Libya: Anonymity a growing trend among revolutionary singers

10 August 2011
Since the 17 February revolution began in Benghazi, new songs by unknown, young singers are being uploaded and distributed almost daily via the Internet. The singers of ‘The Arab Spring’ disregard all copyright-concern and the possibility of establishing a name for themselves from their music-making.

In an article about ‘Libya’s explosive music revolution’ – and about its anonymity – Khaled Mattawa reported that the courthouse in Benghazi now houses a media centre with several music studios and practice rooms.

“Since February 2011, when the revolt in Libya took hold, rebels and Gaddafi’s forces have been at war. But the rebels are using music as fuel,” he wrote, adding that while rap and hip-hop has been the choice of the young musicians, the “ever-ready Merskawi sound has caught up with it.”

Khaled Mattawa described a new and very popular pro-revolution song that lists all Libya’s cities and regions, and “blasts Gaddafi for his decades of violent misrule and his very bad hair.”


“So far, the singer’s name on this anthem remains a mystery,” wrote Mattawa: “A search on the Internet found no release date for it, copyright information, or any obvious sign of career planning. This is typical of the state of music in Libya now. Songs are coming out from everywhere, and fast.”

Artists sidelined or silenced
“Libya hasn’t seen a resurgence of music like this since the late 1970s, when Col. Gaddafi really took Libyan politics by the throat. He had released his notorious Green Book and renamed the country. Those were the years the music died.

Gaddafi’s aggressive ideological dictates began to infiltrate all cultural production in Libya. The colonel’s insistence on music, and arts, of the people, in reality meant an insistence that all artists praise his rule and person.

As a result, many artists were sidelined or silenced. In their place emerged Gaddafi’s handpicked singer-composer, Muhammad Hassan, who in dress and manner bore a striking resemblance to the dictator he served.”

‘We Shall Remain Here’
According to Khaled Mattawa, a Libyan independence-era anthem has come back roaring after being banned for four decades: A melodic song entitled ‘We Shall Remain Here’.

It “has been the anthem most specific to this revolution,” he wrote. In his opinion, “the profusion, diversity, and anonymity of Libya’s revolutionary music are a complete turnaround from the stifled state of Libya’s music in the Gaddafi era”.

Khaled Mattawa is the author of four books of poetry and teaches literature at the University of Michigan in the US.





Read the article

The Daily Beast – 28 May 2011:

‘Libya’s Explosive Music Revolution’

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