Mashrou’ Leila: Oppression, Activism And Boycott Support From International Bands

On the 13th of June, 2016, the staff at the NPR Tiny Desk concert series could not have planned the emotional show that would be recorded that day. The band, Mashrou’ Leila, had just arrived the day after the shootings at the gay nightclub Pulse, in Orlando.

With everyone still in shock, staff and invited band, Mashrou’ Leila changed their set list and performed 3 beautiful songs, including the opening one called Maghawir (Commandos) which is about a similar shooting that happened in Beirut. The following concert is raw, emotional and full of grit.

The Mashrou’ Leila Tiny Desk concert from 2016

The singer of Mashrou’ Leila, Sinno, is openly gay which is quite the task in a country like his native Lebanon. The band has therefore much experience with threats, bans, oppression and judgment from both government, religious organisations and people on the streets.

They have always carried on though but the latest in their story is bringing in support from bands from other countries in the form of concert cancellations. Dutch metal band Within Temptation just cancelled their upcoming show in Lebanon in support of Mashrou’ Leila.

The Byblos International Festival was also to feature Mashrou’ Leila but recently the band found out they had been pulled off the bill for security reasons after the festival organisers received threats and demands of doing so stating that the band is “offensive to religious and humanitarian values and Christian beliefs”.

In a statement on Facebook from the band they write: “We have been tried on the street, everyone who wishes to be a judge will make judgments, and do it against us. This is a way out of the logic of the state, a departure that hits the core of any sense of security we have and any ability to art and creativity.” (Google automatic translate).

Furthermore the clarify that they have utmost respect for any religious beliefs anyone might have and that they are not out to offend anyone. They love their home country, their fellow people and making music.

In the face of oppression of the arts, other artists, like Within Temptation in this case boycotting a show, is a much needed and powerful stand to take.

Besides these terrors Mashrou’ Leila faces regularly as a band they are a perfect fit for Shouts to shine a light on. They regularly use their voice as a tool for activism, all the while knowing full well what dangers that can cause to their physical safety.

Check out their 360° music video they made in cooperation with Greenpeace and their latest music video called Cavalry which is about the cruelty and machismo of militarized oppression:

“Best stop brandishing that sword of yours
Lest you fall right off of your throne
If I fail, if I die
I’ll come back every time
Till I’ve seen you through
Every head you cut turns into three
I burst into armies of me”

Article cover photo by Schorle

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