Levantine Week Day 7: Mazhott – M For Mazhott

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Band: Mazhott

Album: M for Mazhott

Release: 2017

Location: Damascus, Syria

Written by Alfred C. Key IV

In the war torn nation of Syria where the dictatorial power of Bashar Al Assad holds the nation in a death grip, it is amazing to hear punk music. This radical form of music that was spawned in the 1970’s has a place with the youth of the Levant. No more is that radical power felt than in the punk band Mazhott. A combination of traditional punk music with garage rock, this band has released one high quality EP in 2013, titled M for Mazhott, that took the punk world by storm (ed: re-released six years ago in 2017). The first time they may have been heard more widely was on a compilation of Arab bands known as the Arab Punk Compilation of 2017. This compilation featured many different groups, most of them being heavy metal acts. In this musical experience, Mazhott stood out – instead of grinding guitars and intricate time signatures, they played simply and aggressively.

Their thirteen-minute ep is a musical juggernaut of powerful verse chorus verse form. Singing in French, English and Arabic this band tells not only love stories such as Darlingo, but political songs such as Not for Us which makes one fear that they will end up in a prison camp. Hailing from Damascus, this band for the majority of the civil conflict of the region was under the control of Assad which makes me wonder how in the hell they managed to produce punk music. This rebellious band seems to say “fuck the system” in all three languages on the record. Influences range from The Clash to Black Flag. Catchy riffs reminded me of early Kinks along with a vocalist that can make decent lyrics that are not drowned out by raging guitars. For all the power the punk scene has, there are cliches that this band gratefully does not fall into.

When listening to this band I can’t help but want to do a couple of things. The first is dancing around my room with a mohawk. I won’t, because the only dance I really know how to do is a slam dance and this kind of music calls for taking a woman in your arms and jumping up and down. Past the English love songs, I enjoyed the Arabic parts even though I couldn’t understand a damn word. This band is for everyone – there is little to no elitism which is nice in a scene that has a too cool for school attitude. The songs are singable and likable which makes me smile on the inside and lights a fire in my cold American heart.

M for Mazhott gives me hope that intervention in a dictatorial world does not only lead to innocent civilians getting massacred by drones, but can at least lead to things of cultural significance. Normal people picking up guitars and singing about their experiences, even if their experiences clearly point to our destruction of the region. I would like to say now that I do not support ISIS or Assad, but this war needs to be waged only with the consent of the people who live there. Mazhott points to these basic feelings of the people – that the US and its allies are only in it for their diesel, which is true as oil companies have been salivating over the possibility of destabilizing and taking over the region for years.

The status quo has led to continual rape of the land. Mazhott does not fear for their lives, but I do. Does it keep me up at night knowing that a punk band is living in the Arab version of 1984? Yes. Does it bother me that their basic human rights could potentially be violated? Yes. Perhaps the band could take their chances away from Assad and enter into Turkiye or YPG land. Anyway, this EP is a great listen and I suggest it to anyone who wants to explore outside of their bubble of music. This band’s music is golden and can be found at YouTube.

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