A video clip showing a Palestinian girl slapping an Israeli soldier that went viral in the winter of 2017 reverberated in Israel and around the world. Ahed Tamimi, the heroine of the video, has since become a symbol, for better or for worse, depending on which side of the political map you ask. Inspired by that incident, apparently, the popular Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou' Leila uploaded a teaser for its new song “Cavalry.” The clip on its Instagram page shows a girl striking a soldier who threatens her.
Is the similarity to the incident at Nabi Saleh coincidental? Reactions to the clip say otherwise. “It’s so strong,” wrote one fan. Another wrote: “My feelings for you as a band went from love to admiration. You are not only brilliant musically. I respect you as human beings.” There were also some negative reactions like “It’s a terrible idea for a clip made for such a good song.” Israelis also commented. “May their name and memory be wiped out,” wrote one Instagram user in Hebrew.
Mashrou' Leila formed in 2008 at the American University of Beirut. Two students, Andre Chedid and Omaya Malaeb, put out an ad calling on people who wanted to take a break from their studies and politics to come play with them. Thus did the five band members find one another and start to perform and write original music.
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The band quickly made noise. Among its first prominent songs was “Shim El Yasmine,” which is about a homosexual boy forced to separate from his partner to marry an arranged bride. They got their international breakout with their 2015 album “Ibn El Leil,” which reached Number 11 on the Billboard world music chart.
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The Lebanese band made headlines again in September 2017, when authorities arrested 57 people for waving LGBT flags in Cairo in front of 35,000 spectators. Some of them were waving pride flags in solidarity with the band’s lead singer, Hamed Sinno, one of the only openly gay Arab performers in the world. Sinno told Britain’s The Guardian this month that after the incident “Our inboxes were constantly littered with death threats and the most hateful remarks possible.” He added, “It was fucking traumatizing.”
The band’s dip into politics led to the cancellation of its two concerts in Jordan. “They said we are not Syrian, that we are inciting toward popular rebellion,” said band member Firas Abou Fakher.
In the Guardian interview, Sinno said that he feels that he must be the voice of Arabs, Muslims and members of the LGBT community in the Middle East. “It can’t be that absurd to the western imagination that there are many liberal Arabs inclined towards gender and sexual diversity,” he said. “To write them off because of the oppression of free speech in their countries does everyone an extreme injustice.”
“Cavalry,” which was released last month, is the band’s first single from its upcoming album “The Beirut School.”
“In the current political climate, the fact that people could relate Arabic not to Islamic fundamentalism and terror, but to learning phonetics and going to a concert, it’s a kind of political victory,” Sinno told the Guardian.