,000 refugees each day crossing the borders, now the numbers are about a million who had to flee. So, it was something we wanted to participate in. It was also something that people would enjoy listening to so if we put this message inside [the music video] it might reach more people than writing would,” he said.
The music video promotes the aid group Action Aid UK’s Syria Crisis Appeal and invites viewers to donate contributions for refugees who often, according to Action Aid’s website, escape the violence and arrive at camps with next to nothing.
Bassem Nabham, a Syrian producer at Earthling Media Egypt who came to Egypt six months ago, also worked on the video. He emphasised that though this music video is just a small start, displaced Syrian musicians and artists across the world have been involved in many projects highlighting the refugee crisis and the war in their country.
Doing so is not without risk though: “Since the start of the revolution most of us were controlled by fear and we couldn’t do much to contribute because of fear of anything that might happen in Syria,” Nabham said. He said for many Syrians living abroad activism is difficult because they want to be on the side of “the people”, but in a conflict so complex and divided between the government and the various revolutionary factions, all of whom have been accused of committing war crimes, it is hard to know what that side is.
“We could not contribute to anything we didn’t believe in a 100% so we didn’t do anything. When it came to humanitarian stuff and our people’s misery we felt that we can do something, especially after [the statistics] became worse,” Nabham said.
Rather than make overt political statements that could be used or misconstrued for the advantage of one faction, the team decided to create a video in support of the refugees as a whole, by highlighting their suffering and stressing the need to change it.
This resonates with El- Shaater whose addition to the project came later but was just as essential. She feels the music should be approached as something that touches the listener. “The idea was to see it as an art form, not something that is academically correct. It is the expression of the actual emotion in the voice,” she said.
Anyone who watches the video cannot help but be struck by the feelings behind the chords; they ring strong and loud, and insist the voices of the displaced should be heard and the existence of refugees remembered.