1. 50 Years of Rock and Heavy Metal in Syria: The 2000s
  2. 50 Years of Rock and Heavy Metal in Syria: The 70s – 90s
  3. Intro- Voices of Syrian Music
  4. The Diversity of Music in Syria
  5. Music & Religion
  6. Music & Community in Syria
  7. Folk Music
  8. Jazz Lives in Syria
  9. The Sound of Dayr az-Zawr
  10. Muwashahat: A Memory from Damascus

by Hannibal Saad

From 2000 onwards the Rock music scene in Syria started to explode. Until now, I can recount over 50 Rock bands, that were founded in this time, from which some managed to exist, while others did not get the chance to be seen.

The Gene Band

One of these bands that has left a big mark on the Syrian rock scene was the Gene Band – a band made of six energetic musicians. With their special arrangements of traditional Arabic songs incorporated into a new progressive rock context, the band managed to create art that gained people´s attention and interest. The legacy of the Gene Band would later continue to exist in new formations such as Anas and Friends and the Ascendants.

The song “Ya Waladi” picks up modern poetry by Adam Fathi and a song by Sheikh Imam

In the 2000s, many musicians turned up out of nowhere and were able to gather huge crowds such as Yasser Alkhadra or the Heavy Metal Amer Touma band with singer Jean Samara, who was involved in several band projects until he migrated to Berlin during the war. Many of these bands played Heavy and Trash Metal, but there are also some Doom Metal bands that were formed – even Punk bands such as the Mazhott trio.

In general, the Rock scene became more stable and organised due to Rock cafés and music production companies that started to grow. For example, Rawad Abdul Massih, founder of several bands such as Hourglass and Rasas, founded a studio for music production Damascus. The studio is still running until today. And Mouhannad Alsamman, guitar player of the former Marmar band, opened a Rock café called “Mon Café” in Damascus – a place in which both young and old musicians hang out together.

Yasser Al-Khadra – An Epic Tale
The Amer Touma band
Mouhannad Alsamman´s band Mood Music plays on a weekly basis in Damascus with Singer Leen Al Batal
The Hourglass – Holy Rage ’10
The band Rasas with guitar player Rawad Abdul Massih
Mazhott trio with frontman Rashwan

Around 2006, Qussai Aldakr, guitar and keyboard player and member of the band Tuner, became the head of technical department at the Higher Institute of Music, where he trained 40 musicians in recording and music production. His efford helped to fill a market gap for low cost recording and opened the door for reaching international audiences online. Due to the lack of public support and cultural policies, this generation was the first to benefit from the advantages of social media.

| Female Voices of Rock in Syria

The Rock scene has featured a range of very strong female front singers that are worth mentioning. It is due to their efford that the Rock music scene in Syria is diverse. One of them is Rasha Rizk who played in several bands including Ittar Shameh. Rasha Rizk managed to successfully use her Arabic skills, Opera technique and vibrant voice to establish her own unique style. Rizk also became popular in making songs for TV children´s series and is now living in France.

Female front singers showed up in a range of bands. Some of the very known singers include Areej Zayat, Souzana Joumaa, Nermeen Shawki and Carmen Toukmaji, to only name a few. Listen to some of the female voices of Rock music in Syria below:

The band Ivy is comprised of female musicians only with Lilith Jannet (vocal), Nour Abulfadel (guitar), bass guitarist Rachelle Ghanem, and Natally Hallaq on the drums
Rasha Rizk – Sakru Shababîk
Carmen Toukmaji
Nour Arksousi with the Syrian Big Band at the Pergamon Museum Berlin in 2010 (Nights of Ramadan). Nour became famous for appearing on The Voice TV and is known for singing other genres,too.

| Rock and Heavy Metall since 2011

The war has left a deep mark on the music scenery, not only because of the many musicians who have left the country resulting in a global distribution of Syrian musicians across the globe. Many new bands have been formed also in Syria, who use their music to express and and process their war experience.

Monzer Darwish, a Syrian Heavy Metal musician from the city of Homs, shares his story to The Atlantic in 2014, on how he and his friends sought refuge in their own music in the midst of a horrendous war. Moreover, he expresses how continuing to make music in a time of political and social tension has helped him to not only process the trauma of war, but has empowered him to step into “a brutally honest dialogue about how to survive war and reform society”. Reconnecting with his former friends, the Syrian musician started documenting the history of his community and how they survived in the midst of war.

“Heavy Metal here is at war with the war itself”

Monzer Darwish (@The Atlantic)

Documentary “Syrian Metal is War”

The experience of war would become a dominant subject for many Heavy Metal bands in Syria, who started striving from 2011. Bands like Maysaloun and DUST as well as many others continue to cope with the present turmoil of their country in their music.

The band Maysaloon with their piece Warsphere
The band D.U.S.T with their piece Dust

| From Syria to the world

Spreading outside Syria, many musicians found a new home in neighbouring countries or in Europe and the US. The new energy that started flourishing from Syrian musicians in the diaspora started emerging from 2011 onwards, bringing out new formations with a strong fanbase such as Tanjaret Daght and Khebez Dawleh.

“The Syrian trio Tanjaret Daghet look increasingly like becoming one of the few bands to nail the tricky business of making Arabic language rock appeal to people who don’t really listen to anything except Western music.
The Rolling Stones Magazine
Tanjaret Daghet and their piece Ta7t El Daghet talks about the pressure of war and loss of identity

Tanjaret Daghet

Tanjaret Daghet, which came to life in 2008, is the brainchild of the lead singer and bass player Khaled Omran. One metamorphosis after another, the band stands at what it is today and is composed of three musicians, Tarek Khoulouki, guitarist and backing vocalist, Dany Shukri, the drummer, and of course, Khaled Omran. Based in Beirut (Lebanon), they attract large audiences in the Arab world and were able to reach such an attention, that the famous Rolling Stones Magazine featured an article on the new emerging Arab rock stars.

Khebez Dawle

Khebez Dawle is a Syrian-Lebanese four-member Indie Rock band. Founded in Damascus in the late 2012 as a one-man project, the band consolidated in Beirut, Lebanon, in early 2013 with Muhammad Bazz, Bashar Darwish, Hekmat Qassar, and Anas Maghrebi. Their first self-titled concept album “Khebez Dawle” was recorded from April-July 2014 and released in August 2015. It features very well made energetic and powerful music. All the band members are now living in Berlin, Germany.

In 2020, Khebez Dawle released their new single Ara.

When I talk to these young emerging musicians, they are rarely aware of the history of Rock music in Syria. But still, somehow, the scene managed to survive and keep the water running so that waves can be seen. Despite the ongoing political situation in Syria, there are many very gifted Rock musicians in their early twenties, who are waiting and hoping for a better future. Amongst them are talents like Ammar Ghazi, Omar Hawasli, Mohammad Stash, and many others. I wish them the best of luck and perserverance in these times and hope with all my heart, that I will see them on big stages in a peaceful future.

…Go back to Rock and Heavy Metal in Syria: 70s – 90s


Feature Image: The image shows several Syrian Rock bands and musicians on one stage, performing with the Syrian Big Band in 2011 © Hannibal Saad. For more information on Rock music in Syria, please visit the Facebook group Rock Lives in Syria of Hannibal Saad.

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