Ich was going to become famous by solving a world problem! But which one? Clooney’s got Darfur, Sting’s got the Amazon, and Bono’s got AIDS! Luckily, there was still one shithole left to fix: the Middle Earth. – Brüno
You know you’re a superstar when you’re asked to publicize world issues like the war in Syria. Angelina Jolie recently visited the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Kim Kardashian tweeted about Kassab, and tomorrow the Lebanese indie-pop band Mashrou’ Leila will perform at a fundraising event to raise money for Syrian refugees. Superstar status!
The Middle East is not a shithole, but there are some pretty shitty things going on at the moment. Now that I’m no longer living in Beirut, it’s become more difficult to gauge the energy of the city. When I was living there I could quell the worries of those on the outside by convincing them that the news is full of dramatized lies. The problems were never ‘here’ but ‘there’, way over there across town, leaving me untouched by the reality of cars bombs or militia checkpoints. It’s crass but true…in Lebanon, geo-location is everything.
Even when things are out of sight, they are rarely out of mind. A quiet tension seeps into everyday life in Beirut. People deal with this anxiety in different ways. Some people party, some people fight for justice, and once in a while these worlds collide like when an awesome band performs to raise money for a worthy cause. It’s a Win, Win.
It’s been a busy year for the boys. Their beautiful keyboardist Omaya Malaeb left the band. The remaining members are split across continents so planning shows is tricky. They’ve traveled around Europe and the Middle East promoting their latest album. They teamed up with Lebanese indie-rock band Who Killed Bruce Lee for the Redbull Soundclash, bringing an unprecedented audience of over 3000 together for a local indie music concert. There have been many awesome magazine features (look it up), and recently, they just landed the cover of Rolling Stones Middle East!
Despite the success, Beirut has a way of getting the best in people. I caught up with the singer Hamed Sinno to find out what life in Beirut is like these days; To understand what it’s like for a superstar to travel the world and come back home to a country on the verge of war. Oh, and to learn more about their upcoming concert.
How has Beirut been treating you?
‘Life in Beirut has been strange. I had a rough year last year, and haven’t completely re-adjusted yet. Beirut is a terrible place to be in when you’re in a mindset like that because of the availability of unhealthy escapisms. I’ve been picking up over the last couple of months. Slowly. The situation hasn’t made things much better to be honest. Most people are extremely jaded, and you sort of fall into it….It’s not too great being back. I always feel suspended when I’m here. Beirut has a way of making you feel like you’re tied up to a floatation device and can only move with the waves that move you.’
Perhaps that’s why their latest album, and the concert poster for their upcoming concert, features a belly dancer wearing a life jacket. The artwork was created by Hamed and it looks awesome, but I never understood what it represented until now. Beirut parties, Beirut mourns, Beiruti’s go with the flow and are prepared for whatever comes their way.
You’ve been traveling a lot to promote the recent album. What changes have you sensed in the Arab world?
‘We’ve been touring with the album for almost a year now. To be completely honest, when we’re on tour we don’t get a lot of time to see the cities that we’re in…I can tell you the Egyptians were much more optimistic a couple of years ago. The last two times we went, people were a little more depressed.’
How did this concert come about? Who are Sawa 4 Syria?
Sawa4Syria is a group of students trying to raise funds for various causes relating to the Syrian refugee crisis. They contacted us asking for a fundraising concert and we agreed, naturally.
Other than fundraising, what do you hope will happen as a result of this concert?
I hope the gig will get people to feel a little more involved with trying to palliate the situation.
So, if you’re in Beirut this Saturday, grab your life jacket and head down to Concrete 1994 to watch Mashrou’ Leila while supporting a good cause. I love them personally and as artists. They’re awesome.
If you’re not, I hope you’re inspired to learn more about the war in Syria. It’s been three awful years and things aren’t getting better.
Educate yourself and do what you can.
Sawa 4 Syria is a group of youth and students, independent of any political affiliations, volunteering for humanitarian relief.
Their aim is to evaluate the status of Syrian refugees in Lebanon in order to determine and cover their needs, including food, clothing, housing and other basic needs.
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