The music of the Arab Spring in a documentary

Farid Eslam captured the music of the Arab uprisings in a film where the lives, dreams and hopes of Middle Eastern underground artists meet.

They come from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. They play hip hop, rockelectronic and folk music. They’re far away from each other, yet they’re united during the so-called Arab Spring, and they are also well aware of the political message they can convey through music. Alternative artists of the Arab world met German director of Afghan origin Farid Eslam between 2009 and 2013 to talk with him about their job, concerns and hopes in a period of tumultuousness and instability in the Middle Eastern country.

These are the stories included in Yallah! Underground, a documentary that portrays a new generation of Arabs, an underground cultural movement that is progressive and liberal. The film is a five-year journey from Beirut to El Cairo, from Amman to Ramallah, through oppression, revolution and more.


The many uncertainties and dreams that surrounded them in the aftermath of the uprisings pushed them to be even more motivated. Kazamada, Lumi, Maii Waleed, Arabian Knightz, Hiba Mansouri, Asfalt and others use art to cry for freedom. They have fought to be able to express themselves freely and now they’re beset with disillusion and hope for a better future.


free palestine
Image of Yallah! Underground


“My main intention was to show a western audience a different image of contemporary young Arab culture. A lot of people just don’t know the difference between a Muslim and an Islamist”, Farid Eslam said. “As a second-generation immigrant kid in Germany – he told the National in an interview – it was shocking that even my perception was biased: it was what most westerners think of the region, an image very related to violence, aggression and fanaticism”.

During his journey, Eslam meets personalities such as Lebanese musician Zeid Hamdan, imprisoned in 2011 after that his song General Suleiman was considered libelous by the then president Michel Suleiman. Or Jordan-based Palestinian rapper Ostaz Samm, who in a clip was shown dividing the opinions of the judges on Arabs Got Talent.


Culled from 800 hours of footage and interviews to more than seventy musicians (more than a dozen of them appear in the film), Yallah! Underground has already been projected in over twenty intenational festivals.

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