As ISIS Gets Squeezed In Syria And Iraq, It Aims To Motivate Fighters With Music : Parallels The Islamic State is losing territory in Iraq and Syria but is trying to keep its supporters' spirits up through song. Its newest release, "My State Remains," reveals an organization down but not out.
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As ISIS Gets Squeezed In Syria And Iraq, It's Using Music As A Weapon

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As ISIS Gets Squeezed In Syria And Iraq, It's Using Music As A Weapon

As ISIS Gets Squeezed In Syria And Iraq, It's Using Music As A Weapon

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

About four years ago, the so-called Islamic State declared that it would become just that - a state, or more specifically, a caliphate that stretched from Iraq to Syria. Today, that physical caliphate is dissolving. The group is preparing for a future under siege, and they're using music to keep getting their message out. Here's NPR's Alison Meuse.

ALISON MEUSE, BYLINE: Islamic State's latest nasheed, or hymn, is titled "Dawlati Baqia," or "My State Is Remaining."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY STATE IS REMAINING")

UNIDENTIFIED ISIS MEMBERS: (Singing in foreign language).

MUESE: It goes, "the Muslim nation has been awoken from its slumber." It continues, "the state is remaining, not vanishing." It's a defiant reply to those who believe ISIS' battlefield setbacks signal the group's demise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEED THE CALL")

UNIDENTIFIED ISIS MEMBERS: (Singing in foreign language).

MUESE: This nasheed, released in May, implores fighters to hold their ground and not flee. "Where are the real men, it says, where are the lions of the struggle?"

The past few months have been a struggle for ISIS. The U.S.-led coalition says Islamic State now holds less than 10 percent of western Mosul. And in Syria, U.S.-backed forces are pushing to recapture the ISIS de facto capital, Raqqa. Not so long ago, ISIS was producing defiant battle hymns like this one from two years ago, titled "Soon, Soon."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOON, SOON")

UNIDENTIFIED ISIS MEMBERS: (Singing in foreign language).

MUESE: It says, "soon you'll see a wondrous struggle, a fierce conflict. You'll see the battle come to your home." Analyst Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi has been tracking Islamic State's propaganda since the group emerged. He explains how the latest nasheeds reflect an organization under pressure.

AYMENN JAWAD AL-TAMIMI: The idea behind this messaging is that - OK, well, two things. One is, we'll still remain - so hence, the title of this new nasheed, "Dawlati Baqia," "My State Is Remaining" - and the second one being to encourage people to still keep up the fight.

MUESE: Tamimi says there's been a reduced output of these hymns, and the message has changed over time.

TAMIMI: In 2013, '14, '15, you see the rise of the Islamic State, the implementation of Islamic law and how it creates this realm of justice and so on and so forth. But now what you see is, is the nasheeds are responding to the current situation faced by the Islamic State, which is the setbacks - territorial setbacks and potential loss of Raqqa, and they've almost lost Mosul now.

MUESE: Despite the mournful tone of the latest nasheed, the lyrics reveal a group keenly aware and proud of the terror and upheaval it's caused to the people of the region.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY STATE IS REMAINING")

UNIDENTIFIED ISIS MEMBERS: (Singing in foreign language).

MUESE: It says, "our state has made the tears of our enemies flow. Our gale wind has dispersed them. We've killed them by the thousands and led them to their deaths." Alison Meuse, NPR News, Beirut.

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