‘It is the language of rise up’: the story of Slave to Sirens, the all-female Lebanese metallic band | Documentaries

For Lebanese guitarist Lilas Mayassi, heavy metallic music speaks a language. “It is the language of energy,” she stated, “the language of rise up.”

For Mayassi and her band, Slave to Sirens, the 2 languages ​​gave her group a voice in a rustic the place energy was broadly abused and rise up grew to become more and more harmful. The dramatic challenges Mayassi and her band have confronted in recent times—exacerbated by their position as Lebanon’s first and solely all-female heavy metallic band—are specified by a heartwarming new documentary titled Sirens. Directed by Moroccan-American filmmaker Rita Baghdadi, the doc immerses the viewer within the musicians’ world, all the higher to “current a extra genuine, uncooked and sophisticated portrayal of Arab ladies,” the director stated.

On the identical time, the movie displays a really particular context. It units the ladies’s story towards the backdrop of the October 17 revolution, which has rocked Lebanon with protests for the reason that fall of 2019. The relentless succession of marches and rallies has been triggered by a variety of things, from the poor state of the financial system to the federal government’s failure to offer primary providers akin to electrical energy and sewage at a wave of crushing new charges. Tensions peaked after the 2020 Beirut port explosion, which killed greater than 200 individuals, within the course of ending any sense of safety residents had. “I do not suppose I’ve personally healed from it,” Mayassi stated. “I do not suppose anybody in Lebanon did.”

Unsurprisingly, the seeds of Mayassi’s band had been planted at a protest, one which was proper earlier than the revolution. In 2015, the guitarist was searching for different gamers to meet his dream of forming a gaggle to play one of many heaviest types of heavy metallic: thrash. Via associates he heard about one other younger musician, lead guitarist Shery Bechara, who had the same dream. They lastly met head to head at a rally to protest Beirut’s rubbish disaster. “The very first thing we talked about was music,” Bechara stated. “We had been so excited to search out one another.”

Rising up, each gamers felt drawn to many components of thrash. “I used to be fascinated by the technical nature of guitar enjoying and the problem of it,” Mayassi stated.

Bechara beloved “the quick tempo and harsh voice. It was magical,” she stated. “I challenged myself to play sooner and more durable and more durable.”

Each gamers referenced the lyrical themes of thrash. “They’re extra political,” Mayassi stated. “They speak about oppression. They categorical frustration and disappointment, anger and ache. They usually give voice to the unvoiced.”

Guitarists have even develop into hooked up to the form of their devices; they each play the Gibson Flying V. “Apart from the truth that it appears to be like actually good, it is a snug guitar to play,” stated Mayassi.

Whereas every of the ladies has performed with males earlier than, they favored the all-female metallic format as a result of “it is not one thing that existed in Lebanon,” Mayassi stated. “We needed one thing completely different.”

They accomplished the lineup of Slave to Sirens with 5 ladies, together with bassist Alma Doumani, drummer Tatyana Boughaba and singer Maya Khairallah, who makes use of thrash’s signature growl however with a twist. “We at all times hear the male model of the growl,” Mayassi stated. “It is uncommon to listen to a feminine model.”

The ladies say they had been embraced by Beirut’s tight-knit metallic scene, which has spawned many bands, together with some with mixed-gender gamers like Sandaramet. Within the movie, Mayassi says they selected their title as a result of “everyone seems to be a slave on this life—slaves to cash, to struggle, to society. We’re all making an attempt to do away with one thing in us.”

Up to now, the group has launched just one EP, Terminal Leeches, in 2018. They wrote lyrics for it in English to succeed in an viewers past their homeland. Within the title observe, Khairallah screams, “I fill your head with lies / Ignorance, your final dying.” In one other tune, Congenital Evil, they ask, “Why do you at all times should obey? / Zero levels of empathy, at all times coming your approach.”

The ladies say many individuals exterior the metallic group choose them harshly. “There’s lots of insults,” Mayassi stated. “They are going to curse us, they’ll name us whores.”

“However we do not care,” Bechara added.

“Steel has been stigmatized by many individuals in Lebanon,” stated Baghdadi, the director. “Many individuals name Slave to Sirens satanic. When you will have ladies wearing black enjoying this music and staying up late at night time, it’s extremely opposite to the norm.”

On the identical time, the band acquired encouragement from individuals exterior the area. After metallic journal Revolver wrote a protracted and admiring function in regards to the band, they had been invited to play at Glastonbury pageant in 2019. The movie options footage of their spirited efficiency, and though few individuals noticed the low-profile set, the ladies they had been delighted with the wonderful sound system and the truth that they acquired to carry out internationally.

The movie options loads of footage of the group performing in rehearsals, however they’d little alternative to carry out dwell throughout filming, partly as a result of Covid. In a single scene, we see the ladies uncover {that a} venue has turned them down as a result of they will not enable metallic bands to play there. A significant pageant they had been as a result of play within the nation in 2019 was canceled by the federal government following threats of bloodshed from conservative teams over headliner Mashrou’ Leila, whose singer, Hamed Sinno, is overtly homosexual. Mayassi can also be homosexual, though solely her associates and bandmates learn about that facet of her life. Within the movie, she is totally open about it, even showing with a Syrian girlfriend she had for some time. Her household nonetheless would not learn about her sexuality they usually will not find out about it within the film. Because of the actions and rising anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment within the area, the documentary won’t be launched within the Center East presently. “There have been main setbacks in Lebanon currently,” Mayassi stated. “Spiritual extremists have began focusing on LGBTQ+ members or anybody affiliated with them. They allegedly beat them or threatened to kill them. The Dwelling Secretary has issued a press release banning all LBGTQ-related gatherings.”

Whereas Mayassi stated she not feels secure talking overtly about her sexuality in her nation, she has no regrets about showing within the movie. “I made the choice, so there isn’t any going again for me,” she stated. “I’ve to handle. All of us within the band should work collectively.”

Lilas Mayassi and Shery Bechara. Photograph: Picture courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

As tight because the band’s bond is, the movie additionally captures their inventive and private tensions. At one level, we see Bechara go away the group in frustration, although they finally reunite. In our interview, carried out collectively through WhatsApp from their separate houses in Beirut, the ladies stated they now really feel nearer than ever, helped by mature attitudes and a shared mission. They vowed to proceed the band even after struggling a probably ruinous loss this summer time. Their drummer and singer each left. “They determined they wanted to atone for various things in life,” Mayassi stated. “A band needs to be 100% dedication. There isn’t any in between.”

Bassist Doumani left the nation solely to dwell in Orlando, Florida. However he stays a part of the group by recording his components remotely. Doumani moved due to the deteriorating high quality of life in Lebanon, together with an electrical energy grid so degraded that it ends in frequent blackouts, forcing residents to hunt their very own costly sources of electrical energy by means of both private mills or photo voltaic panels. Doumani’s exit from the nation is a part of a rising diaspora that has drained Lebanon in recent times. Each Mayassi and Bechara say they plan to go away finally — the previous to the US, the latter to the Netherlands. Within the meantime, they proceed to work on their debut album whereas trying to find new bandmates. The brand new music they make collectively will inevitably replicate a life the ladies say is knowledgeable by “generational trauma. We inherited it from our dad and mom and our grandparents,” stated Mayassi, referring to horrific occasions such because the Lebanese civil struggle that lasted from 1975 to 1990.

“Our dad and mom thought it might be higher for him. Now they’re saying, ‘No, you have acquired worse,'” Bechara stated.

Ladies principally blame the federal government. “Our flesh pressers are the foundation of all evil,” Mayassi stated. “However I additionally blame individuals for repeating the identical errors again and again. We had latest elections they usually elected the identical individuals who ruined our nation.”

Consequently, ladies consider that the hope that fueled the primary revolution is gone. “The revolution has taken a unique course,” Mayassi stated. “Everyone was making an attempt to journey the wave and lots of political agendas destroyed that wave.”

As darkish as the present state of the nation could also be, the ladies say they’ve discovered their very own mild by means of making music. “Singing metallic provides us hope,” Mayassi stated. “It offers shelter and provides us what we have to transfer ahead.”

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