Mashrou' Leila

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Mashrou' Leila
Mashrou' Leila during their album release concert in December 2009 at the DEMCO steel warehouse in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon[1]
Background information
Origin Beirut, Lebanon
Genres Indie rock, Alternative Rock
Years active 2008–present
Members Hamed Sinno
Haig Papazian
Carl Gerges
Firas Abu-Fakher
Ibrahim Badr
Past members Andre Chedid
Omaya Malaeb

Mashrou’ Leila (Arabic: مشروع ليلى‎ sometimes transliterated as "Mashrou3 Leila", meaning "Overnight Project") is an Lebanese five-member alternative rock band. The band formed in Beirut, Lebanon in 2008 as a music workshop at the American University of Beirut. The band has released three studio albums, Mashrou' Leila (2008), El Hal Romancy (2011), an EP, and Raasük (2013) while causing many controversies due to their satirical lyrics and themes.


Formation and early years[edit]

The band was formed in February 2008 at the American University of Beirut, when violinist Haig Papazian, guitarist Andre Chedid and pianist Omaya Malaeb posted an open invitation to musicians looking to jam to vent the stress caused by college and the unstable political situation.[2][3][4] Out of a dozen of people who answered the call, seven would remain to form Mashrou' Leila.[2][3] Band members were encouraged by friends to perform in front of a live crowd; they put on a show as the opening act for a concert on the AUB campus. During the event Mashrou' Leila proved to be the only band who were writing and playing their original music.[4] The band continued playing in small venues, and gaining ground on the underground music circuit.,[2] until they emerged onto the indy music scene during the Lebanese 2008 "Fête de la Musique" event (the yearly Music festival held by the Beirut municipality) sparking controversy for their unabashed and critical lyrics on Lebanese society, failed love, sexuality and politics.[5]

Mashrou' Leila[edit]

In 2009, Mashrou’ Leila participated at Radio Liban's 'Modern Music Contest' held at Basement (club) winning both the jury and popular awards in part due to their breakthrough single "Raksit Leila" (Leila's dance). The first prize was a record deal.[3][5] Mashrou' Leila’s self-titled debut album produced by B-root Productions was released in December 2009 at a steel factory in Bourj Hammoud (a suburb of Beirut) where an unprecedented number attendees crowded the factory yard.[6] The gig turned out to be Beirut's biggest non-mainstream event in recent years and has been a big hit among Indie and Rock fans in Lebanon.[2] Shortly after the release of their first album, the band burst into the spotlight of the Lebanese music mainstream when they were announced to be headlining the Byblos International Festival on July 9, 2010. The concert was one of the most anticipated events of the summer and was attended by scores of fans as well as the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri.[3][7][8]

El Hal Romancy[edit]

Mashrou' Leila performing at Baalbeck Festival 2012

In 2011, Mashrou' Leila released the 'El Hal Romancy' EP, a recording the band describes as "tackling lyrically more intimate, personal, and theatrical subject matter that is less about the city and its politics proper, and more about the social residue of the city'. This is a collection of songs that happen in a weathered bedroom with ruffled bed sheets, stained carpeting, and a book shelf of references, while a string section plays on a rusty vinyl player to a couple of young lovers trying to survive the city".[9] One week before the release concert in Beirut Hippodrome, Mashrou' Leila announced that the album was available for free download on the band's website.

In 2012, the band headlined Baalbeck International Festival.[10] The concert was filmed and released as a live concert.[11]


Mashrou' Leila's anticipated 3rd release Rassuk was recorded at the Hotel 2 Tango in Montreal. Described as 'an arresting, heady mixture of retro-Beirut music – the signature sound being Haig Papazian's razor-sharp violin' the album was release in August 2013.[12] The video of the lead single Lil Watan ("for the nation") was awarded the gold prize at the Dubai Lynx 2015 festival.[13] To promote the album, the band managed to crowd fund over 60,000$; an unprecedented feat for a middle east art project.[14] On April 6, Mashrou' Leila became the first Middle Eastern artist to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.[15]

On the 25th of November 2013, Mashrou' Leila played the Red Bull Soundclash with Who Killed Bruce Lee in the Forum de Beyrouth.[16]


Mashrou' Leila's members enjoy the wordplay and ambiguity surrounding their band's name. In English, the name can be interpreted as either “One Night Project” or “Leila’s Project”; Leila being a very common given name in Lebanon.[5] When asked during an early interview about the origin of the name Mashrou' Leila, band members teasingly retorted that the band is a project started to collect money for a girl they knew called Leila.[7] According to the band’s official Facebook page, Mashrou’ Leila means “An Overnight Project”, named for the nocturnal nature of the project characterized by all-night jam sessions.[3][4][7]

Band members[2][3][edit]

Themes and style[edit]

Mashrou’ Leila's entertaining themes and satirical Lebanese lyrics reflect the many faces and flaws of Lebanese society which are not addressed by mainstream Arabic music. The band is critical of the problems associated with life in Beirut and they are known for their liberal use of swear-words in some of their songs.[5] Their debut album's 9 songs wittily discuss subject matters such as lost love, war, politics, security and political assassination, materialism, immigration and homosexuality. "Latlit" one of the Mashrou' Leila album tracks is a caricature of the Lebanese society overridden by gossip.[2][18] "Shem-el Yasmine" (literally Smell the jasmine), a song reminiscent of Jay Brannan's "Housewife" was described as an ode to tolerance for same-sex love where a young man wants to introduce his bride to his parents but the bride turns out to be a groom.[2][19][20] "Fasateen" (literally meaning "dresses") is a ballad that tackles the issue of marriage. The song's music video shows the band members deconstructing nuptial symbols and defying the pressure of romantic relationships.[21] Some of the distinctive features of the band's music is the prominence of the violin in passages redolent of Armenian folk music and the use of a megaphone in some songs to alter frontman Hamed Sinno's voice.[5][6]


Studio albums[edit]

All songs written and composed by Mashrou' Leila. 

Mashrou' Leila (2009)
No. Title Length
1. "Fasateen"   3:03
2. "Obwa"   3:30
3. "Min el Taboor"   3:28
4. "'Al Hajiz"   3:32
5. "Shim el Yasmine"   5:10
6. "Im-Bim-Billilah"   2:32
7. "Latlit"   3:06
8. "Khaleeha Zikra"   4:18
9. "Raksit Leila"   8:43
Total length:
El Hal Romancy (2011)
No. Title Length
1. "El Moukadima"   2:03
2. "Habibi"   3:43
3. "Inni Mnih"   3:23
4. "Imm El Jacket"   3:00
5. "Wajih"   3:30
6. "El Hal Romancy"   3:45
Total length:
Raasük (2013)
No. Title Length
1. "Prologue"   1:20
2. "Abdo"   3:17
3. "Ala Babu"   4:36
4. "Taxi"   2:44
5. "Skandar Maalouf"   4:01
6. "Lil Watan"   3:36
7. "Bishuf"   4:33
8. "Ma Tetrikini Heik"   2:26
9. "Raasük"   4:02
10. "Wa Nueid"   5:05
11. "Bahr"   3:27
Total length:

Live albums[edit]

Title Album details
Peak chart positions
Live in Baalbeck
  • Released: May 7, 2013
  • Label: Abbout Productions
  • Format: DVD


  1. ^ Now Lebanon staff (2009). "Concert: "Mashrou’ Leila Album Release", Demco Steel Warehouse, 21h". NowLebanon. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g el-Jor, Ashley (2010). "Mashrou’ Leila - Mashrou’ Leila 2009". Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f al-Fil, Omar (2010). "Mashrou' Leila: the rise of the underground". Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  4. ^ a b c Chahine, Michelle (2010). "SOUNDSCAPES - Rocking Beirut: A Night Out with Mashrou’ Leila". Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Bainbridge, Meg (2009). "I want to be Leila". Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  6. ^ a b Hamdar, Mohammad (2010). تجربة ما قبل النضوج: حجر الاساس لـ"مشروع ليلى" (in Arabic). Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  7. ^ a b c Byblos International Festival (2010). "Mashrou’ Leila". Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  8. ^ Wakim, Jocelyne (2010). مشروع ليلى تألّقت في بيبلوس (in Arabic). Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  9. ^ "Mashrou' Leila - El Hal Romancy concert" (in Arabic). 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  10. ^ "Mashrou Leila" (in Arabic). 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  11. ^ "Mashrou' Leila - Live in Baalbeck -DVD Release" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  12. ^ "Mashrou Leila: the lebanese band changing the tune of Arab politics" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  13. ^ "Mashrou Leila" (in Arabic). 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  14. ^ "What Mashrou Leila's crowd funding success means for the arab world" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  15. ^ "Rolling Stone chooses first regional artist for cover" (in Arabic). 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  16. ^ "Mashrou' Leila Clashed with who killed bruce lee" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  17. ^ Gay Lebanese singer Hamed Sinno navigates Middle Eastern taboos through music
  18. ^ NPR staff, Ashley (2010). "The Spin: Beirut's Jam Is Mashrou' Leila's 'Embembelela7'". NPR Music. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  19. ^ Sayegh, Nasri (2009). "Leur plus belle histoire d’amour…" (in French). l'Orient-Le Jour. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  20. ^ "The first gay love song of the Arab pop?". Interpreting the Arab world and Islam. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  21. ^ Videomedeja (2010). "Fasateen - Mashrou' Leila". VIDEOMEDEJA 2010 Awards. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 

External links[edit]