Meet Mashrou’ Leila. An independent Lebanese band whose songs take on socio-political issues affecting the Arab World. But, their messages don’t travel as much as they should. With their new album’s launch, we were tasked to get the band and their messages more exposure internationally.
Instead of promoting the album with a traditional campaign, we identified an unreleased song, composed 3 years back, about "Betrayal". Taking the lyrics of that song, called “Roman”, we gave it a dual meaning - to address the global socio-political trends against Arabs and Arab Feminism. The western media’s narrative of feminism and women empowerment, does position itself as incompatible with Islam and the Arab world. And with Islamophobia rising in the Western world, Western media does not fairly showcase the progress by women in the Middle East; instead, exploiting the cultural and religious prejudices that people and governments are using to victimize Arab women. We wanted Arab women to take back that narrative. And create a new narrative.
With an Arab woman director, we created a music video featuring Arab women (doing things one typically sees Western do in a music video – dancing), disrupting the global narrative of Arab feminism - and importantly, that of hyper-secularised (white) feminism, which increasingly positions itself as incompatible with Islam and the Arab world. Instead, the music video celebrates the various modalities of Middle-Eastern feminism. The music video treats oppression and stereotyping from the West, not as a source of victimhood, but as the fertile ground from where resistance can be forged, through music. “Contains anger, sorrow, accusation, and resignation, without losing control or force: the calm simultaneous with the storm.” (Jessica Doyle, Western Listener).
The video self-consciously toys with the intersection of gender with race by celebrating and championing a coalition of Arab and Muslim women, styled to over-articulate their ethnic background, in a manner more typically employed by Western media to victimize them. The video purposefully attempts to revert the position of the (male) musicians as the heroes of the narrative, not only by subjecting them to the (female) gaze of the director, but also by representing them as individuals who (literally) take the backseat as the coalition moves forward. So, while the lyrics of the verses discuss betrayal, struggle, and conflict, the video revolves around the lyrical pivot in the chorus: ‘aleihum (charge!). “Life-affirming and joyous rather than the timid, “oppressed” vision the West is used to from media reports.” (Alex Clifton, The Singles Jukebox). The song has also featured in the band’s concerts regionally and worldwide, taking the message even further.
Content advertisement created by FP7, Lebanon for Mashrou’ Leila, within the category: Music.
Director / Creative Director: Jessy Moussallem
Producers: Wissam Smayra, Ray Barakat, Katie Dolan
Managing Director: Emile Atallah
Executive Creative Director: Karim Kazan
Regional Head of Strategic Planning: Tahaab Rais
Senior Brand Planner: Carl Bou Abdallah
Associate Strategist: Anna Sadykova
Production Company: Clandestino Films