During our November 9th, 2009 show at Port Ghalib in Egypt, something happened that inspired some of my writing for my album 4 (arriving in a few weeks). I was in the middle of performing “Irreplaceable,” and as the audience started singing “to the left, to the left” there was a woman sitting on top of a man’s shoulders in her full, traditional burka. Only her eyes and hands were visible.
She was waving her hands to the left, to the left, and singing every word – which I could see because the veil around her mouth was moving. Although the venue was at capacity, I could see her clearly in the audience. I was shocked she was even there, that she’d even been allowed to go to a concert, because after it gets dark, you don’t see any women in burkas on the street. So her presence alone was so moving. Witnessing the power, beauty, and strength of women – especially those living in places where their liberty is limited – is what moved me the most. I felt she had her beliefs, and they were important to her, but music also had a place in her life and she made a choice to be there.
—Beyonce, “Eat, Play Love,” published in Essence, July 2011
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