A new song by Syrian rapper in exile, Abu Hajar, from the upcoming film THE STORY, WON’T DIE directed by student Academy Award winner David Henry Gerson.
Abu Hajar was tortured and imprisoned by Assad for his lyrics. After escaping jail a second time, he fled to get a Masters in economics in Rome and a Ph.D. in Berlin, where the rapper and activist currently resides.
His music had traditionally spoken of the collective struggle against Assad, but now, living in exile in Berlin, the collective identity has dissipated and his music has shifted inwards.
“I have spent my life so far dedicating my time to collective causes. I was always part of a struggle and a movement. I am a legit child of failing struggles across the histories,” says Abu Hajar in a statement. “This was my first attempt to write a text, which instead of absorbing the outside in, vomits the inside out – an attempt to stay sane by saying.”
The new music video will be released on 20/03 at 20:00 Berlin timing The documentary film and the music video is produced by Odessa Rae and Co-Produced by Abdalaziz Alhamza, the subject of Matthew Heinemann’s “City of Ghosts,” and founder of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.
Previous press for Abu Hajar:
Abu Hajar was imprisoned and maltreated from March to May 2012. “It was so tough for me,” he says. “I didn’t want to leave Syria, but I didn’t want to die in prison. If I’d gone back to prison I’d have died there, I know.” Security men returned to his door in July. This time, he didn’t wait to be detained but jumped over the garden wall, fleeing from safehouse to safehouse and finally over the border.”
“When the cops showed up at my door to arrest me over a song I had written I knew this wouldn’t end well,” he says. “I jumped the fence in the backyard and managed to lose them.”… Two years later, when it was obvious there was no end in sight, I left Italy and sought asylum in Berlin.” Once there, he decided to keep making music – just not about the refugee crisis. “I did not want to be reduced to an object of pity. I didn’t care for people asking me if I am happy in Germany. How the hell do you want me to be happy when my people back home are being massacred?”
“The place where we play – I don’t care. But the label ‘Refugees’… That disgusts me. I know, that’s not what I mean, people organize projects for refugees because they want to do something good. The problem is the attitude: We are not seen as part of the Berlin music scene, but as something special – and not in an artistic sense, but rather like zoo animals.”
He writes a message – like an announcement to himself: “As long as there is only one person in Syria holding up the flag of the revolution, it is my duty to carry this voice on.”
“Music is my salvation”: How Abu Hajar escaped Syria to make the year’s most prescient rap music
On the morning of 14th of March 2012, Hajar and two other friends – one of whom played in his band Mazzaj – were stopped by armed men and accused of “illegal unauthorized political activism”.
“They said it would take five minutes to ask some questions,” Hajar remembers. “That lasted for almost two months.” He describes how there was a fifty-fifty chance of leaving prison alive, how torture was a distinct reality and how he lived surrounded by death and trauma. “People around me were collapsing and fainting seeing faces that were covered in blood,” he says. “I’m still getting nightmares about being there.”
Behind bars, it was music that kept him sane. “Music is my salvation,” he says unequivocally. “My first night in jail could have been way worse if I had not spent it writing lyrics of my song (‘We Fed Up’).”