Homeland sirens’ song

By Margaux Bonnet

 

Syria my love,
Give me back my dignity,
Give me back my identity,
Give me back my freedom

This is what a group of Syrian girls needed to sing from Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of the NGOs working in the field to help the many Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon since 2011. In IRC’s women and girls community center in Bar Elias, in the Bekaa valley, the Women’s Protection and Empowerment Program aims at creating trusting relationships with women and girls through activities to support and help them deal with their daily challenges in positive ways. Displaced adolescent girls are particularly exposed to difficulties such as lack of schooling, harassment, early and forced marriage or isolation. So what better means than art to allow girls express themselves and – above all, be heard?

« The girls coming to the center showed a very big interest in music », relates Joane Cremesty, a Senior Officer. With her colleagues, they decided to contact a duo of Lebanese musicians, Tatiana Saadé and Maya Aghniadis, to lead a music workshop with a group of 26 Syrian girls between 13 and 16. Very good friends, Maya and Tatiana have been playing together since university and have given several concerts around Lebanon in collaborations with other artists. The first song they dedicated to refugees (Ana Rayha Aal Sham) was based on a poem that an old refugee woman told Tatiana when she was working with the UNHCR. Stay engaged was an evidence for both of them: “We are living side by side with refugees, so it is the minimum that we show some support and acknowledgment.”

The contact with the girls participating in the IRC activity was established in several steps. “Music is a universal language. We can communicate without using words. That’s why we broke the ice with instruments and rythms. This kind of project was out of their comfort zone but they loved it since day 1! We couldn’t stop singing popular Syrian and Lebanese songs and dancing for the whole 2 hours”, remember Tatiana and Maya. The final project of the class was to create and record a song with the girls. “ We tried to get them out of their daily lives and to dive into a world they did not know of. The girls were divided into groups for song writing. Each one wrote about any subject she chose on a small piece of paper before we gathered the papers all together to create a logical pattern. According to girls’ demands and reactions, we developed the song lyrics to fit with music they were happy about.” After six weeks of work, Sanabqa ya Suria (« We shall remain, Oh Syria ») was finally born, ready to be performed in front of their families and friends at the IRC center.

20140709_MHutchison_RefugeeWomen_Jordan_6C5A5095E
Credits : Meredith Hutchison/IRC

Music classes have allowed girls to discover a new activity, socialize and express feelings they were not always able to verbalize. They had a specific need to write their love for their friends but especially for their homeland: “Every thought led to their love for Syria, and their lives in Syria”, notes Tatiana. After the last performance, the enthusiastic feedback of the mothers who discovered the talent of their daughters made the girls feel more confident.

For Joane, this first music session has been a real success : “Since the song has been recorded, the girls have made sure to reach other Syrian girls in order to spread love and hope among them. I have seen that they are reaching out more to other girls in their communities, encouraging them to join the activities in our center. For example, the girls and their mothers have told us how they have shared the song via whatsapp and received responses of hope and solidarity: ‘You revived hope in our family’, said one of the girls’ family in Sweden after they heard Sanabqa ya Suriya.”

“It’s not only us who taught them something, they also taught us a lot”, conclude Tatiana and Maya. “Sometimes music expresses what cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent”.

 

English translation of the lyrics:

(CHORUS)

You promised me, my dear
To stay with me all the way,
And that we would always
Walk together for better and for worse.
Let’s be joyful and sing
Let’s live and beautify our world
You promised, you promised me, my dear.

Let our past bring us where we left, with a gentle breeze of love and hope.
Let’s walk our paths together and never look back.
Let’s walk our paths together and never look back.

(CHORUS)

I’m a girl like any other girl
But no, life is not so beautiful.
Life is only beautiful in your arms,
Life is only beautiful in your arms.

Oh light, you lit this life.
Oh secrets, why did you steal people’s hearts?

(CHORUS)

Oh Syria, Oh Syria, even though you are sad,
Your heart is filled with energy, energy and will.

Syria my love,
Give me back my dignity,
Give me back my identity,
Give me back my freedom.

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