-Name: Mashrou3 Leila (Arabic for: A Night’s Project, Leila’s Project, Project Leila, or Project Night)
-Members: Hamed Sinno, Haig Papazian, Firas Abou Fakher, Andre Chedid, Ibrahim Badr, Omaya Malaeb, Carl Gerges
-Years Active: 2007- Present
-History: I am not so deeply informed on Leila’s history as I am on some other artists, so here is all I know.
In Februray of 2007, Haig Papazian, who plays violin and Omaya Malaeb, who plays keyboards, were looking to jam with other musicians, and thusly posted an open-invitation to do so in the Department of Architecture and Design of the American University of Beirut. 12 to 13 people answered the call, 7 remained, the rest is history. After many nighttime jam sessions, Mashrou3 Leila took shape with the line-up consisting of Firas Abou Fakher and Andre Chedid on guitar, Ibrahim Badr on bass, Carl Gerges on drums, Omaya Malaeb on keyboard, Haig Papazian on violin, and Hamed Sinno on vocals.
They played many shows from that point, their popularity steadily growing with time, as well as their fan base.
They participated in 96.2 FM’s “Modern Music Contest” with their song “Raksit Leila”. They and the other finalists played a show at The Basement which won them the contest. What they won was the chance to release an album through Incognito.
They went on to play many shows afterwards including the Peter F. Dorman AUB Presidential Inauguration: Student Celebratory Concert, Fete de la Musique 2009, and the Deir el Qamar Festival.
They were one of three bands selected by Eka3 to go on the “Leka@Eka3” tour in Beirut, Cairo, and Amman, along with Resalla, an Egyptian band, and pianist/vocalist Aziz Maraka and his band Razz, from Amman. This included workshops where members from all three groups would jam together, and the results of these sessions were presented live.
After the Leka@Eka3 tour, they returned to Beirut to finish recording their debut album, playing some shows from time to time.
On December 19, 2009, they released their self-titled debut album in an event held at the Demco Steel warehouse in Bourj Hammoud which had a massive turnout and proved to be a great financial success.
They shot a video for their fan-favorite “Raksit Leila”.
They are currently in hibernation prepping themselves up for a busy summer that will kick off on July 8 in Byblos.
-Sound: Mashrou3 Leila have quite the fresh sound. It is rock, with pop tendencies, with elements of classical, jazz, and gypsy music, the latter due mainly to the strong prominence of the violin in their sound.
The traditional rock instruments, guitar, bass, and drums are present, while violin and keyboard (a synthesizer that is used to mimic piano and not other instruments) bring a sophisticated element to the music. They have adapted these “foreign” instruments to their sound, and they do not limit them to their original genres, letting the violin for example only play tunes reminiscent of classical music, no, they take the instruments to wherever the song needs them to go.
In their debut album however, they appear to be taking a more “ominous” direction with some tracks through the use of synth and guitar noises (static, beeps, drones, etc…) and vocal effects.
One of the first things you would likely notice about this band is that their lyrics are in Arabic. There are not many groups who would do such a thing, so I applaud them on this. But it’s not enough just to sing in Arabic to get my approval. Their lyrics are thought provoking, and reflect on often controversial social topics, also featuring clever wordplay, for example this line from the song “3ubwa”: “Tic tic tic y’am Sleiman. Tic tic tic tic boom”. This innocent children’s song was transformed into a witty remark on terrorism and warfare in general (the “tic”s are those of a bomb, leading to it’s inevitable “boom”). The song “Arous” for example is either sung from the female perspective (something I myself have only seen Beck do, although I’m sure countless others have done this before) breaking gender barriers, or indeed sung from the male perspective, hinting towards the topic of homosexuality. Another song “3al Hajez” features Arabic swear words in its lyrics, making a bold statement on freedom of speech and censorship. The song talks about being unjustly held over at a checkpoint and abused.
Hamed has a very powerful voice that he does not hesitate to explore. He sometimes whistles, makes noises, and scats too (skibbidi bo-skibbidi-bi-ba-boo!)