Protest songs are likely to have existed as long as the civilizations. As long as there are tyrants, it will feel necessary to grab a nearby instrument and sing about their often parodic hunger for power. It’s about as natural as eating when you’re hungry.
Few carry on this legacy with as much flair and finesse as the Lebanese folk orchestra The Great Departed (in their mother tongue: Al-Rahel Al-Kabir). They make classical Arabic music with a modern touch. But even more important is the content of what they sing: No one who shows signs of hypocrisy – not even the Palestinian resistance movement – are free from their satirical writings.
However, it’s primarily the Islamic State that gets to taste the whip. «O master Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, you who rule by God’s rules, you will lead God’s servants to an abyss like no other,» they sing on «Madad Bhagdadi», a mocking hymn dedicated to the late leader of ISIS.
In essence, The Great Departed’s music isn’t too different from the satirical and topical comics found in newspapers. Perhaps that’s not so strange: Bandleader and songwriter Khaled Soubeih worked as a journalist before joining Beirut’s lush cultural scene and founding the band together with Sandy Chamoun, Naim al-Asmar, Emad Hashishu, Abd Qabisi and Ali al-Hawt. Together they swear by the old jungle saying «laughter drives the tyrant crazy».
Text: Kim Klev