BEIRUT: Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila headlined an intimate charity concert in a private home Wednesday night in support of refugees – one of more than 300 similar concerts taking place across 60 countries on the same day.
The concert, in Beirut’s Zoqaq al-Blat, was jointly organized by Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds, and Mashrou’ Leila was joined by a lineup of local and regional artists.
“It’s a special event in Beirut and Lebanon in particular due to the amount of refugees that are here,” Samah Hadid, Middle East campaigns director for Amnesty International in Beirut, said.
“Now more than ever we need to show the refugee community that there is public support for their plight. The concert in Beirut is a crucial opportunity for people in Lebanon to stand up for refugee rights and show refugees that they are still welcome here.”
The event was part of Amnesty’s “I Welcome” campaign, which seeks to protect and promote refugee rights globally. “The vision of the campaign is for governments around the world to do more, to accept more refugees, and also for communities to welcome refugees all around the world,” Hadid told The Daily Star.
For many of the artists in the diverse lineup, a personal desire to support refugees was a factor that led to their involvement in the concert.
“Refugee issues are something that’s close to my heart,” Bojan Preradovic, guitarist and backing vocalist of the band Jay Wud, told The Daily Star. “I’m from Serbia, a country that fell apart, and we have our own internal displacement. Lebanon is a country where something like that is very relevant, so to be here and to contribute to something like this is very important.”
Each of the 300 concerts, including the one in Beirut, was held for a small audience in a private home – a set-up designed to broadcast a message of solidarity to those who have been forced from their own homes.
The significance was not lost on one of the artists, Chyno, who also acted as the evening’s compere. For Chyno, events like Wednesday’s offer reassurance to those who have been displaced, whether forcibly or not.
“I’ve been talking about trying to feel at home because, coming from Syria and the Philippines and trying to identify what is home to me, this kind of show comes around full circle,” he said.
The sentiment was echoed by Tarek Khuluki, guitarist and vocalist for the Syrian band Tanjaret Daghet.
He told The Daily Star: “This whole concept of finding home ... that’s what I realize that this event is all about.” Khuluki, who grew up in a family of musicians in Syria, has been in Lebanon for nearly five years with his band.
Khuluki recalled that he had just $10 in his pocket when he arrived in Lebanon, but felt that music and his band went some way towards replacing the home he had to leave in Syria. “I feel home for me is the place when you get your instrument and you share your message,” he said.
In some ways, the displacement has pushed the development of the band’s music. “The only comfort zone that I want to feel is me playing with the boys, and expanding this music whatever way we can go.”
Jay Wud’s Preradovic agreed that music is an ideal vehicle for both bringing people together and raising awareness of socio-political issues. “To use something like [music] to carry a message, I think that’s very powerful,” he said. “What else clicks with people so intensely?”