Israeli song becomes Syrian opposition’s soundtrack

Three songs on Israeli singer Amir Benayoun’s new Arabic-language album written at Syrian dissidents’ request.

By OREN KESSLER
May 25, 2011 18:58
2 minute read.
Amir Benayoun

Amir Benayoun 311. (photo credit: courtesy)

 
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Bashar Assad has blamed his country’s turmoil on Israel, but it’s doubtful the Syrian autocrat had this in mind.

At the request of Syrian opposition leaders, Israeli singer Amir Benayoun has recorded three songs in Arabic and dedicated them to activists in the Syrian uprising.

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One of the songs, “Zini,” has already become a YouTube hit and serves as the soundtrack on a number of Syrian opposition leaders’ Facebook pages.

The three tracks are part of an album – also called Zini – released earlier this month on Benayoun’s label, Nevel Asor. The album’s songs, all in Arabic, are adaptations of the Book of Ecclesiastes translated with the help of Benayoun’s Algerian-born father, Maxim.

In February, “Zenga Zenga,” a pop mash-up by Israeli DJ Noy Alooshe, became an Internet sensation and the unofficial anthem of the revolt against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. That success inspired Syrian opposition leaders to ask Ayoub Kara, deputy minister for development of the Negev and Galilee, whether he could convince Benayoun to record a similar track for their own protest movement.



Kara said Benayoun is wellknown in Syria, and that he had previously received requests from Syrian opposition figures to translate the singer’s songs into Arabic.



Benayoun added the three tracks to his album, and Kara distributed the CD to the leaders of 15 Syrian opposition groups at a meeting earlier this month in Turkey.

Since then the song “Zini” has become something of an anti-government rallying cry. One YouTube clip of the song uploaded by “akhbaralarab,” a user in the United Arab Emirates, has logged over 1,500 views. Other clips use the track as background music to overlay scenes of Assad’s violent crackdown on protesters.

Benayoun said the album is aimed at young Arabs in Israel and across the region.

“What would most move me is that you see someone who is not from your religion or people coming and asking for help, and them beginning to see that their leaders don’t really love them but are oppressing them,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“B’ezrat Hashem [with God’s help], they’ll understand what Israel is and what we’re about.”

The singer, 35, first hit the Israeli charts in 1999 with the album Only You, a selection of Mizrahi, or Middle Easternstyle, ballads. In subsequent years he became more religiously observant and closely affiliated with the Chabad movement.

Today he’s identified with the right wing of the religious Zionist camp, and last year released the song “I’m Your Brother,” a musical assault on left-wing Israelis whom he accused of compromising national security.

Last month he recorded the single “I Shook” with members of the children’s choir of Itamar. The song is in remembrance of the five members of the Fogel family murdered by terrorists in their home in the West Bank settlement in March.

Benayoun will make his live-performance debut of “Zini” on Tuesday night in Caesarea.

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