Originally a jazz fusion band from Syria, the three members of Tanjaret Daghet (or Pressure Cooker, in English) left the country in 2011 in order to escape mandatory military service. Their timing was impeccable – around the same time they left, the Syrian army began shooting at peaceful protesters. Now based in Beirut, Tanjaret Daghet tour all over the Middle East and Europe, giving voice to the frustrations of young Syrians, both inside and outside the country. The band believes that by making music, they are able to “transcend worldly struggles and tragedy, and in turn, uplift the spirit.”
Like much of the art being produced against the backdrop of the Syrian conflict, Tanjaret Daghet’s music is both intensely political and deliberately apolitical. The contradiction is simply resolved by the fact that it is impossible to make art independent of the events of the Syrian crisis, even if your art does not directly reference the conflict. The single off their latest album, “180 Degrees” released in 2013, is called “Ta7t El Daghet”, or “Under Pressure”. The song is not simply about the environment of constant pressure of Syrian towns constantly shelled, but more broadly about the social pressures present throughout the region for a generation mired in economic, social, and political uncertainty.
The belief in self-expression that underlines their music is reflected in their #UnderPressure campaign. Reinforcing the belief that self-expression alleviates pressure, people posed with posters naming things that ranged from being forced to listen to Rihanna every day to being careful of traditions to the question: are you hearing us?? Under each question, demand, or plaintive statement is the tagline: “If you are under pressure, take action, express yourself.”
The campaign encourages the kind of personal expression and public discussion of social issues unheard of under the Assad dynasty. Talking about drug laws, stateless refugees, economic hardships, sexual orientation, and other social issues was taboo in both Assads’ Syria. The walls had ears. But the taste of liberty in the air at the beginning of the conflict brought with it a wave of free discussion. When the streets in Homs and Hama were flooded with people chanting for the fall of the regime, demanding their civil liberties, defying curfews and meeting armed resistance with peaceful determination, people felt sure enough of the impending fall of the regime to discuss the failures of the state. Now, in the face of one of the most violent and devastating conflicts, Tanjaret Daghet are continuing the tradition of free discussion.
Check out their latest music video, Under Pressure, and their Facebook page for more photos.