Music played a tremendous role in the ‘youth revolution’ of the 1960’s in the Western world. Musicians, their song lyrics and their interviews, became the ‘media’ and the agents of change who ‘spread the message’ and turned into an international phenomena that profoundly changed the Western world and its culture.
Considering the way that many young people in the Middle East experience their situation today, why could something similar not take place in the Middle East? Is it because the music is being silenced by producers, radio stations and state security agents? Or is it because the musicians silence themselves?
In this interview, Ruba Saqr tells about her personal experiences, and about how the self-censorship situation she experiences among musicians according to her is part of the reason why young people in the Middle East have no media for networking and developing new visions for their future.
Advocating a new image of female musicians
Having worked as a reporter for several years, Ruba Saqr has written several articles to different Jordanian publications about the need to support underground musicians, and the need to change perceptions of musicians, in particular Arab female musicians in her part of the world. Ruba Saqr believes that female musicians are often reduced to being performers or singers and are seldom acknowledged by producers as full-fledged musicians who can write their own lyrics and music. She has experienced that some female musicians are pushed away from the music scene by society because it is not viewed as a “respectable” vocation, especially in traditional circles.
About the song in the video
Ruba Saqr performed ‘I am a Lantern’ for the first time in 1997 at the Darat Al Funun Summer Festival in Amman. Afterwards she was criticised and frowned upon by attending renowned Jordanian poets for her unconventional lyrics. They proposed editing the lyrics for her – an idea she was against. She felt that her lyrics stemmed from her way of experiencing life and that it’s socalled ‘rawness’ was part of her journey and growth. As she grew older, she learned that the song found a place in the hearts of many who attended her performances.
For translation of the lyrics, see below.
About Ruba Saqr’s musical career
Ruba Saqr was born in Jordan in 1975 and spent all her life there. She started songwriting and singing in Amman in the early 1990’s, and took part in founding several bands. At the Jerash Festival in 1997 she performed her own songs for the first time – with two accompanying musicians. The Jerash Festival is a regionally acclaimed venue for music and arts that takes place every year in the city of Jerash, north of Amman.
Since 2000, Ruba Saqr has been negotiating with several production companies, but til this day she hasn’t been able to establish what she calls ‘common grounds’ for a co-operation. Producers want to commercialise her music style which she refuses.
The fact that she performs “different” music was praised with enthusiasm during an assignment where Ruba Saqr was given the opportunity to compose songs for Jordanian tv programmes about human rights, directed by the Performance Arts Center in Amman, and funded by the EU. This experience gave her new hope and confidence in her beliefs – the hope that one day self expression, in this case through music, can find resonance in other people even if it doesn’t follow conventional or commercial music codes.
In order to avoid censorship by producers and sponsors, Ruba Saqr has decided to go solo. She records her songs while playing the piano and guitar, and finances the production of her debut album entirely on her own. She expects it to see the light towards the end of 2007.
In 2005, Ruba Saqr and guitarist Ramzi Rais took part in the ‘Global Battle Of the Bands’ Jordan, where they won first prize. More about this, and about Ruba Saqr, can be found on
The video interview and Ruba’s performance of ‘I am a Lantern’ was recorded in Amman, Jordan, by Mik Aidt on 30 January 2007.