Mashrouʼ Leila is not a bandʼs name. It is not a proper noun per se; Mashrouʼ Leila is Arabic for ʻan overnight projectʼ lusting out a microphone, a violin, a bass, two guitars, drums and keyboards. It started out as a music workshop at the American University of Beirut in 2008, an open platform for students of architecture and design, somewhere to experiment with sounds and make things audible. Haig Papazian, Carl Gerges, Hamed Sinno, Omaya Malaeb, Andre Chedid, Firas Abou Fakher and Ibrahim Badr have enjoyed this sound fetish savoring its façade of nonchalance and feeding on its lack of genre – sustaining their collective as Mashrouʼ Leila, an experiment.
You can hear Leila, cascading melts of masculine vocals only suspended with thrusts of violin, beats and bass – attacked by neurotic melody that means no harm – sometimes tender, even sometimes on pause. Through the music, you can smell where Leila has been, in bed sheets, on sidewalks, jasmines in riﬂes and spilled coffee on dresses as she made you play with aubergines, dancing her dance. Music has constantly been their place to play with things, to match and mis-match, a project.
In the various performances, Mashrouʼ Leila is a constant attempt to taste and produce, more than happy to harvest anyone from the audience as a guest in their encores. They have performed around Lebanon since 2008, playing in various venues in Beirut, taking over supposed public piazzas as well as clubs, pubs, hybrids and the such – they also played in Zahle, Sour, Jounieh, Saida and Deir el Qamar, each of which pushed forward their thinking about how to go about their music, lyrics and performance. It is only when Mashrouʼ Leila goes live, that you can actually catch a glimpse of Leila. As it talks to you of Beirut, the city that tastes of the absurd, the product of its day-to-day experiences, its stubborn security and lack of the latter, its musical bombshells, incoherent sexuality and thrusting pleasure…narcotic pain – as it brings forward hints of Arabic Tarab, rock, to folk pop, electro, you can see Leila in every man and woman in the silent- come-raving audience. In this trajectory, they participated in music workshops and concerts in Amman and Cairo to maneuver their way into a pan-Arab music scene, to know and to announce, more importantly to grow, musically.
In March 2009, Mashrouʼ Leila won the Lebanese Modern Music Contest jury prize and public vote organized by Radio Liban in partnership with CCF, Incognito and the Basement. They released their debut album in December 2009 at what turned out to be Beirut’s biggest alternative (read non-mainstream) event in recent years.
The months leading up to the Arab Spring proved fruitful for Leila as well. In July 2010, Mashrou’ Leila headlined Byblos International Music festival alongside the Gorillaz and Caetano Veloso; this was the first time a Lebanese band was given a headlining post in the festival and proved to be Mashrou’ Leila’s biggest concert yet. Fall of 2010-11 saw Leila pack up her suitcases with shows in Qatar at the Doha Tribeca International Film Festival and at the Vodafone Big Day Out, headlining alongside Hoobastank and Toploader, in the United Arab Emirates at the Du World Music Festival and the Music Room – Dubai’s leading live music venue and in Egypt where thelive at the Genaina Theater show saw a sold out crowd with people gathering outside the venue premises for a peek.
In the summer of 2011, Mashrou’ Leila released the 7al Romancy E.P., five songs of new material recorded in mountain retreats with cousins and turkish coffee, in the abandoned concrete dome in the Tripoli world Fair and with a quintet of strings on cold winter nights. The release was held at the Hippodrome of Beirut. Mashrou’ Leila also added Serbia and Jordan to the map, with a spot in the 4 day prestigious Exit Festival in Serbia and a 2 night show at the Citadel in Jordan.
written by Raafat Majzoub
Mashrou3 Leila’s digital and social media strategy has been established by Think Media Labs, a boutique agency that works with digital technologies and social media.
Through collaboration between Mashrou3 Leila and Think Media Labs, the band’s latest news, shows, pictures and videos are now available for the fans.