Beirut Set El Donya has always been a powerful track.
Sung by chanteuse Majida Al Roumi and released in 1995, it is a composition formed in the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War. What defines the track is its defiant spirit. While Al Roumi's voice is heart-broken, it belies a fire that matches the song's rallying lyrics written by Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.
With words that urge the city to "rise from under the rubble, like an almond's rose," the song has been sung by generations in times of strife. Not surprisingly, the anthem resurfaced in recent years. Not only was it sung as part of the mass anti-government street protests in downtown Beirut in 2019, it was also shared on social media after the Beirut Port explosions in August.
This week, a new version of the song is making the rounds with a sound as powerful as the lyrics.
As the next single from their upcoming album, Lebanese band Kimaera gave Beirut Set El Donya the heavy metal treatment. Released October 25 with a Nadim Messihi-directed music video shot in a destroyed home, the track is full of ferocious riffs and symphonic flourishes recalling the work of goth-pop group Evanescence.
A lot of that is down to the operatic vocals of guest singer, Cheryl Khayrallah.
Released as part of the band's 20th anniversary celebrations, front-man Jean-Pierre Haddad said the song has been a regular soundtrack to his life, for better and worse. "I grew up during the civil war and it used to be played on the radio all the time," he told The Daily Star. "(With the Beirut Port explosion) things took a turn and now everyone is playing the song again. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."
Judging by the strong reaction from fans and the steady streaming numbers, Kimaera did a solid job of reinvigorating a classic.
A roaring Lebanese heavy metal scene
The new track is the latest salvo from a vibrant Lebanese heavy metal scene that is raising its voice amid the country's troubles.
In August, the band Death Tribe let their anger at the stagnant political class known with a song called Thawra. Translated to revolution, the track is a heady melange of growled vocals, groove metal riffs and adventurous prog-rock arrangements.
In an accompanying social media statement, the band said: “Thawra means revolution – a track dedicated to all those oppressed by corrupt regimes and warlords to fuel their rage so that they speak up.”
When it comes to Bachir Ramadan from UAE death metal group Nervecell, his homeland's dire situation nearly cost him his life. The drummer was one of thousands injured in the Beirut Port explosion, with the blast nearly levelling his office building located some 800 meters away from the site.
At home and on the mend, he told The National that once he is fully recovered, he will do his part in rebuilding Beirut.
“We have been in this position before where we were knocked down and had to get back up on our feet and that does give me hope," he said.