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Monday 25 May 2015

Another voice of Freedom

By Brian Slocock

“When you look at the history of the Arab world, it is made of authoritarian powers, but also of resistance.”

The internationally-renowned Algerian singer Souad Massi has recently released an album, El Mutakallimun (Masters of the Word) which celebrates the historic tradition of enlightenment and tolerance in Arabic culture. It includes a song dedicated to the spirit of Freedom—el-Houriya—which you can see her performing live here.

The lyrics of this song are taken from a poem by the famous Iraqi satirist Ahmed Matar.

“As long as life was given me I would roam the world over to find out what freedom is.”

Our teacher spoke to us

About something

They call freedom

I asked him gently

To talk to us in Arabic

Has it got to do with some Greek idea
From some time long ago?

Or with that stuff they import?

Or maybe it was manufactured here?

And the teacher answered us
Sadly with tears in his eyes

They’ve even made you forget
Your history and your values

It’s heartbreaking to see the youth

Who understand nothing about freedom

Who have neither sword nor pen

Or any idea of identity

Chorus: The tyrant would never raise his head as long as the people were fighting back

Then our teacher gave up his soul

In the loneliness of his jail

So I made up my mind that
As long as life was given me

I would roam the world over

To find out what freedom is

I Stood up and faced history
What then is freedom?

Freedom cannot be acquired

In stock exchanges or financial markets

Nor can any humanitarian body

Offer you freedom

Freedom is a plant

That waters a blood pure and free

That raises boys and girls on high

And whoever else is in love with freedom

Voice of demonstrators: The people want freedom!

Souad is a passionate supporter of the Arab Spring as she expresses in this interview on her work.

Ahmed Matar’s poem has also been used by the great Syrian singer and musician Safwat Sabri—see the clip below. And here Safwat Sabri celebrates the Jaish al-Houriya—the Free Syrian Army.

Thanks to Andy Morgan for his translation of Ahmed Matar’s poem. Visit www.andymorganwrites.com to read his journalism, focused on the music, politics, and society of West Africa and the Sahara.

Souad Massi will be playing at the Barbican, London, on Sunday, and again at the Womad festival in July.