VIDEO: The Local interviews Mashrou’ Leila at NorthSide 2018

The Local is the first Danish media to interview Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, who played for the first time in Denmark on Saturday at the NorthSide festival in Aarhus.

VIDEO: The Local interviews Mashrou' Leila at NorthSide 2018
Mashrou' Leila performing at the NorthSide festival in Aarhus. Photo: Farah Bahgat

On the last day of the NorthSide music festival in Aarhus, Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila took to the stage for their first performance in Denmark, still jet lagged after a long flight.

While NorthSide’s diverse programme included headliners from around the world, such as British Liam Gallagher, Americans Queens of the Stone Age and Iceland's Björk, Mashrou’ Leila was the only Middle Eastern band.

The Lebanese group is one of few bands from the region to gain strong international interest, both from music festivals and media, and was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in 2014.

For the past two years the band has played several concerts around Europe, Latin America and the United States, but has been banned from playing in Middle East countries Egypt and Jordan due to its pro-LGBT stance.

Lead singer Hamed Sinno is one of very few openly gay artists in the Middle East.

The Local spoke to the band backstage about how playing in Denmark compares to the Middle East and why they’d like to see more Middle Eastern artists at the Aarhus festival.

“Honestly we do not know why we’re doing okay,” Hamed Sinno, the band’s lead singer, told The Local. 

“We know many bands who discuss sort of the same things that we discuss.”

Mashrou’ Leila’s songs are known for being politically charged and discussing topics such as sexual freedom, feminism and social structures.

“There is also the whole hard work behind it, it is not just sentences we say on stage, it’s hours and hours of work, it’s a long process of us being satisfied with the work,” keyboardist and guitarist Firas Aboufakher said.

Last year, Mashrou’ Leila played a concert in Cairo, a city that used to host the band every year.

Police arrested fans after the concert for raising the rainbow flag and the state officially announced that Mashrou’ Leila would be banned from performing in Egypt again.

Also in 2017, Mashrou’ Leila was also banned from performing in Jordan, with the ministry of interior in that country citing security reasons.

“I think in a lot of ways we’re kind of blessed to have made it to ten years before getting banned,” Sinno said.

“But at this point, it’s ridiculous, we can’t play in Palestine and Syria both because of the political situation, we can’t play in Jordan and Cairo because we’re banned, we can’t play in Saudi because they just had their first concert, we can go on and on about how we cannot play to our actual audience. So we’re trying to figure out new ways to reach our audience,” the singer continued.

The band says they have realised that their audience is changing as they both gain popularity overseas — including in countries like Denmark — and are prevented from performing where their more established fan bases are.

“This is the first time that we consciously think of the audience and it’s been an interesting experience because it was something that we tried to steer away from for quite some time,” Sinno said.

The band, which has only ever sung in Arabic, is now considering writing songs in English.

“Right now we’re exploring our options in terms of writing and releasing music which is changing so quickly right now, but it is an option, I think we are actively exploring working in other languages and other styles and working differently,” Aboufakher said.

“I think when we first started [in 2008, ed.] we didn’t really want to be musicians, we just wanted to make music to say what we wanted to say,” Sinno said.

“At this point, it took a lot of changes for us in our lives and in our approach to things and in our perspective of what we want in life,” he added.

READ ALSO: Metallica and Afghan institute share 'Music's Nobel Prize'


Today in Denmark: A round-up of the latest news on Monday

Find out what's going on in Denmark today with The Local's short roundup of the news in less than five minutes.

Today in Denmark: A round-up of the latest news on Monday
Sunny weather is expected all week this week. Photo: Niclas Jessen/Visit Denmark

Denmark’s former PM names new party Moderaterne 

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Denmark’s former prime minister, announced on Saturday that his new centre party would be called Moderaterne, the same name as the leading centre-right party in Sweden. 

In a speech held to mark Denmark’s Constitution Day on Saturday, Rasmussen said the new party would attempt to unite Danes with a variety of different backgrounds and political viewpoints. 

“Some prefer mackerel, and others prefer salmon. Some have long Danish pedigrees, others have only recently chosen to live in Denmark,” he said.

What they all have in common, he said, is their love for Denmark, which is “among the best countries in the world”. 

“How do we drive it forward? We are trying to find an answer to that. How do we pass it on to our children in better condition than we received it?” 

Rasmussen said the party would not launch fully until after November’s local elections, but was ready to contest a parliamentary election if the ruling Social Democrats decided to call an early vote, something he said he did not expect to happen. 

Sweden’s state epidemiologist warns Swedes to be careful in “high-infection” Denmark 

After the per capita number of new coronavirus infections in Denmark in recent days overtaking that of Sweden, Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has advised Swedes visiting their Nordic neighbour to be careful to maintain social distancing. 

“You need to keep [the infection rate] in mind if you go there, so that you really take with you the advice you have in Sweden to keep your distance, not stay with lots of other people, and not have the close contact that involves a risk,” he told the Expressen newspaper. 

He said Denmark’s higher infection rate was an obvious consequence of the country’s more rapid lifting of restrictions. 

“They chose to open up society relatively quickly even though they knew that there was a certain risk that the spread of infection would increase,” he said. “Because they had vaccinated the elderly and did not see that it would be that dangerous with a certain increased spread of infection.” 

Nils Strandberg Pedersen, former director for Denmark’s SSI infectious diseases agency called Tegnell’s comments “comical”. 

“It’s comical. It’s Swedish spin,” he told the BT tabloid. “Denmark has registered more infections because we test so much more than the Swedes. It’s not the same as having more people infected in the population.” 

More immigrants to Denmark are getting an education 

The education gap between first and second-generation immigrants to Denmark and people of Danish origin has fallen over the last decade, according to a story published in Politiken based on new figures from Denmark’s immigration ministry. 

An impressive 72 percent of 20 to 24-year-old first and second-generation female immigrants now completing further education of university education, compared to 58 percent in 2010.

Denmark records further 853 cases of coronavirus 

A further 853 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the 24 hours running up to 2pm on Sunday, a rise on Saturday when 592 cases were detected, but still within the range of 600 to 1350 a day within which Denmark has been fluctuating since the start of May. 

Thorkild Sørensen, professor emeritus of epidemiology at the University of Copenhagen, told Ritzau that the sunny summer weather was allowing people to meet outside, and vaccinations were having an impact, allowing Denmark to open up without a surge in infections.

On Sunday morning, 138 people were being treated for coronavirus in Denmark’s hospitals, up four from Saturday, or whom 29 were in intensive care. 

Some 40.4 percent of the population has now received at least one dose of vaccine and 23.2 percent have received both doses. 

Sunny summer weather expected in Denmark this week 

Denmark is expected to have warm sunny weather with temperatures of 18C to 23C, with blue skies and little rain, Danish Meteorological Institute said on Monday. 

“This week looks really nice and summery, and it will be mostly dry weather most of the time,” Anja Bodholdt, a meteorologist at the institute told Ritzau on Monday.  “The only exception is Monday, when people in Jutland and Funen might wake up to scattered showers that move east during the day.” 

Danish property market show signs of cooling 

The number of houses being put on the market fell again in May, according to new figures released from Home, one of Denmark’s largest online estate agents. 

According to Bjørn Tangaa Sillemann, an analyst at Danske Bank, the figures suggest that momentum is seeping out of what has been a “scorching” market over the last year, although he said it was unlikely prices would actually fall. 
“Although demand seems to be declining, it is still high, and when interest declines, it can also make it less attractive to put your home up for sale than it has been recently,” he said.
At Home, 5.1 percent fewer houses were put on the market in May, while the number of apartments put on the market fell 9 percent, and the number of sales fell by 2.1 and 5.7 percent respectively.