The boys of the Syrian rock band Tanjaret Daghet are as timid as they are intense; responding with a sense of unapologetic rawness and candor to questions we asked on identity, being Syrian in Lebanon and the current regional situation.
The trio who left Syria in 2011 in a bid to further their musical experience, resettled in Beirut, where the "indie scene is teeming with life." We met in a small café located in one of Beirut’s trendiest and busiest districts: Hamra.
Any talk of home, the war, racism and discrimination was automatically dismissed. To them, speaking of things that were “distant” was a form of drama they did not wish to partake in.
"We do not want to speak of the past, nor of regional troubles … it is what it is and we are what we are. In previous interviews we were pigeonholed as the ‘Syrian band with a cause,' but it’s not like that," they insisted.
In Mezyan – a counter culture café – musicians and members of the progressive scene share a safe space that makes for an alternative experience; one that promotes equality, fraternity and leftist philosophy for as little as a cup of freshly brewed coffee. And so, for a moment, we ignored formalities and the news, and delved into the heart of the matter.
"We are full time musicians and our art is open to interpretation. We’re not trying to sell anything to anyone – we are just sharing our experience," guitar player Tarek Ziad Khuliki explained.
The coffee arrived and Khaled Omran, the lead singer and bass player had his much-needed fill before contributing to the conversation. "The outer casing of a human is not of much importance, the inner child is what ultimately establishes a connection between yourself and others, be it on a musical or personal level," he said when asked if any of the band members or himself had ever been the victims of discrimination.
The three band-mates then paused to greet a friend who happens to spot them in the café. In this closed circuit, everyone knows everyone else. It’s a communal feel that pervades the music of Tanjaret Daghet (meaning pressure cooker) and ultimately rings true to those seeking to let off some steam.
"We want to live the dream and not have to spend our lives behind desks or singing war songs," Dany Shukri, the man behind the drums, said when recalling the band’s history and how they met. "It’s as though we were meant to do this."
For this trio, music is more than just a way of life. It is something they inherited. Dany and Tarek’s fathers had once played the same instruments respectively and performed together before familial responsibility caused them to abandon their musical aspirations to seek more reliable employment – something these boys are adamant on avoiding.
"We are working hard, and challenging ourselves … our first album '180 degrees' received great revues so now the burden is on us to exceed ourselves and accomplish even more. Our next album '-4' takes its name from the underground level where our practice occurs … we hope to release it by the end of this year."
Inspired by a sense of community, the trio often participate in philanthropic endeavors whereby they most recently donated a performance at a paint-up event dedicated to the maintenance and beautification of Nabaa – a marginalized area in the Lebanese capital.
"We try to do what we can to make each day count."
With coffee cups emptied and bills paid, the trio and I part ways, but something tells me that whatever it is that they’ll do next, it will definitely leave its mark on Beirut’s indie scene.