In this video, the alternative rock band Mashrou Leila honors feminism in the Middle East through a representation that combines traditional culture and contemporary dance.
Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila’s vision of the Middle East today is an amalgam of varied and sometimes contradictory influences, from the historical to the political.
“Worms sculpt my body now/ The earth cradles my skin/ Why’d you sell me to the Romans?”
So sings lead vocalist Hamed Sinno in his group’s latest single “Roman,” named for the doomed empire that ruled the area from 64 B.C. to 646 A.D.
The song’s video, which was co-produced by the Beirut-area outpost of McCann Worldwide’s FP7 network, plays with and reinterprets stereotypes of Arabic and Muslim cultures. According to a release about the project, the band, whose name translates to “Leila’s Project” or “Overnight Project,” aims to illustrate “how struggle and conflict can be used as a starting place for progress” by using traditionally dressed Arab and Muslim women to “purposefully celebrate Middle Eastern feminism.”
The song’s historical context may be lost to Western viewers. But its beats and the dancing showcased in the video—much of which takes place in the shelled-out remains of a residential neighborhood—transcend language.
In the spot’s climactic scene, a group of traditionally dressed women walk into the water in a visual metaphor for the sort of “sea change” they seek in Lebanese society.
It’s somewhat familiar territory for the band, which has long courted controversy with lyrics that criticize local politics and touch on hot topics like sexuality and LGBTQ rights.
The larger FP7 group works with a variety of clients including Coca-Cola, Uber and Atlantis The Palm Dubai, among others.