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
OriginBeirut, Lebanon
GenresIndie rock
Years active2008–present
MembersHamed Sinno
Haig Papazian
Carl Gerges
Firas Abou Fakher
Ibrahim Badr
Past membersAndre Chedid
Omaya Malaeb

Mashrou’ Leila (Arabic: مشروع ليلى‎  Lebanese pronunciation: [maʃˈɾuʕ ˈlajla]; sometimes transliterated as Mashrou3 Leila or Leila's Project) is a Lebanese five-member indie rock band. The band formed in Beirut, Lebanon in 2008 as a music workshop at the American University of Beirut. The band has released four studio albums: Mashrou' Leila (2009), Raasük (2013), Ibn El Leil (2015) and The Beirut School (2019); and an EP, El Hal Romancy (2011), while causing many controversies due to their satirical lyrics and themes.


Background and name[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 the 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 that composed and performed their original compositions.[4] The band continued to play small venues and gain ground on the underground music circuit[2] until they emerged onto the indie 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'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.[6] 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][6]

Mashrou' Leila[edit]

Mashrou' Leila (2009) front cover

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 of attendees crowded the factory yard.[7] 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][6][8]

El Hal Romancy[edit]

El Hal Romancy (2011) front cover

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]


Raasuk (2013) front cover

Mashrou' Leila's anticipated 3rd release Raasuk was recorded at Hotel2Tango in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was described as "an arresting, heady mixture of retro-Beirut music – the signature sound being Haig Papazian's razor-sharp violin".[12] The album was released in August 2013.[13] The video of the lead single "Lil Watan" ("for the nation") was awarded the gold prize at the Dubai Lynx 2015 festival.[14] To promote the album, the band managed to crowd fund over $60,000; an unprecedented feat for a Middle East art project.[15] On April 6, Mashrou' Leila became the first Middle Eastern artist to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.[16]

On November 25, 2013, Mashrou' Leila played the Red Bull Soundclash with Who Killed Bruce Lee in the Forum de Beyrouth.[17]

During a show at The Middle East club in Boston, Sinno introduced "Abdo" off the Raasuk release by explaining that, "This one is about something typical in Beirut which is people selling stuff on trolleys in the street. It’s about a flower salesman called Abdo."[18]

Ibn El Leil[edit]

Ibn El Leil (2015) front cover

The first hint of new material arrived when the band started a campaign asking the members of their social media pages to submit lyrics and video ideas to be incorporated in the band's upcoming single. "3 Minutes" was released on March 17, 2015.

Contrary to their common method of writing and producing songs, the band decided not to test their new material in live concerts, opting instead for secrecy and mystery about their fourth album. The band recorded the 13 tracks in studio La Frette in France over the summer with French-Lebanese producer Samy Osta, and worked on orchestral and brass arrangements with the Macedonian Radio Orchestra in F.A.M.E's Studios in Macedonia. The band has said that this album is their most pop album to date, and deals with topics that range from the euphoric to the destructive and depressive, all taking place in the politically, socially, and sexually charged spaces of Beirut's night.

The band experimented with drum machines, loops, samples, and several synthesisers in a new method of composition, trying to accommodate for the departure of keyboard player Omaya Malaeb. "Maghawir" narrates a possible version of a club shooting in Beirut, drawing on references to real Lebanese case histories from two different shootings that took place within the same week, both of which resulted in the deaths of extremely young victims, each of who was out celebrating their birthday."[19] During a show in Boston, the band explained that the song "Tayf (Ghost)" is about a shuttered gay club, and "Bint Elkhandaq" tells the story of a friend who learned, "as hard as it is to be a woman in Beirut, it’s just as hard to be brown in the West."[20]

The album is heavily loaded with allusions and references, both to contemporary figures of pop, and to mythological figures of gods and demons.

On the November 28, the band released Ibn El Leil at the Barbican in London with live broadcasting on MTV Lebanon available to the entire world to positive reviews. "In the seven years since Mashrou’ Leila formed at the American University of Beirut, the quintet – whose name, in fact, means 'overnight project' – have won comparisons to everyone from Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead to Roxy Music and Wild Beasts." [21]

On December 1, Ibn El Leil debuted at the number one spot on local iTunes channels, and charted as number 11 on the international world Billboard charts. "It’s such an impressive performance that stadiums seem not only possible but imminent."[21]

The band released a music video for their single "Roman" on July 19, 2017. The single was included on the deluxe version of Ibn El Leil released July 21, 2017.[22]

The Beirut School[edit]

On February 8, 2019, they released a new single, "Cavalry", the first single from their upcoming album The Beirut School.[23]

Band members[edit]

Current members
Former members

Themes and style[edit]

Mashrou’ Leila's 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 nine songs 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][25] "Shim 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][26] "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.[27] 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 lead vocalist Hamed Sinno's voice.[5][7]

After syncing for a while, the public started to dissect the band, member by member. Hamed Sinno got his first solo magazine theater cover in 2012[28] when he fronted the December issue of the first LGBTQI magazine in the MENA region, My.Kali.[29] A year after, Papazian fronted the same publication for the same month, landing his first theater cover in 2013.[30] Carl Gerges landed his first solo cover on the November issue of L'Officiel Hommes-Levant, 2013.


Mashrou' Leila at the Roman theater in Amman, Jordan August 2015

Mashrou' Leila's satirical lyrics and themes regarding politics, religion, sexuality and homosexuality have sparked several controversies, which once to an unofficial ban on performing in Jordan on April 26, 2016. The band announced on its Facebook page that their planned concert was denied approval by the Amman Governorate.[31] The ban was reverted by the relevant authorities two days later.[32] On June 13, 2016, the band again posted a message on their official Facebook page that claimed their upcoming concert in Amman had been cancelled by the Jordanian Ministry of the Interior: "The inconsistency of the Jordanian authorities in this respect (inviting us, then banning, then cancelling the ban, then inviting us again, then banning us again - all within the course of 14 months - has culminated in a clear message, that the Jordanian authorities do not intend to separate Jordan from the fanatical conservatism that has contributed in making the region increasingly toxic over the last decade."[33]

In September 2017, while the band was playing in Egypt, members of their audience were arrested for unfurling a rainbow flag in support of LGBT rights. One man has been sentenced to six years in jail for 'practicing debauchery' on his way home from the concert.[34]


Studio albums[edit]

All tracks written by Mashrou' Leila.

Mashrou' Leila (2009)
3."Min el Taboor"3:28
4."'Al Hajiz"3:32
5."Shim el Yasmine"5:10
8."Khaleeha Zikra"4:18
9."Raksit Leila"8:43
Total length:38:09
El Hal Romancy (2011)
1."El Moukadima"2:03
3."Inni Mnih"3:23
4."Imm El Jacket"3:00
6."El Hal Romancy"3:45
Total length:19:33
Raasük (2013)
3."Ala Babu"4:36
5."Skandar Maalouf"4:01
6."Lil Watan"3:36
8."Ma Tetrikini Heik"2:26
10."Wa Nueid"5:05
Total length:39:12
Ibn El Leil (2015)
2."3 Minutes"4:20
6."Kalam (S/He)"4:06
7."Tayf (Ghost)"4:28
9."Bint Elkhandaq"3:27
10."Asnam (Idols)"3:09
Total length:53:46

Live albums[edit]

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


  1. ^ "Concert: "Mashrou' Leila Album Release", Demco Steel Warehouse, 21h". NowLebanon. 2009. 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.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f al-Fil, Omar (2010). "Mashrou' Leila: the rise of the underground". Archived from the original on 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  4. ^ a b c Chahine, Michelle (2010). "SOUNDSCAPES - Rocking Beirut: A Night Out with Mashrou' Leila". Archived from the original on 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bainbridge, Meg (2009). "I want to be Leila". Archived from the original on 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  6. ^ a b c Byblos International Festival (2010). "Mashrou' Leila". Archived from the original on 2010-08-24. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  7. ^ a b Hamdar, Mohammad (2010). "Archived copy" تجربة ما قبل النضوج: حجر الاساس لـ"مشروع ليلى" (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2010-10-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Wakim, Jocelyne (2010). مشروع ليلى تألّقت في بيبلوس (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. 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.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Mashrou' Leila - Live in Baalbeck -DVD Release" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  12. ^ "On Haig Papazian". My.Kali. 10 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Mashrou Leila: the lebanese band changing the tune of Arab politics" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-13.
  14. ^ "Mashrou Leila" (in Arabic). 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  15. ^ "What Mashrou Leila's crowd funding success means for the arab world" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  16. ^ "Rolling Stone chooses first regional artist for cover" (in Arabic). 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  17. ^ "Mashrou' Leila Clashed with who killed bruce lee" (in Arabic). 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
  18. ^ Bedian, Knar. "Mashrou Leila: A Big Fat Lebanese Wedding (Party)". Sound of Boston.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Bedian, Knar. "Mashrou Leila: A Big Fat Lebanese Wedding (Party)". Sound of Boston. Sound of Boston. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ Tsiloucas, Anastasia (July 19, 2017). "Songs We Love: Mashrou' Leila, 'Roman'". NPR.
  23. ^ "THE ROUNDUP — Regional pop-culture highlights for February". Arab News. February 25, 2019.
  24. ^ Gay Lebanese singer Hamed Sinno navigates Middle Eastern taboos through music
  25. ^ NPR staff, Ashley (2010). "The Spin: Beirut's Jam Is Mashrou' Leila's 'Embembelela7'". NPR Music. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  26. ^ Sayegh, Nasri (2009). "Leur plus belle histoire d'amour…" (in French). l'Orient-Le Jour. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  27. ^ Videomedeja (2010). "Fasateen - Mashrou' Leila". VIDEOMEDEJA 2010 Awards. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  28. ^
  29. ^ My.Kali magazine
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ "Jordan Reportedly Bans Band With Gay Frontman From Performing". Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Farid, Farid (2017-10-29). "Egypt gay entrapment via app a sign of authorities' desperation". The Age. Retrieved 2017-10-29.

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