What's Mehria Listening To?
by Mirabai Jyothi Kukathas
Mehria, what song do you currently have on repeat?
Two songs I have on repeat are Tayf (“Ghost”) and Maghawir (“Commandos”) by Mashrou’ Leila from their album Ibn El Leil (“Son of the Night”).
What is these songs about? How do they make you feel?
Maghawir (“Commandos”) is a response to two nightclub shootings in Beirut which took place within a week of each other, where two young victims were out celebrating their birthdays. The song confronts toxic masculinity and the lack of gun control in Lebanon. Tayf (Ghost) is about a brutal police raid on a popular gay club in Beirut, where its patrons were arrested and harassed. These songs confront trauma and hurt, corruption and violence, and at the same time play homage to the resistance within their communities will to persist and their fight for a world beyond pain. These songs are poems to those that dare to live and love despite oppression, and they humble me. They unsettle me and they incite a fire in me that connect my own identity and the struggles of queer, trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming folks in the west to transnational struggles against violence. Queer Muslims especially are incessantly and unceasingly expected to answer for the actions of strangers and systems that play equal part in oppressing them and then placing the blame on them as being their own oppressors. The band confronts realities that queer Muslims exist in a space that doesn’t allow for mourning, for when they are murdered and abused they are also named the murderers and abusers. Queer Muslims are also forced to be all-knowing and all-representing figures for their religion and country of origin. These multifaceted identities are oversimplified, treated as singular and stable while in reality the complexity and diversity of the Muslim world transcends singular representation. These traumas and struggles to heal from them within Mashrou’ Leila’s songs therefore resonate with many non-western and non-white queer, trans, gender nonconforming folks who exist at the intersections of oppression. Mashrou’ Leila’s music is representative of what it means to speak your truths, to advocate for your community and celebrate each other despite state violence.
How did you hear about this song?
I heard about the band Mashrou’ Leila and then this song through a playlist shared by one of my favorite poets, Alok Vaid-Menon. They are a trans-feminine and gender non-conforming Indian American performance artist who within an entire repertoire of publicly published pieces, which often assume the form of diary entries and visual selfie-poems, delve deeply into themes of diaspora, trauma, loneliness, race, gender, and street harassment; they also provide intimate renditions of their own non-linear healing processes and survival against violences enacted by white supremacy, gender binarism, and transmisogyny. I urge everyone to support their work through whatever means possible, they put so much love into this world!
What album or artist would you recommend everyone to try listening to?
Ruby Ibarra’s album Circa91. Ruby Ibarra is a brown Filipina poet and rapper, an absolute powerhouse that raps in both English, Tagalog, and the Tacloban dialect of Waray.