The Kordz’s Chords and Their Inseparable Cord to Lebanon

Picture of Moe Hamzeh looking out at protestors at Cedar Revolution rally in Beirut, from Mark Levine, Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (n.p.: New York: Three Rivers Press, c2008., 2008), p. 152. University of Alabama Libraries’ Classic Catalog. Web. 2 Nov. 2015

Triggered by the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, which was blamed on Syria, Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution had two goals: the withdrawal of Syrian troops and the establishment of independent Lebanese leadership. On April 27, 2005, all of Syria’s 14,000 troops withdrew from Lebanon (Zimmer), but while the Syrian government did disband, the efforts to establish independent Lebanese leadership led to further discord in the nation. Mottos used in the movement were Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence and Truth, Freedom, National Unity. At the major rally of the revolution which was in Beirut on March 14, 2005, Moe Hamzeh, lead singer for The Kordz, shaved his head to display the word “truth,” one of the mottos of the revolution. The picture of him looking over a balcony at millions of protestors visually represents his music’s embodiment of the ideals of the Cedar Revolution and is one of the iconic images of the protests (Levine 152). Not only is The Kordz’s music an embodiment of the ideals of the Cedar Revolution, but of the longing for freedom that has persisted through the decades of civil war preceding the revolution and the strife that continues to plague Lebanon. Producing music that is both a reflection of and a call to action about the years of turmoil, The Kordz and their music are inseparable from their Lebanese context.

Lebanon is a country racked by political turmoil. In 1975 Lebanon began a civil war and Syria intervened in 1976. While the civil war ended with the Taif accords in 1990, Syria refused to withdraw its troops (Zimmer). Therefore, Lebanon was under Syrian political and economic Helton 2 control from 1976 to 2006. Also, Southern Lebanon was occupied by Israel from 1982 to 2000. After the Cedar Revolution there was a short but destructive war in the summer of 2006 (Levine 140). In addition to wars, Lebanon is divided in its identity. There is a lack of national unity since the country is divided between Arabic and Lebanese and Muslim and Christian identities (Knio). The combination of wars and occupation and lack of national identity leads to a turbulent political climate in Lebanon.

The Kordz, composed of Moe Hamzeh on vocals, Mazen Siblini on keyboards, and Nadim Sioufi on guitars, are from Beirut and are one of the biggest rock groups in Lebanon and the Middle East (Levine 143). Their success is due in large part to their work ethic, but also due to their resonance with the people of the Middle East. In his book Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam, Mark Levine describes his experience performing with The Kordz and watching the crowd react to their performance. He observed “the idea of rock ’n’ roll helping to move a country away from violence and authoritarianism and toward greater tolerance, peace and democracy” (Levine 145). Their music provides an outlet for people who have grown up surrounded by unrest and political instability.

Their Twitter and Facebook page reveal much about their band’s passion. They are not shy about their political context for their Twitter bio reads, “Powerfully Melodic Rock with subtle Middle Eastern musical influences with a political and social subtext” (Twitter). The fact that they are a rock group is essential to their identity. As a genre, rock is a powerful way to express anger as well as a desire for change. They take the rock genre and push it to new limits as they say in their Facebook Bio: “They are constantly pushing to transform the standard rock idioms with the experiences gained by growing-up in the hard and often harsh reality of life in a Helton 3 war zone” (The Kordz Facebook). Their music reflects the harshness of the life they have experienced. Mark Levine reflects on this:

“the violence, anger, and false hopes that have defined life for so many of his generation mean that nothing less than the most distorted guitars, the hardest beats, and the most fiery voices will convey what Moe and so many other Lebanese of his generation have felt in growing up as the children of Lebanon’s long and brutal civil war” (Levine 150).

Their music’s intensity is necessary for The Kordz to express what they have experienced. Hard rock becomes the genre of choice for their outpouring of emotion.

Music has always been lead singer Moe Hamzeh’s way of dealing with Lebanon’s upheaval. When he was a child, Hamzeh says he listened to rock music to drown out the bombs going off near his house as he fell asleep at night: “I’d put on the headphones and listen to one of the great albums and try to sleep at night while the bombs exploded near my parents’ house… And when I’d wake up the next morning I’d put on Bob Marley in order to give me hope as I started a new day” (Levine 146). His love for Bob Marley was not exclusive to his childhood. The Kordz recorded a cover of Marley’s “Redemption Song.” Hamzeh’s emotional connection to the song runs deep and is evident in The Kordz’s rendition. That is not surprising since some of the song’s lyrics are: “Won’t you help to sing/ These songs of freedom/ ‘Cause all I ever have:/ Redemption songs.” These lyrics apply to him for he is a singer, not a political leader. Through his music he gives what he has, his songs of freedom. The Kordz posted their cover to their Facebook page on January 30, 2012 with the comment “these songs of freedom.” The Kordz took Bob Marley’s song, recorded in a different place and time, and through their cover made it their anthem of freedom and a powerful cry to the Lebanese people. They posted it again months later on October 19, 2012 with the comment “This is what we need now… Redemption Song… Helton 4 another song of Freedom…” They use the words of their songs to convey the desperate need for peace and freedom in Lebanon.

The Kordz’ only album is titled Beauty & the East. Looked at through semiotics, the title indexes Beauty and the Beast. By replacing “Beast” with “East,” The Kordz are creating a metaphor about the East being a beast or a monster, referring to the unrest that has long been a component of the Middle East’s identity. However, the title still mentions beauty. The Kordz have hope for the Middle East. In their Facebook Bio they say: “Beauty & the East is the result of the band members’ musical, social, and spiritual life experiences… a clear message for change… the lyrics tackle social problems, politics, change, love and acceptance” (The Kordz Facebook). They are not willing to accept the problems in the Middle East and in Lebanon, but want change through love and acceptance and use their music in Beauty & the East to champion freedom. The Kordz create music that allows the people of Lebanon and the Middle East to express their frustration and fear but also their hope for truth and freedom. Because of their hard work and passion for their music, they have gained popularity that extends beyond the Middle East. However, without understanding their origins, their music does not have the power it is intended to have. The Kordz are the face of freedom in Lebanon and their songs serve as anthems of truth.

Additional Media

Link to The Kordz Myspace, “Beauty and the East”:

The Kordz Facebook:

The Kordz Twitter: Helton 6

Works Cited

Knio, Karim. “Lebanon: Cedar Revolution or Neo-Sectarian Partition?.” Mediterranean Politics 10.2 (2005): 225-231. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

LeVine, Mark. Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam. n.p.: New York: Three Rivers Press, c2008., 2008. University of Alabama Libraries’ Classic Catalog. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

The Kordz (thekordz). Bio. Twitter. 8 Dec. 2015.

The Kordz. “Bob Marley Redemption Song Cover by The Kordz.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Zimmer, Benjamin. “Budding Hope: Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution.” Harvard International Review 3 (2005): 8. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Elise Helton