Video: A Song for Syria, by Jean Rohe, coming to The Minstrel Jan. 24

While diplomats in Geneva try to stop the bloodshed in Syria, this song is a reminder that folk music is fearless–and that the response can be fearsome.

Jean Rohe at the Folk Project Fall Festival in 2013. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Jean Rohe at the Folk Project Fall Festival in 2013. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Nobody Told Me to Dance is based on a street song that is believed to have cost a Syrian protester his vocal cords, and his life.

Jean Rohe wrote Nobody Told Me to Dance and performed it with her band at the Folk Project Fall Festival in October 2013. You can hear Jean at 8 o’clock tonight, Jan. 24, 2014, at The Minstrel in Morris Township.

The Paterson native has a fearless streak, too, which she displayed in her controversial 2006 New School graduation speech, taking on guest speaker John McCain.  

Jean landed at the New School after a year at Smith College after…dropping out of high school. Growing up in Nutley, she sang at folk venues–including The Minstrel–in a band with her parents and kid brother.

Here is how she describes Nobody Told Me to Dance:

“This song was inspired by the words of a Syrian protester who was asked by a reporter why he and his fellow demonstrators were dancing in the street.  ‘Nobody told me to dance,’ he said, ‘it just started.’

“It also references a popular street song in Syrian cities last year, Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar (Come on, Bashar, Leave) which was attributed by some to a young man named Rahmani and is associated with Ibrahim Qashush, a cement layer who sang the song at protests and literally gave his voice for the revolution when he was found last summer [2011] in a river with his throat slit and vocal cords removed.

“I dedicate this song to him and all the other brave Syrian demonstrators who face brutality with wit, creativity, and indefatigable spirit.”

Nobody Told Me To Dance:

They told me what to think, they told me what to do

They told me who to scorn and who to bow down to

They told me who was righteous and who could never win

They told me my defiance was tantamount to sin

And they told me what to say and what to keep inside

They told me to be obedient; there was nothing I could hide

They told me they were everything, everything I’d ever need

And they told me what I’d find in store if I ever disagreed, but

Nobody told me to dance (it just started)

Open up the door into the streets (and the clouds parted)

Feel the breath of freedom move our hands and feet (open hearted)

Nobody told me to dance, it just started.

Rahmani wrote the music, Ibrahim sang the song

‘Till they found him in the river with his vocal cords gone

But the fire was lit already in the hearts of everyone

And so we’ll keep on singing ’till our victory comes:

Yalla erhal ya Bashar, yalla erhal ya Bashar

Yalla erhal ya Bashar, yalla 

Yalla erhal ya Bashar, yalla erhal ya Bashar

Yalla erhal ya Bashar, yalla 

Nobody told me to sing (it just started)

Open up the door into the streets (and the clouds parted)

Feel the breath of freedom move our hands and feet (open hearted)

Nobody told me to sing, it just started.

Now we tell them what we want from every window, every door

Their lies and their barbarities aren’t secrets anymore

We write it and we stream it, show it in our videos

We paint it and we play it until the whole world knows

And they wonder how we do it, how we brave their guns and tanks

With our ragtag band of singers dancing dabka in our ranks

Well, if I meet a reporter from the Times or BBC

I’ll look ‘em in the eye and I’ll explain so he can see that

Nobody told me to sing (it just started)

Open up the door into the streets (and the clouds parted)

Feel the breath of freedom move our hands and feet (open hearted)

Nobody told me to sing, it just started.

 



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