Yemen protest singers whip up revolutionary zeal

Wed Nov 2, 2011 10:08am EDT
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By Erika Solomon

SANAA (Reuters) - By nightfall, thousands of anti-government protesters in a scrappy tent city in Yemen's capital Sanaa catch their breath and begin to cheer musicians clambering onto a rickety stage.

"Let's give a round of applause for the big hit, "Mother of the Martyr, Bride of Blood," their host shouts.

Sometimes jubilant, sometimes mournful, protest songs -- or revolutionary anthems, as their creators call them -- are the pulse of a nine-month-old movement still struggling to end the 33-year rule of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Streets that earlier swarmed with motorbikes whisking bloodied protesters away for treatment are instead filled with candy vendors and children. The smell of popcorn drifts through crowds of men cross-legged in the street as singers croon on a platform plastered with photos of those killed in protests.

"They stir my love for the revolution, they lift my spirits," said protester Salem Jabbar, 23, sitting transfixed in "Change Square," the 4-km (2.5-mile) stretch in the heart of Sanaa that protesters occupy with their ramshackle tents.

Some songs extol freedom and bravery, others tell tales of young lives cut short by guns and rocket fire in bloody government crackdowns.

In the morning, organizers crank out catchy, upbeat numbers to draw protesters to the streets. Men, young and old, dance and cheer before heading off on marches that have often sparked deadly clashes with pro-Saleh army units.

"Revolutionary anthems keep your feet moving," said Yahya Aziz, a 23-year-old dancing with friends, stomping and waving their arms in the air. "We don't love death, but there's no going back. We must bring down the regime."   Continued...

<p>An anti-government protester raises her hands, painted with the colours of the Yemen and Libyan national flags, during a sit-in calling for Saleh to be taken to the International Criminal Tribunal, in Sanaa November 2, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi larbi</p>