News Column

Rocking the music and fashion worlds

August 31, 2014

Beckie Strum

BEIRUT: The lead singer of local rock band Mother Mantra paused between songs with an unusual request Saturday night at the group's debut concert at the Garten nightclub in Downtown.

"Who has really small wrists?!" Sara Barrage shouted out.

Arms went up and a minute later one slight-wristed attendant, Seema Halabi, was happily sporting the first piece of Mother Mantra band paraphernalia, a leather embossed cuff designed by the front woman herself. "It's really awesome. I love the logo," said Halabi, staring down at her new bracelet. "I'd wear this!"

That's not much of a surprise as Barrage, its designer, is not only a member of the city's rock scene but the creator of local fashion jewelry brand CERA BARR, which has taken off in the year and half since its creation. The blond, blue-eyed singer/designer is a bit of a free spirit and one of the city's unconventional style icons.

Just take a look at her dress Saturday night: a Hawaiian skirt she made herself from tentacles of blue sequins that shimmered like Christmas tinsel. She paired that with a tight black dress, ankle boots and an ear cuff also her design sparkling in the same shade of turquoise.

Barrage has been singing as a member of local bands for around five years, ever since she returned home from studying sound design in Montreal. She said she had turned to the local rock scene as a way to stay close to like-minded people.

Mother Mantra is Barrage's latest musical collaboration. It held its first-ever concert Saturday and drew a crowd of around 100 people to the Garten, the cage-like open-air club on Beirut's Waterfront.

The band is a mashup of some of the city's talented rockers: bassist Faysal Itani of the Wanton Bishops; the band's founder, songwriter and guitarist Karim Beydoun; drummer and punk band veteran Alan Charraoui from Lazzy Lung; and of course Barrage, the lead singer. She used to sing with Ziad and the Wings.

Her dual life as accessory designer and musician has made for some memorable rock-inspired jewelry pieces available through CERA BARR. She led a recent obsession among local jewelry makers on display every couple of months at design fairs to focus on laurel-like headpieces and body jewelry.

Barrage took a couple of minutes to tell The Daily Star about her double life, designs and crazy blue skirt.

Q: How did you get started in the local music scene?

A: [In 2009] I was in Montreal and I was moving back to Lebanon and I was like: "S---! I need to be able to do something that's going to keep me going and not make me upset that I left [Canada]." I needed to find people like me. Then I found that Ziad Hamdan who I loved was launching a new project ... I met him and auditioned and it was perfect. We were together for a couple years and it was a great time. Q: Your work in design and music have been linked from the very beginning, no?

A: It did start through music. When I was with Ziad and the Wings, at one point there were four girls and whenever we had a show we would look for some interesting accessories to wear, to organize to wear together. But we couldn't always find original-looking accessories that would look cool on stage.I had always reconstructed my own jewelry to look like something else. I would take a missing earring and make it a part of a bracelet. I was randomly online and I saw classes for jewelry making so I went straight for that ... So I started making [jewelry] and we started wearing them. We got great reviews and got a lot of attention. People would come up after our shows and ask us what we were wearing. That's how CERA BARR started.

Q: And now you're already doing special paraphernalia for the new band, Mother Mantra?

A: Then I found this band that is amazing, that I love. We got a cool logo made for our band by a graphic designer and I started making a special Mother Mantra line because I have the workmanship to do that. I don't know why, but that bracelet was made really tiny. I don't know how it fit that girl. It was magical. Q: What are some of the best-selling things you've designed through CERA BARR?

A: Number one are the headpieces. Q: What do Sara the singer and Sara the designer have in common?

A: There's always this back-and-forth between being a woman, being very feminine and having this role of being as much of a goddess as you can while being edgy and having this rebellious side. I don't care what society says, because I want to do this and I want to wear this. I'll rock whatever I wanna rock. In both my jewelry and music, I'm a girl that's always pushing the envelope.

Out in the world it's not that crazy, but here in Lebanon people are not used to girls breaking out of their shells. Q: Well, Saturday's outfit was pretty crazy. Tell us about that.

A: I made my skirt! I was telling people 'I'm wearing this I don't care what you think!'I was just buying little parts for jewelry, the clasps and backs to earrings, and I saw these cute sequin stringy things, and I said: "I'm buying some black and turquoise ones and I'm wearing them to the show."

At first, I started making them to look like a cape but it looked really tacky. Then, I decided to attach them to a belt and wear them as a skirt. I said: "That's it, a Hawaiian, Goth skirt!" Q: It takes a lot of confidence to sing and to start a business. Has anyone ever criticized your choices?

A: I remember getting negative criticism back when I started, not about the jewelry, but definitely about the singing. Unfortunately, you have this huge Arabic music industry where most of the singers are ... in the industry to get attentionAlso, I'm married and I have a family ... [People] were like: "What? You're going to like be on a stage singing?" I broke through that, thank God. It was really challenging, but you just stick with it and prove that you're doing something beautiful.

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Daily Star, The (Lebanon)

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