The Bored Jihadi is back! As you may remember, this used to be a Tumblr blog until Tumblr deleted it without warning or appeal last year after mistaking it for a jihadi propaganda site.
Having hosted tons of real terrorist propaganda for years, Tumblr suddenly wanted to clean up, but threw the baby out with the bathwater. Since then, Tumblr has continued to host genuine jihadi and far right blogs that their algorithms don’t catch, but that’s another story. They never responded to any of my requests, so the blog was dead. Fortunately I had an old backup on WordPress, but I lost fifteen months of material and was so demotivated by the whole experience that I just left it there.
Now I’ve decided to try again on a new platform. Below you will find all the old posts up to mid-February 2017, and if WordPress lets us live, there will be new material coming up. Stay tuned.
Voice of America recently obtained 18 hours of raw video material from a captured Boko Haram laptop. They’ve now used the materials to produce a fascinating four-part documentary about the group. Apparently they plan to do more stories on the collection, so watch this space. Many thanks to Jacob Zenn (@bokowatch on Twitter) for bringing this story to my attention.
It’s always interesting to get a trained musicologist’s take on anashid. I was just alerted to this article by Luis Velasco-Pufleau, who has taken a close listen to the French IS nashid “Avance, avance” (Soundcloud link here). As you may remember, this is the tune that accompanied Islamic State’s claim of the Paris attacks on 15 November 2015. The article has plenty of interesting observations and includes a neat sonogram (see below). It’s in French, but here’s the English abstract:
During the series of simultaneous terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on Friday 13 November 2015, three Islamic State fighters stormed the Bataclan concert hall which was holding a rock concert. This article analyses the relationship between the symbolic significance of this attack, the Salafist discourse on music, and the importance of chanting in the Islamic State jihadist propaganda. It shows how the use of nasheed “Avance, avance” in the audio statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, ritualises propaganda, legitimises violence, motivates its fighters, and demoralises the enemy. By examining the issue of musical practices and their mobilisation within the Islamic State propaganda dispositif, this text aims to further a better understanding of the ideology of this jihadist organization.
This article explores the role of commando and morale booster songs among Revolutionary United Front (henceforth RUF) combatants in the Sierra Leone war of the 1990s. Based on recent research findings, it looks at the tunes that accompanied military training and combat activities and more generally examines the role of music to help generate social cohesion and sustain collectivities. The article examines how songs elicit beneficial physical and emotional responses advantageous for soldiering and it analyses the diverse ways in which songs have been reworked from other performance contexts and placed into a conflict setting. Most of the songs dealt with are (partial) contrafacta of Liberian Gio [Dan] songs, which were incorporated from other cultural practices and contexts and already played a role as motivational songs in the Liberian civil war. Special focus lies on the use of, the fluidity and formability of the songs, as well as the ingenuity of its performers to recontextualise these songs. By fitting the songs into their war experience, combatants render them meaningful despite obvious language barriers and beyond their textual properties.
The article is part of a very interesting special issue on music and armed conflict which is worth exploring in its entirety. In fact, the whole journal (Transposition) seems worth following, as it covers the intersection between music and social science.
Last year the German researcher Behnam Said published what may be the first monograph devoted specifically to jihadi anashid. It is based on his PhD thesis on the same topic. You may know Behnam’s work from the several excellent articles on anashid he has published in recent years. Behnam works in the German security service
Verfassungsschutz, and he was recently interviewed in the CTC Sentinel’s “View from the CT foxhole series”.
The book is in German, and I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but Joas Wagemakers recently published a useful review of it in English. Joas writes that Behnam sets out to provide "a comprehensive (and perhaps even the definitive) treatment of the subject, a task in which he has largely succeeded.”