Shaping The Future of Syria’s Underground Electronic Music Scene

Lauren Krieger

As its underground scene continues to grow, Bob VanDer gives us insight into the diversity and direction of Syria’s electronic music movement.

Bob VanDer’s Damascus Underground Session has been giving FRISKY listeners a view inside the sounds of Syria’s electronic music scene for nearly a year, showcasing the energy, love, and passion that comes from his home. Beyond sharing the music on his monthly show, Bob has been working alongside the dedicated team at Shift Music to create special events which feature its power to influence, connect, and inspire. Their mission to change the way electronic music is experienced in Syria and beyond has been driving a new underground evolution, inspiring not only DJs and producers but artists of all styles to join together to create something beautiful.

Electronic music has an incredible capacity for uniting people throughout the world; its ability to bring joy, release energy, inspire love, and transcend the usual is without limits. With the music we all speak the same language, as we discover the messages told only by rhythm and melody. When this all comes together on the dance floor, there is truly nothing like it. Behind the scenes of creating these moments are many people who work hard to exemplify what the music is all about. The people behind Shift Music are doing just that, building the foundations to change Syria’s underground as they shape communities and share their passion.

Bob VanDer takes us inside Syria’s scene and gives us a look into how it has been, and will be, evolving.

What was the Syrian scene like when you first began? Is it different now?

The scene was still new when I first started. Not a lot of places played electronic music, so it was on the down low. There was the few International artists who came for concerts to Syria, but other than that we used to hold private gatherings on weekends, where I would play music with some local DJ’s for a very selected few.

Now it’s blown out; it’s more known, welcomed, played, and recognized. Its audience – while they may be younger in age – has grown in numbers. More genres of electronic music have surfaced into the scene, and larger numbers of people have become aware of it. It spread much wider today than it did in my time, it’s very interesting to witness.

What is your favorite part of the underground electronic music community in Damascus?

I guess I like that it’s still a relatively small community that has managed to bring people from different backgrounds, cultures and even social classes from all over Syria together.

Electronic music has such a wide variety of genres in it on its own. So many different sounds are there, and each resonates with different minds in its own way. It provokes or ignites various forms of artistic expressions in different individuals

I got to be a part of and a witness to the growth of the Electronic Music Community – or what we call the “Scene” back home – and observe different types of people with completely different personalities, even social classes, break those boundaries, cheering and dancing together.

The kind of diversity that electronic music brought together would probably be one of my favorite things about its community in Damascus.

How do you think the electronic music scene is influenced or effected by day to day life in Syria?

I think young Syrian fans and mostly artists are implementing more of their thoughts, feelings, and culture into this type of music. They’ve taken the experience of the past few years and manifested so much of their essence & character into their music. Various talents started collaborating; musicians, vocalist, & DJ’s working together to create a sound that is an absolute unique expression of their collective experience through the past few years.

What role does electronic music play in the lives of its Syrian fans?

It’s definitely been an outlet for expression. The past 7 years of war took a huge toll on people, but Music and dancing has always been an outlet of emotion for the Syrian people, from a long time past!

Electronic music spread most amongst the Syrians during the time of war, the bass became the ultimate outlet for so much suppression. It has also inspired many to take on the artistic fields and pursue them. I’m not talking about music only. It has certainly shed more light on all the different forms of arts. From light & sound engineering and visual effects, to painting on street walls and every form of art that may fall in between.

It gave young talents the courage to pursue their skills and not worry about how they are being perceived or whether or not they might be taken seriously, better yet, believed in.

It set a lot of people free from social constrictions, and gave many a sanctuary to escape the sounds of war. Having been a part of the Scene’s birth before the war, we at Shift Music want to give back and create a platform for all the new talents that arose.

Where are the best places to experience electronic music?

There aren’t specific places that exclusively play electronic music ( YET! ), there are many enchanting venues within Damascus’ Old City; However, Shift Music’s team has been on a mission to find that one perfect spot for a true electronic experience.

Now that you have the green light to do larger events, can you share with us some of the ideas that you have for the future?

All I can really say is we’re very excited for this next phase, this is when the hard work begins. As a member of a team though, we came to a decision to keep everything under wraps for “The Element of Surprise ” ??

Until we’re ready to start announcing them though, what I can, share with everyone is #Damascus_Underground_Session on #FriskyRadio will be celebrating its First Anniversary this August. Damascus Underground Session has been an on going project of mine since 2010; watching it grow from an idea to a full blown show has been nothing short of fascinating!

In celebration, the show will be extending for another hour featuring artists from all around the globe, especially Syrians.

I think the talents that arose deserve to be heard, not merely because they’re Syrians , but it’s because the ART is real!

Syria has mothered the best of artist since the beginning of time, and the time she’s been through for the past 7-8 years, this shared collective experience, has only made her artists all the wiser.

It created this merge between diversity and culture that’s been creating unbelievably beautiful sounds and colors.

In the end: I want to thank Shift Music’s team between Damascus and Beirut for all their hard work and patience, they’ve taken on quite a bit of work recently and perfected it down to its last detail. I want them to know I’m absolutely grateful to be surrounded by such an amazingly creative bunch with such beautiful minds. I’m blessed and honored to have all of you by my side.

Thank you SO much! I appreciate you, your efforts, and your faith in us.

“Our Purpose is to Spark a Revolution which will Lead To a Change in the Way We Approach the Arts and Entertainment Industry.”

Follow Shift Music:
Facebook: @shiftmusicdamascus
Instagram: @shiftmusic.d.u

Listen to Damascus Underground Session on FRISKY:

Bob VanDer – Damascus Underground Session