Update: Since I wrote this piece in February, Sukoon, an Arab literary magazine, kindly republished it here. I was also asked to turn the tribute into the below podcast for Black River Press. With thanks to both Rewa and Themba.
I first met jeddo (grandpa) in August 1987. I was just three years old, but I have this distinct memory of him hurriedly running down the driveway of his humble orchard-home in Zahrani, barefoot, in the pouring rain, to embrace my mother. He hadn’t seen her since just before the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982; they’d barely communicated in the interim. Tears were streaming down his face as he held her.
Osman “Abu Nasser” Antar was born to Zahra and Mahmoud in Sidon in 1929. He was the fifth of eight other siblings — one sister, and seven brothers. His father was a trader and a landowner who worked between Palestine and South Lebanon; he managed his finances poorly.
When jeddo was barely 11, my great-grandfather unexpectedly passed away, leaving the family of ten with very little to survive on. My grandpa was consequently forced to leave school to provide for himself, his younger siblings, and his mother.
Sinno was, of course, being his cheeky and brilliant self. (I fully intend to use the word ISISing in the future).
Pointing to a live projection from the streets of Mar Mikhael in Beirut and footage of young Lebanese being, well, young and Lebanese, the bearded, dreamy singer said his band was bringing the Levantine city to London.
That was, perhaps, the theme of the group’s inaugural Barbican gig: Sinno’s presence was so infectious, so intense, so darn sexy, that the posh London concert hall ascended into an Arab rave about fifteen minutes in.