Hamad Sinno is lead singer of the popular Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila. This summer the group toured the U.S. to much acclaim, thanks to no small measure to their huge hit “Roman” which has unexpectedly become an anthem for female empowerment.
According to NPR, a powerful music video is part of the equation with conveying this message. “In the video, a woman in a hijab contorts in a modern dance in an abandoned concrete building. She leads other women, many in brightly colored abayas —the conservative, loose-fitting robe worn by some Muslim women — to a beach. They hold hands and make kaleidoscope patterns through dance. Their expressions are defiant; they radiate self-respect. Later, a covered woman rides a galloping white steed.”
The combination of the video and the song (which has a powerful chorus of the single word “alehum” which means “charge” in Arabic) are seen by many in Lebanon as being “revolutionary.” Blogs have written about “Roman,” and fans have left streams of adoring comments on social media.
Lead singer Sinno says that the music video as about self-realization, a rejection of the idea that Muslim women, especially in the Arab world, cannot be empowered unless they lose their observance to tradition. “The thing that kind of always drives me insane is that people are so quick to say stuff about Muslim women or veiled women. And it’s like, dude, just come to one of our gigs, and you see all these women who are veiled, who are just celebrating other people’s diversity — who are clearly not without agency, right?”
“It’s a beautiful picture to paint Arab women in,” says fan Jihad Saifi. “I’ve never seen Arab women dance like this. And it’s liberating to men and women.”