Culture, a soft power in times of war

The seemingly eternal breaking news mantra: « many people were killed in Damascus due to the ongoing bloody civil war raging there », « many people were killed in a deadly explosion in Baghdad », or, »many people were killed in Jerusalem as part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ». How does that sound familiar?

People from that part of the world have grown accustomed to such horrific daily news. They have become numb to the death and destruction that surrounds them and affects every aspect of their daily lives. The rest of the world has also become accustomed to such news to the point that this seemingly eternal picture of death and destruction has come to define Arabs and Muslims in the mind of the rest of the world, and to define countries whose name is enshrined in history with civilizations dating back thousands of years.

It is as if what is happening in that part of the world is a dream that people have to wake up from every once in a while; by reminding themselves that things did not use to be like that; that what is happening is an aberration and not the norm; that they once had a strong and vibrant culture whose bearers were the likes of Fairuz and Um Kulthoum among others in the various aspects of the arts; that they once were accepting of each other no matter their religious or ethnic differences. I imagine though, that these reminders are few and far in between due to the severity of the circumstances.

This video, performed by Faia and RihanYounan, represents one of those moments where people can wake up from their collective bad dream to remind themselves of what they were and what they could become in the future. This video reminds people of traces of this bad dream that is their reality, only to come back and console them by singing songs from their not too distant past; songs that are deeply engraved in their being and in their psyche. This video transforms the listener from a person numb to his/her surroundings to a person buzzing with goose bumps from the sheer effect of these songs. This video, through music, not only rejuvenates and reinvigorates its Arab audience, but it can also have an effect on the global scale. It shows that there is more to this region than what is shown on TV, and that this region and its people have a rich and deep-rooted culture. This video is not merely a reminder of the glorious past of Arab culture, but it also serves as a message for peace to the rest of the world and it encourages dialogue and cross-cultural understanding.

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