Lifestyle & Belief

Lebanese Singer Uses Music to Document Change in Middle East

More than three years have passed since Egyptians began gathering in Tahrir Square to call for democracy. Yet what became known as “The Arab Spring” has left many wondering what change was truly achieved. One such wonderer is Tania Saleh, a singer and songwriter living in Lebanon.

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Tania uses her music to express the frustration that so many citizens in her region feel. “When I started writing my songs,” Tania says, “I said to myself, if I’m not going to have anything to say, I might as well not say anything.”

Her first recordings largely dealt with issues of identity following The Lebanese Civil War.

“The new generation was coming out of the war and we were wondering where we were headed,” Tania says, “because the war had gone for 15 years and then suddenly they stopped the war and we didn’t understand why it started or how it ended.” Tania has put out two studio albums as well as a live performance album.

Currently, she’s in the studio working on her fourth full- length production, titled “A Few Images.” Amidst a Middle Eastern commercial music industry that encourages superficial content, Tania’s substantive lyrics stand out as unique.

“You see people singing on TV and on the radios, singing about my baby, I love you, and you left me, and how beautiful you are,” she says, “But on the street and in the real life, you see them killing each other and making wars and trouble. It does not make sense to me.”

Tania sees these contradictions throughout Middle Eastern society, especially in the political realm. “For example, now, we want to elect a president and we can’t seem to find anyone that everybody accepts, all the parties accept,”

Tania says. “We are in 2014, we are very emancipated, and we are open to the world. We speak three languages. We are connected. How can we accept this fact in this time? It’s just crazy.”

Faced with this craziness, Tania worked through her frustration the only way she knew how, she started making music. “It started online, and the audience grew on the Internet. When it became strong enough, people on TV started to want to talk to me and to introduce my songs to the general audience.”

With this growing audience, Tania found herself facing an opportunity to represent her people to a global audience. “What other than art can you look for to know about this society?” she asks. “To me it’s very evident that music should be one of those facets of ours that should portray who we are as a people.” With her audience growing, Tania remains undecided about whether her music is making a difference. “I don’t know,” she says, “It’s not my job to change, but it’s my duty. It’s always going to be my duty to open my eyes and everybody else’s eyes to things that happen in our society that don’t seem right.”

Politics aside, Tania hopes her music will show the world a different side of the Middle East than they are used to seeing. “We just want peace, we just want to go to work and we just want to raise our children,” she says. “We have lovely children, we love them, we have love, we have feelings that are human. We’re not here to fight or to express ourselves in blood.”