The World is in love with Hamed Sinno

For Farhaana, and in honour of Hamed’s eighth month of sobriety.

A photo of Masahisa Fukase’s wife Yoko from his series From Window, for which Fukase photographed nothing but Yoko for 13 years.

Tonight Mashrou’ Leila performed at Somerset House. During their opening act, while we were sat on the ground admiring and comparing the shoes of the spectators stood around us, my girlfriend asked if I had ever written a piece of journalism. I replied no, I didn’t think so. She then asked if I really wanted to be a journalist (I want to be a journalist). I replied that I would like to try. This piece is written in response to her challenge to write 700 words on tonight’s performance.

In the warm afterglow of their performance I can say: Mashrou’ were wonderful. They didn’t play all my favourite songs (El Hal Romancy, Imm Al Jacket, Beyshuf, Ma Tatrikni Heik), opting instead for material from their last two albums, with the exception of Shim Al Yasmine. The audience were easy, relaxed, perhaps too relaxed. Chris Rock, for maximum effect, only records live shows with the blackest audiences possible. Just so, Mashrou’ are best experienced in front of the Arabs whose hearts they own, diluted today with the curious and the halfhearted. One man shouted out ‘play some Dire Straits already’. 7mar, the djinn will teach you what it means to disrespect Mashrou’.

inshallah

We watched them in a courtyard of Somerset House, a former stately home. The sky at our backs, where the sun was setting, was so beautiful it seemed painted. That and my girl were the only things that could draw my eyes, albeit briefly, from Hamed Sinno, the lead singer of Mashrou’. This is about Hamed Sinno and the world being in love with him.

Hamed Sinno belongs to the dunya.

In Islam we are divided between two realms, the Dunya and the Akhirah. The dunya is the world we live in, our world, the known world, the only world. We cannot help but want to love it. It is, or is the promise of, food and sex and wealth and power, love and admiration, gold and silk. It is capricious, cruel, treacherous and harsh, making promises it cannot keep; depicted as a woman by ascetics who reject the dunya in the same breath they reject the women who never loved them. The akhirah is the other realm, the one that doesn’t exist, the counter-world of the suffering, a collective hallucination peopled with the dreams, desires and envy of the unrequited lovers of the dunya, which is most of us, most of the time.

The dunya loves Hamed Sinno.

Have you seen Hamed Sinno? I don’t just mean on stage, although I have only seen him on stage. I mean have you seen Hamed Sinno, do you understand why he has caught the dunya’s gaze, why he is so beautiful?

Marilyn Monroe is dead, but I remember her when I see Hamed Sinno focus on one of his four male band-mates and move towards them dancing slowly and sensually, lithe as a tigress.

He, in his black vest and cloth trousers, is the reincarnation of some smokily beautiful songstress, leaning into the men sat lost with desire around her, escaping their lives briefly in the almost promise of her possession. He, with his muscular frame and feline grace, channels the same mirage of feminine power, casts the same spell. He seduces, eyes closed, mic gripped close to his lips, falsetto crooning bidee aghueek. We are seduced and left to wake ourselves, untouched. He dances because he is free and frees us to dance with him. He will smile all at once, brilliantly, as if surprised by our joy and it will make us want to make him smile again.

The dunya loves Hamed and with that love comes power: when Hamed claps we clap, when he stops clapping we stay clapping. But heavy lies the dunya’s crown, and with memories of Marilyn comes an air of tragedy.

Between songs Hamed tells us nervously with his soft American lilt of songs written about the first pills he took for his depression, being treated badly by man after man (the crowd boos), his dead father, his realising he was surrounded by fake friends who would destroy him. He tells us of eight months of sobriety and we cheer.

In Islam’s poetry we can also divide the people of the world into two: the lover and the beloved. The lover is mad, desperate, intoxicated with a love as all consuming and absolute as it is unrequited. The beloved, either a woman as a stand in for God or God as a stand in for a woman, is cruel and heedless of her lover, unattainable but never entirely out of reach.

Poetry being written by lovers for lovers, we never consider the beloved, the object of all this fire, always so cold and unfeeling in the gaze of her lover. We never consider that with unrequited love it might just be worse to be the one loved. Hamed is the dunya’s beloved. I pray that Allah grants Hamed the patience to endure all this love, and I ask Hamed to forgive mine.