Hip Hop & Rap From Syria: LaTLaTeh
Syria has a notorious underground hip hop world that so few know of. I am truly amazed by the hidden talents we have in our country, and saddened by the little recognition they get as rising artists who literally put their lives on the line to speak up. Many artists raise their voices against injustice, whether through music, design, or so on, but heard no echos in support. The Syrian revolution brought forward the hidden artistic collective in our society, one we must support, for they speak for those dwelling in silence. Even prior to the revolution, as I understood, Syria’s underground artists sang of culture till politics was forced upon them and they had to speak up, like others, but with music.
Shortly six months ago, three young music advocates and solo artists joined talents to form LaTlaTeh; a Syrian hip hop band. The band is quite new, but its tracks are promising. I will first display a sample of their music and then the interview, so you can enjoy their music as you read this post.
Thusfar, the band has four songs displayed. They write and produce their own music, and that’s a lot to show for by itself. Their lyrics come with context; they tell a story we don’t necessarily hear everyday. Their beats are catchy and voices are clear and understood. You may begin with swaying to the beat, but you will, as I, sigh at the end of the song because it reflects a reality ignored by mainstream media. They do not speak of news as statistics or whatnot, no; they speak of how they, as citizens, are living in Syria are thinking and feeling.
“Boom Boom Bam”
This song is loaded with metaphors and smilies. It is vivid and very strong. The theme is explosive, quite literally. A car bomb exploded in one of Damascus’s streets. Two young men begin to speak of their after-death experience as their souls roam the street after the explosion. It begins with a young man laying on the ground, wondering about his surroundings till he realizes he is dead, so he sits and waits till others join the death train. The next verse, sung by Watar, explains how he went out to bring some bread and a pack of cigarettes but never made it back home in one piece.
The chorus begins with “boom boom bam” as a metaphor for the bombings the city is going through, “the nights of Sham, we do not sleep, we do not sleep.” Then Bu Kolthoum begins to describe what he sees as he lays on the ground wondering, “wasn’t our neighbour’s building here yesterday?” He continues:
I lay on the ground wondering,
has anyone seen my Adam’s apple?
On the side of the road lies half of my intestines outside my stomach,
and beside me writes a banner, “beware, martyr.”
I lay on the ground wondering,
The black car thrown behind me, I remember it was blue,
Is there a microwave big enough to fit it?
The narrative remains and I remain with it
I stand on my feet feeling lightness,
I see my remains in front me and as it turns out I left my body,
and here is my neighbor thrown in the middle,
every piece of him is thrown over the hallowed street
My wife lays next to him, she did not follow me yet, she is struggling,
I sat and waited till the remaining of this street’s occupants followed me.
The song ends to the sound of gunshots and explosions, with a third narrator announcing breaking news; the death of the three band members in an “explosion that shook the middle of the capital, may God bless them.”
Their other songs [please let me know if you want me to translate them, as for the Arabic lyrics, you can find them here]:
I got in touch with their producer, Watar, and made a little almost-like interview done. I think it’s best if I just put down the questions and his answers to fully expose their talents, because they deserve the recognition by all means. Watar was more than helpful and answered all my questions with an open heart!
1. How did the band first start?
We started about 6 month ago. We have known each other for a long time, but we didn’t work together till our friendships grew stronger. We thought our music would be really good if we mix what we know together, that’s how we started.
2. Can you give me a little info about each of the three members?
We are three members. I am Watar, 22, I study business administration. I am the producer and both the guitarist and an MC in the band. The second member is Bu Kolthoum, 21, a graphic design student and currently an MC in the band. Then comes Sayyed Darwish, 24, he was a freelance journalist till he began working in the music industry. We are two Damascenes and a Homsi.
3. Why did you call it LaTlaTeh?
We called the band as LaTlaTeh because we like that people all around just want to talk, and all they do is talk not do; a lot of them, that’s what they do, not all of them, but you know what I mean. We are trying to represent all the people though; not just the ones who speak without doing. We are trying to change what the word “latlateh” means to people; it’s like a challenge to us.
4. What are your future plans? Do you only record songs or do you do live events?
We are planning on producing an album soon. We just began working on it. We do live events in Beirut and are trying to do an event in Jordan soon.
5. How did the revolution inspire you to sing? Did you sing before? Do you think you would’ve formed the band if not for the revolution?
We used to work before the revolution. The thing is, though, we were talking about social life, not politics. Now, all of us in Syria live under politics whether we wanted to or not. The band was not made for the revolution itself, but we sing what we see.
6. Regarding your safety, what you’re doing is courageous; why do you do it despite concerns for your safety?
There are protesters, there are armed people, there are journalists, and then there are us on the artistic side; we all risk our lives. You cannot just watch without speaking or talking about what is happening. This is it. I mean, we might not change a thing with a song, but least of it is showing other people what we see and feel.
Their Youtube channel is just forming, but be sure to keep an eye on it for future preferences.
Turns out a recipe for musical success only requires two Damascenes and a Homsi!