Mashrou’ Leila brings revolutionary Arab rock music to Cambridge

Mashrou' Leila performs at The Sinclair in Cambridge Sunday night. Laura Al Bast/BU News Service

Rebellious rock, ballads of political rejects and an Arab spring erupted on the dance floor when Lebanese indie-rock band Mashrou’ Leila played a concert in Cambridge at The Sinclair Sunday night.

Armed with lyrical defiance, Mashrou’ Leila advances LGBTQ rights, represents a modern Arab identity, advocates for women empowerment, condemns violence and corruption, and smashes stereotypes.

Swaying from “Aoede,” an ode and prayer to the Greek muse, and “Ala Babu,” a song flirting with the taboos of desire, comes “Roman,” the band’s most recent release; a chant of resistance championing a coalition of Arab and Muslim women in a song that “seeks to disturb the dominant global narrative of hyper-secularised (white) feminism,” as described in the music-video’s Synopsis.

Hamed Sinno, the band’s openly-queer lead singer, asked the audience for a minute of their time to talk about the anti-gay crackdown launched in Egypt following their concert in Cairo last month.

Over 30,000 people attended the Music Park concert, which Sinno said is “incomprehensible for an indie band from Beirut.” A couple of people proudly waved rainbow flags as the band performed at the concert, however this instance sparked a brutal reaction from the Egyptian government as the following weeks after the concert, they arrested upward of 60 queer men and women baiting them through dating apps and facebook profiles.

Those arrested are being subjected to forced anal examinations and abuse in prison cells.

“We’d like to take advantage of being here with you to ask you to go online, find articles on what’s happening, share, [and] contact your local representatives.” Sinno said to the audience.

“There’s a reason why the U.S. is not doing anything about this, and we really need to question the kind of privilege we all have [here] to be able to raise these flags and not get arrested for them,” Sinno said. “We need to salvage what few moments we have left of being able to push people under moral scandals to try and win this back.”

Egyptian sisters Caroline, 22, and Nadine Younan, 19, who attended Sunday’s concert said that they knew people who have been in the alleged Cairo concert and who’ve been questioned.

“[Subjecting people to] anal testing, that’s just so terrible and degrading to humans,” Nadine said. “You can’t question people based on what they like on facebook or who they talk to on their day to day basis. That’s unfair.”

Mashrou’ Leila drummer Carl Gergis said that it has been tough for the band to perform in the Arab world recently. Hurdled by conflict in Palestine, banned twice from Jordan and recently in Egypt, very few countries are left where they’re allowed to play.

Gergis said that the band is trying to show people in the West that Arabs are not the stereotype that is being shown on television.

Haider Kazmi, 27, a Boston University Graduate student and fan of the band, said that Mashrou’ Leila has an incredible stage presence and are brave for doing something that’s making history.

“It’s important for them to make their voices heard and for us to respond.” Kazmi said.

 

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