Politics and music in the 20th and 21st centuries in Lebanon
A public research seminar took place on the 15th of June 2022 in the main hall of Orient Institute Beirut and focused on music and politics. Rosy Beyhom, a visiting post-doctoral fellow had earned her PhD in Musicology from the WWU in Münster in December 2021.
One paragraph of the promotion of the event from the announcing poster states:
“[…] In Lebanon, the popular musical taste is influenced by the media, the politics and the marketing. Strangely, some songs are perceived as religious or “liturgical” more than others but are people really listening? On the example of widespread songs from renown Lebanese singers, I will show the influence of politics, times and media on the perception of the public; hence a normal song by a good singer can become a hymn motivating the fight against the occupying enemy while another familiar song from a musical play can become a symbol of survival after the explosion of the 4th of August 2020. “
She proposed in her talk that three major political events have shaped the generation born in the eighties in Lebanon, of which she belongs. The first event in her opinion was the liberation of the South of Lebanon in the year 2000, which was accompanied by lots of victory music and celebration. One notorious song was even used in 2022 on billboards to remind citizens of Beirut of the political strength of a specific party.
The second major event was the assassination of Rafic al-Hariri also in the year 2000. Away from politics and focusing only in this case on the inspirational person of the late prime minister, Rosy Beyhom suggested a link between the jingles that used to be aired on Future TV and the positive vibe Rafic al-Hariri wanted to disseminate. After he passed away, these jingles were not aired anymore and a new atmosphere was established and held during the international court created to investigate his murder. The third major event occurred in 2020, it was the explosion of the 4th of August at the Beirut port. Lots of emotions were circulating afterwards especially that truth has not been uncovered and investigations are manipulated. One example of music that accompanied the remembrance of that event goes back to the sixties, from a play where Feyrouz is a main character.
In addition to three political major events, Rosy Beyhom discussed the relation between sports teams, their anthems, their victory songs and the links that can be unseen with political parties’ songs. She suggested that when based on the same musical scale, it is possible to elaborate direct connections between sports and political parties. In this way, politics, music and sports become an entity and are in a constant associative relation. Other aspects were discussed as well. The whole demonstration of thirty minutes was based on videos and songs, music and lyrics in a power point presentation. The seminar was followed by an interesting debate with the attendees.
Directly after that, a concert of mainly traditional Arabian music was given. Rosy Beyhom was guiding the public into the instrumental forms that were being played, the songs, the scales used. The musical ensemble comprised percussion (riqq and tabla), a qanun, a nay, a violin while Rosy Beyhom was on the electronic keyboard playing the base and singing from time to time. A traditional reception on the terrace garden ended this much enjoyable event.