Sunday, May 29, 2011



We just printed a bunch of new merch the other day, here are some photos of it--in case you haven't seen them on our Tumblr, Facebook, etc.. If you want any merch, please get in contact with us at Shirts are 12 dollars (postage paid) and patches are $1, but if you want a bunch of stuff, we'll work out a special package price. We'll also be putting these up in the store section of this site, when we get some better photos, and put some stuff up on Youtube of us printing it all....


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Al-Thawra live bootleg w/ our new singer, Sahar

We just randomly found a torrent online somewhere of our last show at the Empty Bottle. The entire set was bootlegged, complete with photos. Naturally, we found this to be pretty awesome, and we thought since new material got recorded for the first time, it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce a new song and our new/old singer, Sahar.

Sahar was one of the earliest Al-Thawra members, way back in 2007, when she was still a wee teenager. It's good to have her back, and she'll definitely add some new texture to new recordings.

The song is called, "Psalm of the Sniper." Hopefully, we'll be committing this plus another few new tracks to some kind of recorded format within the next few months.  Anyway, the content of this song hits close to my heart, both in a personal and political way. As blood is spilling on the streets of Daraa and Homs, people are forced to quell the voices of their neighbors. I shouldn't say too much now, but when this song is officially released, be prepared for some tear-jerking poetry.

If you want the full bootleg, feel free to e-mail us for the link. Without further ado, here are some more photos from the bootleg and the new track....



Al-Thawra -- "Edifice" review from Maximum Rocknroll #335


Maximum Rocknroll did a review of our latest album, "Edifice," released on Subaltern Records in Europe and Najdiyya and Shaman Records in the US. There's some praise, some criticism, but overall, it's one of the most thorough reviews of our music for what it is. Enjoy and keep in touch!


This is experimental crust punk, people. And I mean experimental. There are eleven extremely atmospheric songs here that take you into a place where heavy-as-shit crust and the Middle East meet. I really appreciate this and I think anyone that is a fan of bands like NEUROSIS pushing the boundaries of this genre would be interested. AL-THAWRA could share a stage with NEUROSIS, FALL OF EFRAFA or even GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR and noise outfit MUSLIMGAUZE. The sampling and sound quality give these songs almost an industrial edge, and there is a lot of Middle Eastern percussion and note progressions. Some songs are better than others and luckily the woman that used to sing for them, Sahar, will be on the next recording, which will break up some of the droning tones. This band has been around for some time with Marwan Kamel, of Syrian decent, at the helm. Their bass player, Mario Salazar, is Mexican. I mention this because this is a band where personal experience and ethnicity play a large part in the writing of music and lyrics, and it shows... Personally, it makes me very happy to se that this project is being realized. This isn't for everyone. There are definitely some new rock and industrial moments that I can't really align with and sometimes the production is a little too slick. Overall, I would suggest not to discount this album because there are some amazing moments and these guys definitely have a sound--a direction and a grasp on a type of music that here in the West is still somewhat of a mystery, if not, embarrassingly, a novelty. Lyrics are in Spanish, English, and Arabic (one being a translated poem originally in Persian). Well done, guys. Very interesting.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Visceral Revolutions: Egypt, Tunisia, the Middle East and sustainable change

"They hate our freedom"

Those were the exact words used by George W. Bush to describe the motivations behind the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. The world was divided into "us" and "them," Democracy vs. totalitarianism, peace-lovers and terrorists. The implications were clear: we live in a bipolar world of two civilizations, at war with each other, with no moral, social, or political common ground. Bush's use of this dichotomy may have seemed novel for the American public at the time, who have been beating us over the head with it ever since, but it was only the latest high-profile example of a long-standing tradition in the imperial culture of the West of creating an "other." It is the same dichotomy that Edward Said so famously derides in his seminal work, "Orientalism." The truth is, that there is only one "we," and all people--Arabs included--are part of it, and we all very much have the same motivations. If the wave of uprisings spreading across the Middle East are any indication, Arab democracy is doing better than American democracy. And honestly, they're proof--once again--that democracy is more complicated than stuffing a sheet of paper into a box every-other year.

We can all be victims of this culture of moral superiority. Being born in the West, and being constantly bombarded by this propaganda during my more formative years, it's hard to not to propagate it. Even as I write this, I find it pretty fucking lame that I feel compelled to connect everything going on in the Middle East back to September 11th in order to make it somehow more relevant to a Western audience--as if Arab uprisings aren't important enough on their own.

But the reality is, goings-on in the Middle East are inevitably interconnect with West because of the policies created in the aftermath of that moment, but also the decades of colonialism that preceded it. In the post-9-11 world, a raft of scholarship in the West has been dedicated to finding out about the sentiment on the Arab street. As the US-UK Iraq invasion of 2003 proves, Western intervention is far from being a thing of the past, and didn't end in the era of independence. The constant meddling in the politics of the region has left Arabs feeling dis-empowered, disenfranchised, and, generally, not capable of true self-determination. Even in these very uprisings, the steel, tear gas canisters shot at the protesters in Cairo read, "Made in the USA" on their sides.

How could Arabs feel confident in the West's export of "democracy" if all of the police states constantly breathing down their shoulders were Western-backed?

The West keeps shaking thing up. And like a well-shaken can of soda, the years of pent up frustrations are explosive. Opening the can is what the uprisings are accomplishing, but the rebellions remain largely directionless. Once the angry, immediate reaction is finished, the soda settles and essentially remains the same--except flat and lacking its inertia. Similarly, the revolts in the Middle East run a very real risk of burning themselves out in the long run. What they lack in ideology they make up for in anger, but is this visceral reaction sustainable?

Again, we find ourselves dealing with issues of distrust.

During the Cold War, Communism always proved to be a popular antithesis to US-backed states in the Middle East, because it was a very real alternative. In the Arab world, Communists were continually jailed, their parties outlawed, yet their ideology absorbed by the ruling regimes of the region. The wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, however, created a power vacuum for resistance movements. In a very pragmatic way, Muslim Fundamentalists recognized an opportunity to fill this space, and started filling their ranks with the hungry and disenfranchised in the street. To many, this was a satisfying alternative to both Western capitalism and atheist Communism. Until these rebellions, right-wing Islam, especially the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has been the only real alternative to the dictatorships like that of Mubarak. Of course, the majority of people still felt out-of-place and out-of-touch with both of these movements, and were left with nothing but to feel angry, yet powerless.

Unlike Tunisia, Egypt's pro-democracy movement has a figurehead in former UN International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, Muhammad ElBaradei. But this is no pining for leadership, instead, it's a lack of cohesive ideology that threatens to pose a problem. In the end, it may be the very reason that the movements may be co-opted.

Perhaps the most classic examples of altering political systems in one's favor, comes to us from Latin America. Where, throughout the 20th century, thanks to the Monroe Doctrine, the US intervened in both full-out invasions and covert operations no less than 22 times to overthrow democratically-elected governments, put down revolutions, and break strikes. The most famous of these cases is the September 11th, 1973 CIA-backed coup d'etat in Chile against democratically-elected, Socialist president, Salvador Allende--and then replacing him with Pinochet. Across all of these cases, a dominant pattern emerges. The United States supports people's movements and democracy--to an extent. When too many anti-American or anti-capitalists get elected, the army steps in to maintain order and protect US interests. Of course, this has taken place in other parts of the world, like the UK-backed overthrow of Mossadegh and subsequent installment of the Shah in Iran. And since the last decade of the 20th century, the US has very overtly, increasingly shifted its interest to the Middle East.

Like parts of Latin America, the Middle East is a popular tourist destination for Westerners. In fact, Tunisia and Sharm el-Shaykh in Egypt are like Europe's versions of Cancun and Acapulco for Americans. Because of this, Western governments will no doubt find instability in these places to be problematic. After all, since they considerable amount of money to prominent politicians, it is likely that rich Europeans will put considerable pressure on their governments to stabilize these areas, so as to not cut in on their party time. US intervention, most likely covert, also poses a threat.

After Obama essentially kowtowed to Mubarak in an address yesterday, the threat is also increasing. Of course, the US also has its own interests at risk. Since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the Republic of Egypt has maintained a friendly relationship with the State of Israel. Even after ascending to power in 1981 after Sadat's assassination, Hosni Mubarak has faced a great deal of opposition on the street due to his continual relationship with Israel. Likewise, because of its close relationship with its special ally in the Middle East, Israel, the United States may see a change in government or a working democracy (you know, the kind where people actually get to say what they want) in Egypt to be a threat to the peace process that it worked so hard to piece together between the two neighboring states. While the government of Egypt may be friendly with Israel, the people of Egypt still feel empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

While the pan-Arabism of Gamal Abdul Nasser's era may be a thing of the past, the protests in the Middle East show that there is still very much a "collective soul" in the Arab World. At the beginning of this century, democratic movements occurred in various countries in the former Eastern Bloc, like Belarus and Ukraine, but the one thing that didn't happen was a wildfire spread of those protests to other neighboring countries. This time around in the Arab World, the opposite is happening. As the government in Tunisia fell, people feeling similar social pressures of high unemployment, high food costs, and high repression in other Arab countries protested in solidarity and spawned imitators of Mohammad Bouazizi's self-immolation at Sidi Bouzid. As the collective soul cried, everyone just stopped being afraid.

So far, there have been uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and we're beginning to see the fomentation of similar things in Yemen and Jordan. It's spread to four countries in just over a month or so. I can very optimistically say that,soon, we may look at a new Middle East. But if the revolutions' effects are to be long-lasting, they need to take precautions to make sure that hard-fought gains are not easily lost. Back in the West, I can only hope that Americans will ever snap out of their trance and stand up for themselves. Perhaps they should listen to our song "Wine of Power" for some sort of small inspiration in recognizing their own power.

One thing is for sure, no one in the Arab world will forget these days of rage. As I watched Al-Jazeera, I saw a cordon of heavily-armed police enveloped and overwhelmed by a sea of protesters. People defended their voice in the street, mostly peacefully, but also with rocks and bottles when they were threatened. The protesters recognized that those who control them are in the minority. Police officers abandoned their posts and joined the crowd. I've never seen anything like it. It was truly an awe-inspiring sight that reminded me that true people-power does exist. ...All it takes is courage.


Friday, January 28, 2011

The movement without music

Originally published at PalestineNote.Com

December 2009

A few days ago, I posted one of Al-Thawra’s songs, “Gaza: Choking on the Smoke of Dreams,” on the Internet for free download. We wrote the song the day after the Israeli bombing started on December 27th, 2008, and we intended it as a commentary on the sheer human tragedy of the siege. In fact, the lyrics to the song never attack Israel by name, but rather highlight the destruction and desperation on the ground:

“Raining from the sky, like summer ‘45. White flag in the air, drowning in despair.”

Though we wrote the song over a year ago, we didn’t make this song public on the Internet until the one-year anniversary, because we were saving it for our upcoming album. Since our group’s roots lie in the punk scene, raising political awareness is more important to us than an arbitrary release date or a perfect mix, so we leaked the song.

The next morning, my inbox was filled with hate mail. One message simply said, “Burn Gaza to the ground.”

Had the writer said the same thing about a Western locale, the outrage would’ve echoed across the Internet and even those shitty Conservative talk shows that clog up the AM airwaves during lunchtime. So, for the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what sets the Palestinian situation above the realm of mainstream political activism, especially in the world of music.

While it may seem trivial, music does have a profound role in creating social change. Before recorded music, and even in the early days of the “record industry,” music served a very practical purpose. In folk music around the world, music was used both as propaganda and an archaic form of a newswire. In some cases, such as the Black Spirituals from the American South during the slavery period, it helped to uplift and even give maps to freedom. In the Middle East, Sufi Mystic, Mawlana Jalal Ad-Din Rumi emphasized song’s ability to penetrate into the secrets of the heart-beyond the reach of the written word.

Music takes social issues out of the realm of the ivory tower and the newsroom and makes it easier to relate to. Even legendary, early twentieth century, union organizer and songwriter Joe Hill noted its importance when he said, “A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once. But a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over.” But contemporary pop music has shifted the paradigm away from quotidian relevancy.

Pop music is lyrically centered around neutral topics that ultimately ensure its profitability. For example, this weeks top three songs according to Billboard are: Ke$ha, “TiK ToK;” Iyaz, “Replay;” and Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance.” These songs speak about partying, meeting a girl, and love respectively. The juxtaposition of these consumer-oriented songs with the larger state of the world illustrates pop music’s break with not only music’s traditional role, but also a disconnect from reality.

Despite this, there has also been a great deal of musical activism over the years, even by mainstream musicians. There is little doubt that the Antiwar Movement of the 1960’s would’ve gained such a foothold in the American public’s consciousness, had it not been for musicians like Bob Dylan constantly singing in protest. And in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in the UK, peace punk bands like Crass, almost single-handedly supplied the troops to replenish the protests of a dying Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. And of course, the legendary super-group Band Aid played a large role in raising awareness and funds for famine-stricken East Africa.

But, even more than 60 years after the Nakba in 1948, very few musicians are willing to speak out against the Palestinians’ plight through music. Yet, the same images of suicide bombers and Israeli airstrikes loop on nightly newscasts, as yet more casualties are tallied. In fact, instead of sympathy, this constant plastering of images has had the opposite effect. Inadvertently, the images of this conflict have become subliminally ingrained in American pop culture in a sour way.

Maybe Americans are tired of hearing about the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean that the humanitarian crisis has ended by any means. And, of course, this does not justify the fact that Anti-Arabism and Islamophobia have become essentially become the last forms of socially acceptable racism either.

Many entertainers frequently say things about Arabs and Muslims that could never be said of any other group without repercussion. Radio shock-jock, Don Imus’s infamous quip about an American soldier shooting a “raghead cadaver,” is just one prominent example. And in the political arena, the United States and Israel famously boycotted the UN convention against racism because of the international community’s condemnation of Israel’s systematic segregation, racial profiling, discrimination, and displacement of the Palestinians. Had the US pulled the same thing in the 1980’s in defense of its trading partner South Africa, then an apartheid state, would the international music community stayed as quiet?

The Palestinian movement does not have its own Bono. There are no mainstream figureheads for this movement.

But there are some American musicians speaking out against the Gaza siege. Last year, thousands of people took the streets to protest in solidarity with the people of Gaza and against the Israeli atrocities, and musicians not only performed, but released songs in support. Bay Area hip-hop artist, Excentrik (formerly of N.O.M.A.D.S.) released “Gaza Gaza.” Also, hip-hop act, Narcicyst, & singer, Shadia Mansour, collaborated on “Hamdulilah Gaza.” Even singer-songwriter, Michael Heart, released, “We Will Not Go Down.” This somewhat underground, parallel music scene oversteps the boundaries of genre and forgoes foreseeable profits in favor of making socially meaningful content. It finds its unity in issues, not record sales.

Unfortunately, its message is “ghettoized.” As the old adage goes, those who speak about these topics usually are “singing to the choir.” In other words, the message doesn’t go anywhere past people who would otherwise already be aware of the issues. But this is not the goal of music.

Bands like these, including us, are fighting to get our voices heard by the general public, but we are stifled by hierarchy of the music industry. Instead of airplay, we rely on word of mouth. But ultimately, change starts with one heart at a time.