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- Published on Monday, 08 August 2011 12:39
- Category: Artist Profile
Somewhere amidst the devastation that lies between Tripoli and Benghazi resides Ibn Thabit — an anonymous hip hop artist whose anti-government songs have served as the unofficial soundtrack for the Libyan experience of the Arab Spring. Tracks such as “Tripoli is Calling” and “Dirty Colonel” not only threaten the Ghadaffi regime, they mark the evolution of a digital underground music scene in a country once unjustly represented by the world’s most boring flag.
Self-described as “an ordinary Libyan speaking the thoughts of many Libyan youth,” little is known about Ibn Thabit besides these census-like statistics: young, male, Libyan. He has been producing anti-Ghaddafi songs since 2008 despite not being affiliated with any political groups, according to his website. In superhero fashion, Ibn Thabit keeps his identity private in order to protect himself and his family from government reprisal. This anonymity produces a unique effect in his music: by not being claimed by a single individual, his voice can thus be shared by disenfranchised Libyans looking for a nonviolent way to express their political will, a dynamic as universalizing as it is empowering.
From Nasser’s radio addresses to Khomeini’s cassette tapes, Middle Eastern political movements have long used the technology-du-jour to reach the masses, often at low economic costs. Likewise, Ibn Thabit offers plenty of songs and mash-ups free on his website for download, thus exporting his potent lyrics outside Libya’s borders, to neighboring countries and across the globe. He has set up a PayPal link for donations to support his website and cover producing costs.
It would be an understatement to say that the Arab Spring has left Libya’s future uncertain. The mass revolts and subsequent civil war have seemingly transformed the country into an opaque political landscape where peaceful voices are often muted by gunfire. For those voices, Ibn Thabit offers some clarity.