On March 12, D.C.-based alternative singer and composer, Husam, released “Lead a Change,” which is perhaps his most personal song to date. The heartbreaking and melodious track gives audiences a glimpse into abuse the Syrian American artist suffered at the hands of his father while growing up. Ultimately, the song empowers audiences to recognize that while the past informs the present, we each have the power to shape the future for the better.
The opening lines of “Lead a Change” deliver a crushing blow: “I was born left-handed / You came and smashed it / Threatened to break it if I ate with it again.” The cover art provides a stark visual of a mangled hand that is difficult to look at – and even harder to look away.
“In the first few lines, I give a glimpse of the horror I went through as a kid,” explained Husam. “I was born left-handed, but my father forced me to use my right hand by hitting me or screaming at me. The reason from what I understand comes from a strict interpretation of the Muslim religion. As a result, I do some things with my right hand such as eat and write, and do other things with my left like throwing a basketball.”
In contrast to the heavy lyrical content, the musical composition of “Lead a Change” is intricate, mellow, and mesmerizing. Somehow the juxtaposition of tones makes the instrumental backdrop even more beautiful, as if it, too, has paid the price for its existence.
Husam goes on to share how his father would physically assault him as a boy – going as far as breaking bones – when Husam cried based on the distorted belief that “men don’t cry.”
Audiences feel a profound sense of sadness when Husam discloses the state of his non-existent relationship with his estranged father: “And as for you / We haven’t talked in many years / If you died today / Wouldn’t shed a single tear.” This line carries added significance. Just like his father taught him, emotions are not welcome, and to entertain an exception in this case would be hypocritical at best.
Although Husam’s reference to his father is unambiguous throughout the song, it is interesting to note that not once does he mention his father by name, instead using the impersonal, second-person “you.” Husam seems to be on better terms with his “mama” who recognizes the damage that was done from “decades of violence.”
“Lead a Change” is a weighty song in terms of subject matter, but Husam doesn’t abandon audiences in their hurt and pain. Reliving his trauma serves a greater purpose that involves finding the courage to move forward as a survivor.
“The reason I wrote this song is because I’ve kept all this stuff to myself for so long, meaning to put it in my music for all to hear and tell my story, but I was never able to get myself to be that vulnerable and open,” said Husam.
With “Lead a Change,” Husam trusts audiences with his story and invites them into a safe space in which they are free to do the same. “This signifies the start of me coming forth despite what the consequences are,” said Husam. I want to become a voice for my community. To make an impact in a big way. It’s time to lead a change.”
Listen to “Lead a Change” below by one of my favorite voices in the DMV scene, and find more great music on the Alchemical Records’ Multigenre Mixture playlist.
Maryland-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and more than a decade of experience as a professional ghostwriter, she is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.
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