Samih Choukeir is a renowned musician, composer and singer in his native Syria. For the last 30 years, he’s written and recorded politically-committed songs, in favour of freedom of speech and in defence of oppressed peoples all over the world.
One of his songs “Yâ hayf” (Oh shame) has become an anthem of the Syrian revolution.
He wrote it in memory of the victims of the repression in Daraa in March 2011. The song openly criticises President Assad, calling him a traitor to his own people.
“I wrote the song about 10 days after the repression in Daraa. It’s a cry of pain,” he says.
Recorded simply at home with two musicians, social media and notably youtube then did the work of getting it to Syrian ears. But songwriting is a risky business in Syria.
The manual labourer-turned-bard Ibrahim Qashoush, author of the first and most famous Syrian protest song “Yalla Irhal Ya Bashar” (Get out, Bashar!), was subsequently murdered.
Choukheir says any nervousness over writing his own song was nothing compared to what his people are going through.
“Someone had to be a voice for the voiceless,” he says, “and it was me.”
Does he feel safe here in Paris, his home for the last two years?
“Nowhere is safe,” he says with a wry smile. Choukeir says he will keep on singing until President Assad is overthrown, and he is hopeful for the future.
Choukeir is currently working on another anti-Assad song to be recorded in Arabic, French and English, and plans to record it with international musicians.