This article by Syrian novelist Nihad Sirees includes info on “the banat ishreh — women who form intense, intimate relationships with other women and who meet in groups in order to sing, dance and socialize. The atmosphere at those soirees was rife with coquettishness, jealousy and love. Each woman would sit next to her particular friend and, in turn, would sing her a song. ….
"I had heard of two banat ishreh who lived together, and I wanted to meet them, so I called them and set up an appointment….
”The younger woman, whom I’ll call Ahlam for her protection, was a dark-eyed beauty. I’ll call her friend Hameed — she had given herself a man’s name, one that reminded me of the burly heroes of Egyptian movies from the 1960s. Hameed had a boyish haircut and a mannish way of sitting and smoking cigarettes. She acted as if she were the husband of Ahlam, and had even purchased a hair salon in Ahlam’s name in case something bad happened and she was no longer able to take care of her.
“Hameed was also a famous wedding singer who was known all over town, and wedding halls would fill to the brim with women who had come to hear her sing — and behave — like a man. They would clamber up onstage with her as she sang to the newlyweds, dancing and writhing around her.
"I loved those two women, and began to visit them whenever I could, soaking up Hameed’s stories about the banat ishreh … . ”
Like Japan’s Takarazuka, like the cross-dressing English music hall performers … Wonderful to see an example out of Syria! A moving article about what the war has done to music, and to these people in particular. May there be peace. And music, soon.