5 Arabic songs that are "stronger than a bullet"

5 Arabic songs that are "stronger than a bullet"
3 min read
19 February, 2016
The New Arab lists 5 of the main 'musical-battles' between artists from the Arab world where from warfare to gender relations, melodious lyrics became sites of contest.
War of words: Arabs express disagreements in music [Getty]
Many battles are fought in a range of diverse locations, far beyond actual fields of war. 

Whether in the skies or on sea, whether over airwaves carrying the rantings of dictators or on street walls with anti-regime graffiti screaming at citizens to resist, the fight is definitely on! 

In "song wars", Arab artists are no strangers, and have long used music to exchange insults, promote competing ideologies and visions, in the most lyrical of ways.

Here are the top 5 "music-battles" of the Arab world as selected by The New Arab.

1. Egypt vs. Algeria goes beyond the football pitch

Two football matches between Egypt and Algeria in November 2009 became scene and inspiration of lyrical contest.

With a long history of football rivalry, stakes were at their highest as both teams needed victories to secure their place in the 2010 World Cup.

Governments of both countries called for calm as fans were whipped into a frenzy, with the lead up to the November games seeing threats, internet sites hacked, the Algerian team bus attacked, and alleged deaths in the ensuing clashes between fans.

Egyptian officials voiced concern over Algerian fans coming to Egypt. Algerians responded to these concerns with a rap song.

"We are coming [to Egypt] with or without a visa, raging like a volcano in the mountains," were the opening lyrics.

But Egyptians showed their own apt rap, with a reply telling Algerians to look at Egypt's role in their own country's history, starting with the Algerian national anthem composed by Egyptian musician Mohamed Fawzi. 

2. Hizballah and Syrian opposition supporters

As fighting intensified near the Syrian city of Yabroud between Hizballah fighters and Syrian opposition forces in 2014, Lebanese musician Ali Barakat composed a song to raise the morale of Hizballah supporters entitled "Make your victory in Yabroud."

Syrian opposition supporters soon responded with their own version, entitled "Dig your grave in Yadroub."

3. Egypt's coup song

Following the July 2013 coup that saw the removal of Egyptian President Morsi, a number of noted Egyptian singers released "Thank you" in tribute to the Sisi-led army which carried out the coup.

The mask soon fell however.

Following the Rabaa massacre in the same year, the same song was released with it's lyrics changed, cursing "disloyal" Egyptian forces for killed civilians and hailing those protestors either killed or injured at their hands.

4. Sister-strife and the perils of tyranny

Reem Nasri, younger sister of famous Syrian singer Asala Nasri, sang a song hailing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Least impressed however was her sister Asala, who soon followed with a melancholic melody including the lyrics "I advise you to look at the tyranny and wake up."

5. Gender wars – because it's the ultimate battle

Not leaving the field open for either politics or sport, lyrical gender wars in Lebanon came to the musical fore when Lebanse singer Mohammed Iskander released a song entitled "The Republic of my Heart."

His lyrics, maybe intended to be romantic but for many infused with misogyny and attacking hard-fought rights to work for women, included phrases like "our girls do not go out to work" and "it is enough you are the president in the republic of my heart."

Singer May Matar soon responded in her "We do not seek men like you," hit which sang in a similar melody.

Matar pronounced quite emphatically "we don't want men from the stone age."