Pre-marital sex in the Middle East? The Arab musical rebellion thinks so

Published November 13th, 2012 - 17:19 GMT

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Lebanese alternative band Mashrou' Leila
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Image 1 of 8: Headed by an openly gay front man and singing songs of homosexuality and premarital sex, "Mashrou' Leila" aren’t your typical Arab band. Not afraid to tackle taboos, these alternative rockers strike fear into the hearts of many of the region’s conservatives.

Palestinian rap-artists CultureSHOC sing on
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Image 1 of 8: Palestinian rock-rappers "CultureSHOC" crank the volume up and kick down boundaries. The ballsy a-political punks do away with traditional gender roles, letting a female take the lead. Quite the culture shock for the patriarchal Arab world they serenade, perhaps?

Palestinian hip-hoppers, DAM
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Image 1 of 8: Stadium shockers 'curse' the crowds: With songs under their belt including ‘Who’s the terrorist?’ and ‘Mama I fell in love with a Jew,’ Palestinian hip-hop group "DAM" are now turning their funky attention to honor killings with new single ‘If you go back in time’.

Moroccan rap-star, Bigg
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Image 1 of 8: Big, bad and bold: Former bad boy of Moroccan rap, "Bigg", isn’t the rebel he once was. The star might like to think he’s sticking it to the man but his hell-raising days may be history. Some of his most recent tunes have been mistaken for pro-government propaganda.

Iraqi rock band, Dog Faced Corpse
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Image 1 of 8: Dark and deep: "Dog Faced Corpse" might sound like your average death metal band, but with these Iraqi rockers there is meaning behind the metal. The band’s name was born from violence in Iraq after the drummer came across a beheaded corpse with a dog’s head attached to it.

Syrian singers Kulna Sawa
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Image 1 of 8: Musical magic: Syrian rockers "Kulna Sawa" (All Of Us Together) have succeeded where many politicians before them failed: their alternative tunes have gone some way to building understanding between listeners in the Middle East and the West.

Egyptian pioneers: City Band
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Image 1 of 8: Egyptian indie crooners "City Band" say they formed because ‘when words stop, music speaks.’ In the wake of Egypt’s revolution, the band performed at the International Day of Peace in Cairo last September.

Protest at El Sawy culturewheel, Cairo
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Image 1 of 8: Last week Egypt’s alternative bands were making an even bigger noise than usual as they protested for their right to perform in public. After a concert was cancelled over Eid by the Muslim powers that be, the rebellious rockers and rappers let haters across the region know they’re here to stay.

While the Arab world is used to being rocked by car-bombs and mortar shells, it is less accustomed to rockers of the musical variety - punkers and metal-heads - who like to shake things up with their lefty lyrics and alternative attitudes. Sectarian clashes and rage against the regime might be par for the course, but rock bands with a cause to croon about present quite the challenge.

Changing their tune

From deeper underground, a new wave of bands with a battle to wage are breaking the surface and not afraid to sing something different. Agitators or anarchists they might not be, but these bad-boys are challenging both the region's classic tastes and politics, as they rave about 'loony' liberal ideals that might be too offbeat for the more conservative or sheltered sound tracks of the region.

When it comes to the music scene of Arabia, we're more familiar with the staple of Haifa Wehbes and Nancy Ajrams, serenading fans with 'habiby' (darling, honey) hits. Pop songs to ballads, they're all love and longing, and any lust is quite tame when you come down to it. Now, the region is having to swallow the bitter pill of a new crop of singers -- from brave new bands to female front-'men' and revolutionary rappers - who have powerful messages to deliver to accompany their new sound. The Arab world is seeing a new breed of music that is something a little different to the run of the mill Elissa pop or George Wassouf anthems. 

And the band played on

Daring to sing of sex before marriage or homosexuality and all manner of social freedoms, these firebrands look here to stay, and some are already going down a treat with a receptive youthful and post-Arab uprising audience that gives them air and stage time. But, they might not be received with open arms by a region - while open to political shifts - still wary of social change and the influence lurking in the lyrics of these avant-garde artistes. With our fingers on the pulse, Al Bawaba brings you a batch of some of the newcomers and their beats.

 

Share your thoughts and musical tastes-- are you a fan of any of the bands listed? Is Mashrou' Leila your cup of tea? 

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