"Reentko can go from being an ethereal being to frantic rocker," laughs Lahoud. "But generally, his guitar offers even more access to tender worlds. When I immerse myself in Reentko’s playing, I find that my voice is then able to explore a whole range of quiet nuances."
It is especially these passages that make "Irade" a very moving album. Most prominent is a piece entitled "Herzlicht" (heart light), in which Lahoud’s voice quite literally glows. No other piece on the album bears a German title; those Germans among the listeners will therefore expect to hear a few lines in their native language.
Allowing for different worlds
But they do not come. Instead, a wonderfully flowing melody, free of any text, ends by leading into a brief description of a landscape of the soul in a style reminiscent of Khalil Gibran. "Whenever people hear me on the telephone, they don’t expect me to look the way I do," says Lahoud, explaining this game with idioms. "And then when they meet me, there is a massive conflict between what about me is supposed to be German and what is Lebanese. I play with these expectations in this piece as well. For my part, the conflict is intentional. After all, the aim is simply to enjoy what one finds beautiful and to allow both worlds to display the beauty of their being."
This means allowing different worlds to be just what they are. If this is a maxim of Masaa, then one can understand why in another piece the band makes mention of the philosopher and scientist Averroes (Ibn Rushd), who lived in Cordoba and helped shape its lively and fruitful – though not always frictionless nor peaceful – golden age of co-existence between various ethnicities and religious groups in Moorish Andalusia.
Marcus Rust originally created this composition for the Pergamon museum in Berlin. Lahoud finds it remarkable that not only the faiths, which today are increasingly "fencing" each other off again, were closer together 1,000 years ago, but that art was also a close neighbour of science.
Communication beyond words
"Not splitting things apart is something I find fascinating and this also corresponds to my desire to be exactly what I am. And here is where music has the power to humanise society. Music does not require a cognitive and analytic response to questions like 'Who am I?' and 'Where do I belong?'. Time and again I encounter people who are moved by a kind of music that they have never heard before."
With its multiple interconnections between worlds, Masaa’s album "Irade" offers an opportunity for communication beyond words. Their music also enables a space for pain and suffering. This can be heard in "Lullaby For Jasu," which openly addresses the topic of war.
Rabih Lahoud grew up during the Lebanese civil war. His parents still live in Beirut and are experiencing the current unrest in the country first-hand. "Living in Germany, I thought I had gained a greater sense of distance. But I have realised that I have to distance myself internally from such events in order to be able to function once again and not to be sucked into war paralysis," he admits. "On the other hand, the news has a habit of becoming all-involving. I see now how this sense of being frozen never really disappears. You need to be constantly on your guard to ensure a war can never happen again."
With Masaa, Lahoud employs his talent for peace in the best possible way.
© Qantara.de 2020
Translated from the German by John Bergeron