WARNING: What you are about to read is THE longest most physically strenuous review of anything I have ever written in my entire life. Hope you enjoy reading it (over a three-day period) as much as I enjo-UNGH! enj-GAHH! ENJOYED WRITING IT! *passes out for days on end*
Well, this much anticipated album has finally been released and people have been waiting for quite a long time to see whether or not Mashrou3 Leila would cut the mustard or fall short of expectations.
The album was produced by “b-root Productions”. I’ve never heard of them before, so this is their first ever release I assume.
The look of this record took me by surprise at first, as I was expecting something more colorful, similar to their old logo and visuals, instead, the exact opposite; grayscale. A white background with some halftoney (dotty) image in grey, on top of which in black is a sort of system of axes with coordinates plotted on it. In the middle-right, the new band logo, which is very nice and geometric (I like that in Arabic typography). In the upper-left corner, a 16-arrow compass that indicates points to the west and calls it “Sharqiyye”, the east and calls it “Gharbiyye”, the north and calls it “General Morale”, and the south and calls it “General Religion”. All of this is surrounded by a thick black border. It’s a far cry from this: http://c3.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/19/l_c3e4bddb80eb4829af73cf66d70e645a.jpg. Does the gritty artwork match the music?
This CD opens “Arabic-style”(to the right) by the way… interesting.
Inside, there is a very artistic thank you sleeve, featuring a white background with overlaid black grid and the letters “C” and “D” at the bottom. They thank many people by writing their names by hand, some in English, some in Arabic, some have little drawings too. Among those names are “Yelostudio”, who helped in making the soon-to-be-premiered “Raksit Leila” video, “Eka3”, who asked them to participate in their “Leka@Eka3” concert series, and “Beirut”, of course.
Inside this sleeve is the CD itself which has a very “pop-art”ish and “collagey” design printed on it. It features an assortment of brightly colored visuals and meanings that I will get to in a while…
In the next sleeve, a continuation of the previous one, with the white background and the grid going on, with the letter “A” and “B” on the horizontal axis, and the number 1 on the vertical, there are credits listing the band members, where what instruments were recorded, and who mastered the album (Oscar Zambrano). Also, some more general “thank you”s…
Inside this sleeve is a booklet that is opened up to reveal two things:
On one side, within a black border, a grey background with the faint silhouette of a city of some kind (Beirut actually), with a halftone effect applied, along with that recurring system of axes in black forming 48 little squares, inside every four of those are handwritten song lyrics (Sinno’s writing no doubt. I recognize that “ya2” with vertical dots, don’t ask why). I can understand them not rewriting the chorus every time it is repeated, but there are seriously some major gaps in the lyrics. Like in the “3al 7ajiz” lyrics, the chorus is not printed, and I can’t pick up on some of the words (waynak rayi7 ya ghandour?) Would have liked them to have been more precise…
On the other side is the image on the CD in its full form (told ya I’d get to it). After all the suspense, here the mystery of the axes is revealed. They are of an architectural/ geographical nature, laid on top of a map of Beirut, but this map is riddled with images and messages here and there, with the halftone effect applied of course. It becomes clear here that the image on the front cover is an edited image of a drawing of a non-gender-specific person (has short hair, moustache, has a flower around head, wears a bow tie, wears a dress, and has a pen-uh, nose…). This is a powerful statement on gender and the LGBT community in Beirut, and a very shrewdly delivered one in fact. Also visible are the trademark owl that has appeared on the album release poster (and on your hands if you attended the concert) above an appropriate “boom” (in Arabic), a dark green silhouette of a soldier, a mosque’s dome, a clenched fist, a blue hand with an eye in the palm (the evil eye), a bomb with the Star of David on it, and other thought provoking aesthetic treats… oh, and eggplants. Lots of eggplants… At the very top, a title reads “PLAN de BEYROUTH” with the word “BEYROUTH” crossed out in red and replaced with the Arabic word for Beirut. The original unedited map is a map of “Beyrouth”, but this new vibrant pastiche of sex, alcohol, religion, terrorism, and eggplants is what we have crafted for ourselves and called “بيروت”. In the bottom left corner is the compass that appears on the front cover. I’d hang this on my wall as a poster, but then I wouldn’t be able to check the lyrics… All of this is encompassed by a thick black border.
On the back, yet again a white background with black grid on top. There is the track list, with the tracks names written in Arabic on the left and in English on the right. It consists of “Fasateen”, “3ubwa”, “Min Al 6aboor”, “3al 7ajiz”, “Shim El Yasmine”, “Im Bimbillila7”, “Latlit”, “Khaleeha Zikra”, and “Raksit Leila”. Much to my dismay is the absence of “Zotrine” and “Arous”… In the bottom left, the b-root productions logo and a barcode, and in the bottom right, a copyright warning, most probably in response to SOMEONE smugly declaring that he/she will put up the album for download when it comes out…
Here we saw them take a more “ominous” direction. From their live performances, myspace tracks, and colorful visuals, we got the idea that they were a lighthearted fun-loving bunch of young people. When they criticized an ugly aspect of life, they did it with some optimism. But here they are trying to establish a new image which aims to accentuate on the negatives and really drive that feeling home through noises and vocal effects. I personally think it works in some places, adds a certain rawness, but in others not so much.
Same case as Fareeq el Atrash and their pre-album: We all knew them musically as a groovy rock-funk outfit, but on the pre-album we say a more dissonant, more ambient side to them. It was awesome by the way.
One significant factor is that we have something to compare the new sound to as opposed to being exposed to it for the very first time. As in: You might not like the new direction because you’ve gotten used to the old Leila. But if you didn’t have any prior exposure to the band, you’d be free to like or dislike this rawer sound having nothing else to compare it to and assuming that they’ve sounded this way since the beginning. It’s all up to you and your taste in the end. But actually, as for the myspace tracks, the only two of those that made it were “Shim El Yasmine” and “Raksit Leila” (the two with the most plays… hmmm), so you won’t find yourself at a loss between which rendition of “Arous” you prefer.
1-“Fasateen”: This upbeat little number kicks off the album. I was expecting “Zotrine”, but it’s not even on here (no, I will never let it go!) Hamed asks a girl if she remembers how she said she’d marry him despite his poverty (without money or a house), how she used to love him even though he belonged to a different religion than hers, and if she remembers how her mother saw him sleeping in her bed and told himb he was through with her (to forget about her), all of this set to an acoustic guitar tune. The violin joins in as Hamed reminds her of how they had agreed to stay that way (happy together just the way they are, despite financial issues, religious differences, and her family’s disapproval of him), paying no mind to class or what society thinks of them. Carl joins in on drums now, there’s some nice stick action I’m hearing, and so does Ibrahim’s bass which is emulating the sound of a tuba; innovative. Hamed belts out the chorus “without millions, without dresses”. Dresses symbolize material wealth, but since a dress is a piece of clothing intended for females, it is material wealth intended for her own personal gain, benefitting her. Haig’s violin plays a lovely tune with the drums getting more prominent but still quite laid back. There’s some shaker in there as well, joined by handclaps, and Omaya’s piano. Just then, it all goes jazzy; the guitar, the bass, the piano, the violin, the cymbal dominated drumbeat (well actually, it’s nothing but cymbals), and of course, the finger snaps. Hamed reminds this girl of how she promised him they would defy the norms together (she took his hand and promised a revolution); but she’s forgotten about that. He reminds her of how she changed him to match herself (she combed his hair like hers and put him on a schedule). The chorus is repeated, this time with some cheery background chants, and Hamed sings the chorus once again, reminding the girl of those once sacred conditions of their love (without millions, without dresses). It concludes exactly the way it starts off, taking the girl back to the very first question she was asked, and at this point, they both know the answer, but repeating the question serves as the final blow…
2-“3ubwa”: You wouldn’t have realized that “ominous” thing I was talking about earlier if you just listened to this track and stopped. This is where it first appears. Honestly, I think it works well here, even though I would have liked it as a satirical- hippie-protest-style song as well, but both work. It starts out with some faint humming static. That is until the violin enters along with some thundering synth, joined by what is either some muted rapid high pitched violin playing or some synth as well, and an intermittent “ticking”, in reality high pitched plucks of the guitar. As the guitar riff plays, an ambulance is heard in the background. They’ve built up the tension quite well with the noise and the sound effects. Some hits of a cymbal and the rhythm gets going. I like the bass here very much and the drums are in equilibrium. They’re rocky, but not too much; once again, the sticks are nice touches. Bravo Carl. You can still hear the ambulance siren fading out… Hamed sings a line that I was impressed by way before the album: “Tic tic tic y’am Sleiman, tic tic tic tic boom”. Let me pause here for a moment. I don’t know how familiar people in other Arab countries are with our children’s songs, but this lyric is one of those that you just can’t be Lebanese and not get. Not because it’s a popular song, but because it is a popular children’s song, and that means that it has been fed to us since our earliest days. It is everything but unfamiliar. So now what have they done to it? They’ve turned it into a play on words (or onomatopoeia actually) concerning a titular bomb (charge/ “3ubwa”). Hearing the line, from the first “tic” till “Y’am Sleiman”, you unconsciously drift off into the song, but your childhood reminiscing is interrupted by an unfamiliar line, “tic tic tic boom”. “Boom? What’s a boom doing in a children’s song?” It brings to mind twisted imagery of things dear to our hearts being desecrated, dreams being injected with bitter reality… like what was just done to this beloved staple of Lebanese culture… or perhaps even how our dream-Lebanon has been tainted by the reality that is terror and war? Good stuff Mr. Sinno. He continues by singing of how the field that Im’Sleiman’s husband is usually supposed to be picking plums and pomegranates from exploded… the warping continues. By the way, in the booklet, the word “shaklo” ((شكلو is written as “saklo” (سكاو). Hey, I’m no better myself… Anywhwo. Guitar comes in briefly accompanied by some eerie keyboard. Hamed sings of a key in the car, and stuffing a corpse in the trunk; crime and illegal activity are thriving. He then sings of a martyr, behind a curtain, who wants to dominate the economy; conspiracy theory of some sort? What are clear are the themes of crime, death, and power struggles. The violin gets all “m2attash”, cutting in and out of the sound. Hamed continues, singing of how the sound of the adhan (the Islamic call to prayer that is read at the mosque) covered up the sound of the “boom”, and how he appears on TV (not “tilfizyon”, “tilfiyen”!) looking like an owl (the plural of “owl” (bouma or boume’) in Arabic is literally “boom”). I’m not too sure about this part here, but I know that there’s religion (fanaticism?) and media (sensationalism?) involved. He asks how he’s supposed to get into politics when everyone’s lazy and unmotivated (“mwakhkham”; this word was a BITCH to figure out, but I learned something new. Educational too!), as in, not willing to show interest in fighting corruption, and convinced that “their religion is the best color” (each sect has its own political party, and each political party has its own color attributed to it, thus: each sect has its own color). Violin plays a tune and the guitar occasionally makes and appearance. Hamed struts his vocal stuff, unleashing some powerful cries. Piano gets a little solo. The “adhan” till the “color of religion” section is repeated. Guitar has a nice little part. It all concludes with ticking leading up to several booms, followed by a single final one. Amazing lyrics, music fits them very well, overall mood is spot on.
3-“Min Al 6aboor”: Opens with some screechy noise which is actually some speech being sped up with a tape recorder (though I think they did it several times and then pasted them together, since when the screeching is done it’s a whole different speech). A drumbeat starts playing with the screeching now coming on and off in time with it. Bass joins in, but I think it’s synthesized, no? The piano adds notes from time to time here and there as Hamed sings of how we’ve been fighting the same war for 50 years and we just can’t seem to forget, can’t seem to stop holding a grudge, and how “the country is a waiting room with a line that leads to the airport”, as in, everybody wants to get the hell out of here. Verse is repeated. If you listen carefully, you can hear some synth noise in the background. Guitar comes in, playing quite the “metal”-ish riff. Carl plays hi-hat on the drums, but that bass pounding here is actually synth. Hamed sings of how we’re sick of religion, tired of humiliation, and we miss being… hungry. Why you ask? Because we’ve been eating shit for so long, that’s why. Love that wit… Not written in the lyrics sheet is the line at the end of the chorus “w’lsenna nbara” which literally means “our tongue’s been sharpened”, but it is actually a saying for when one keeps saying something over and over again, often ignored. Omaya adds some eerie bell sounds on keyboard. Violin joins in, Hamed’s distorted screams echo in the background, fading out along with everything else, leaving the various noises (synth, muffled speech) playing on. A slow guitar tune starts playing with the eerie keyboard in the background. Hamed sings of how he knows the place but might be mistaken about the time. The place is here, but everyone has forgotten the time, which is today. The Lebanese people, they just refuse to move on. Haig accompanies on violin as the verse is repeated, and the muffled tape recorder screeches can be heard echoing in the background as well, until all fades out.
4-“3al 7ajiz”: I saw something special in this track ever since I first heard a snippet of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpoUSd8s8a0&feature=related. Military-marching style drums usher the track in. I think I hear actual marching too. Bass joins in, and I quite like it. Hamed takes the character of a soldier at a checkpoint (as the song is called “at the checkpoint”) and calls out to some innocent civilian in that jagal tone “pst pst pst, ya 7elow” and tells him to open up his bag, park on the right, and to show him his papers (he saws please though), and a piano note is struck. He asks where he’s come from and where he’s headed off to, asks for some ID (to2borne’), and gives some valuable hair critique (2ah yo2bosh), all the while a very catchy riff is played by electric guitar, followed by another single piano note (every word uttered till now is not in the lyrics sheet). The guitar retires, letting the violin take over and play the riff. Now Hamed takes the voice of this poor guy having to endure this ordeal (or simply himself), accompanied by some violin, it all gets mellower here. He tells of how the soldier is just sitting there for all this time, holding his gun. By the way, the gun line can be heard in the song, but the lyrics sheet has a different line in its place which says “nashshaf dammo” (his blood’s dried). This line does in fact appear in the song, but not until later. He continues, mentioning how styling his hair is his priority (the soldier that is), and how he came at him with his chest out (again, the soldier). Now for the famous chorus: It’s the voice of the soldier again who asks: “3akrout, ya sharmout, waynak rayi7 ya ghandour/ zentoot(???)” (the chorus is nowhere to be found in the lyrics sheet), in other words, he badmouths him (and what badmouthing it is) patronizing him, and asking where he’s off to, treating him like he’s some kind of child or something. I believe it’s the man who says here “3ammo”, foreshadowing a future lyric. Guitar plays an ominous melody and the soldier speaks once again, ordering the guy (ya 7elowah) to park on the right and open his bag and his trunk, and show him his papers, this time adding “w’2eh, shou ra2yak?” (if I heard right (curse this lyrical obscurity!)), in other words: “yeah, what do you think of that?”, rubbing his authority in the poor guy’s face. Everything goes mellow again. The guy says to himself that his house is here, he’s not going there to blow it up, and how the soldier dropped everything else and homed in on him to pick on him, and that he’s keeping his mouth shut because “his mother tear is worth more than him” (note: there is no occurrence of the word “7aram”, as the lyrics sheet says, or perhaps this one phrase is to take the place of all the swear words) as in, he’d rather avoid trouble rather than have his mother cry over his predicament and cause her pain and disappointment in her upbringing of him; his mother’s happiness and pride in him, and her faith in his self-control and manners, are more important to him than seeking vengeance. In fact, it’s way more valuable than just that soldier. It’s more valuable than him, his sister, his grandmother, his brother, his grandfather, his father, his uncle (from his mother’s side, “khalo”), and his uncle (from his father’s side, “3ammo”… it’s an Arabic thing, deal with it). Music gets all creepy again. A final bass note halts the music, and Hamed sings “batwannis beek, w’inta ma3aya”. This is sampled from an Arabic song entitled “Batwannis Beek” by Warda El Jaza2iriyya (thanks to mom for the info). The lyrics of that song are sung to a traditional middle-eastern rhythm, but you may notice it sounds a bit off, a bit muffled. Welly well well, what’s being done here is truly innovative and deserves much applause. The “tiki-tak-tiki-tak” is muted electric guitar with a drumstick adding a “tok”, and the “dum, dum dum, dum dum dum dum” is bass guitar and bass drum. I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what that is right there. Either way, very impressive I must hand it to them. The music picks up now with violin and proper drums. That riff that first appeared in the beginning makes a comeback. The guy tells of how the soldier is still seated in his place and is very pissed off and once again badmouths and patronizes him. The song is wrapped up with guitar, bass, and drums playing off, with piano adding a final note. The way it ended leaves me with a feeling of unfulfillment, like the guy eventually drove away this time, but the conflict is far from resolved, as it is not just between him and this one soldier, but between us all and the government officials who abuse their authority. However, I do feel fulfilled with the musical and lyrical directions, but once again unfulfilled, with the missing lyrics and stuff on the lyrics sheet.
5- “Shim El Yasmine”: This one’s a bit controversial with me. It was probably their second most popular song following “Raksit Leila”. I’m going to ignore the previous version for now and take it in as if this was the first time I heard it, with no prior knowledge of any other versions of it. It’s very slow and mellow by the way. It starts out with some electric guitar harmonic thingies, which are then joined by bass. Hamed asks someone to smell the jasmines and taste the… um…”kharroub-tree-branch-extract”, aw fuck it, “dibs bi t7eeni”. Perhaps these particular sensory stimulating items are symbolic to him and someone else, and will remind that someone of him. He asks the person to remember to mention him, and begs him not to forget him. No explanations needed here, right? He’s addressing a male here. This is noteworthy. Either he is speaking through the voice of a female, or this is a reference to homosexuality, which they have made quite the comment on in their album artwork. Either way, it shows how the band’s all open-minded and stuff, so bravo. He continues by expressing his (or “his in the voice of a she”) love to this person. Now comes the part people recognized most in the old version: the whistle tune. Hamed (could be anyone actually) whistles the tune accompanied by some gentle acoustic guitar in the background, then continues addressing this person telling him of how he had liked to keep him close, introduce him to his parents, have him “crown his heart” (a “be the apple of my eye” sort of expression). He continues, saying of how he would have liked to cook his food, clean his house, care for his kids, be his housewife. All of these actions symbolize non-gender-specific loyal servitude. A feminist would claim that here there is a degradation of women, “as if that is what a woman looks for when falling in love, someone to make her his bitch” they might proclaim. But actually, here, this subservient role is not forced on the speaker (Hamed), but he himself has chosen it, chosen to degrade himself, out of adoration for this person. Touching *sheds single tear*. But this is all stuff he would have liked to do; past-tense. Now back to reality, this person is in his house, and Hamed is in another. They used to be together in the same “house”, but now they live apart, either literally, emotionally, or socially (class, religion, etc…), and he wishes this person hadn’t left. Piano plays the whistle tune heard earlier and some cymbal hits can be heard building up. After the guitar plays a little solo, it lifts the entire song up with repetitive plucking and Hamed sings of how the jasmine will forget him, as in, when the person does what the speaker requested in the beginning, to smell the jasmine, it’s like he told the jasmine to remind the person of him whenever he smells it; relaying the memory across unspeakably long geographical and chronological distances. But now, the jasmine itself has forgotten about the speaker, forgotten to remind the person of him, in other words, the person forgot about the speaker (as plants lack speech…). By now, bass and snare have married with the cymbals to form: le drumbeat. Piano plays that whistle tune once again. Hamed finally asks of the person to smell the jasmine, but this time he is required to remember to forget about him. Like someone sarcastically saying “yes yes, you forget about me now, that’s right. Me who? Who am I anyway? I dunno, and you obviously don’t remember”. It ends with final notes from the piano and a fading out of the guitar. It’s a pretty nice track on its own, and very soulful too, but as mentioned before, I have something to compare it to; The old version or “myspace version”. It too was mellow, and started out with the whistle tune and made it the driving factor of the track, while here it was just an “extra thing”. It had constant ska-reggae-like guitar strumming, whereas this one took more of an “ambient” direction. It featured violin, whereas this one had zero violin in it. The piano is still fairly the same except for a few rearrangements here and there. Same goes for guitar and bass. This one’s more “natural” I suppose. Both talk about the same love story, but one sounds pure while the other sounds a bit more artificial. Now there’s nothing wrong at all with mixing it up a bit, and the end result is listenable, but in this case I vote for simplicity.
6- “Im Bimbillila7”: I feel pretty neutral about this one. It’s not terrible, but at the same time not “OMG orgasmic!” Hamed sings “Im bimbilli la7 im billila7, 3ala im bmbillila7 im billila7, 3ala im bimbillila7 im billila7, 7alabou”. Ummm… ok? He repeats it a second time and you can hear some noise building up in the background. The piano comes in with “wooooosh”, you can hear the bass drum thumping, and the line is repeated once again. A drumbeat starts playing, but it sounds “exotic”, can’t put my finger on it (bass-snarebass-snare, with constant crash cymbal hits), as does the bass, and the line is yet again repeated. The drumbeat is toned down (with the replacement of crash with closed hi-hat). There is some more twisting of children’s songs as we heard in “3ubwa”. This time it’s “3ammi Bou Mas3oud”. As with “Tik Tik Tik Y’am Sleiman” in “3ubwa”, the song starts off normally: “3ammi bou Mas3oud, 3youno kbar w soud”, this Bou Mas3oud fellow has big black eyes. Are they… puppy-dog eyes? Why would he have that look on his face? Traditionally, the eye comment is tossed aside with the next line, which moves on to his eating habits (“byakol, ma byishba3, 3ammi Bou Mas3oud”. He eats but never feels full, my uncle Bou Mas3oud.) Now for the twisting: “la byakol la byishrab, 3ammi Bou Mas3oud.” He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t drink, my uncle Bou Mas3oud. Aha! So that’s why his eyes are all big and black-like; poverty! We learn more about him still. He endures harassment for his money, which he doesn’t have enough of to buy gas, and he beats his wife to feel like he has at least SOME power somewhere in his life. Violin enters, playing a tune, while Hamed demonstrates his vocal abilities with “yeaaaaahhhhhahhhhh” cries. The guitar plays a little bridge. Hi-hat’s open now by the way. Back to Bou Mas3oud: How is he supposed to live this way? He’d be better off moving to the UAE, but there’s no alcohol there (the use of the phrase “ma feesh”. Groundbreaking stuff.) So what did he do?: He bought a bus (he lied and exploited his faith to acquire it too), and the radio’s fucked up (all it gets is static). Piano joins in for a while, and there’s some tambourine action, though you can’t quite hear it. Following that, more of Hamed “yeaaahhhahhh”s and some final “Im bimbilli la7 im billila7, 3ala im bmbillila7 im billila7, 3ala im bimbillila7 im billila7, 7alabou”s, and some final violin scratches.
7- “Latlit”: This is a good one. You can hear some kind of percussion going on. I recognize the drumstick sound, but I honestly have no idea what the rest is. It’s joined by the violin, bass (which could be synthesized here as well), and handclaps too. You can hear people muttering things in the background; gossiping (“latlit” means to throw words about people and things here and there). Hmed takes the voice of a gossiper who declares that if you’re walking down the corniche (the stretch of street overlooking the sea), he’s gonna gossip. If you (a lady) walk around in a short dress, he’s gonna gossip. If you’re a couple together (oh dear lord, have some restraint you two!), he’s gonna gossip. No matter what it is, if there’s potential to cause offense, he’s gonna gossip. Some cymbal hits are added to the symphony and the gossiper proclaims: “wlek ouf, bidde’ latlit!” (Dammit, I’m gonna gossip!). Everything goes silent, except for a droning noise, and some temporary chatter (the one heard since the beginning). The gossiper declares that if he’s standing on the street corner with the intent to harass passersby, there’ll be gossip (he’ll be doing it). If you’ve been deafened, and just can’t stand a fraction of a second more, he will persist, he’s still gonna gossip. A drumbeat starts building up until some effected-guitar sound plays alone. I love this next part. It’s followed by the violin and bass’s return and some very excellent drumming (kudos Carl). There’s some tambourine in there too. The gossiper makes sure that everyone knows that he’s “gonna gossip gossip gossip gossip…” The song ends with that guitar noise playing again.
8- “Khaleeha Zikra”: At first I wasn’ to keen on this one, but it has been growing on me lately. This would be one of the moodier tracks on this record. It opens with guitar harmonic-noise, which is then joined by some cymbal taps, and bass. There is another guitar strumming periodically on top of the harmonic noise. Hamed’s voice is treated with reverb here. A steady drumbeat starts playing. Hamed says he hears an echo coming from far away. He adds that after he left, he didn’t care anymore. He sings “khaleeha zikra”, keep it a memory. Violin joins in. The atmosphere is just haunting here. Lyrically, I believe the speaker has moved out of his homeland, Lebanon in this, after which he stopped caring for it and its goings on, yet he still hears about it, but only vaguely, through the foreign news for example. He feels like immigrating, alone. He’ll change his hair color, put on makeup, and hide his passport. He’s trying to ditch his identity. In the lyrics sheet, the “change my hair color” line is there, but after it comes the “hide my passport” line, and after that a line that does not occur in the song, which is “i7ro2 sherwali”, “burn my sherwal”. The sherwal is a traditional garment closely associated with Lebanese heritage, and him burning his sherwal is like the most direct way of saying “I don’t want to be Lebanese anymore”. Once again he repeats, “keep it a memory”, as in, keep his past homeland days, in the past… A very nice keyboard riff is played here; it’s the best bit in the entire song. He tries drinking coffee in order to “wake up”. He wishes to forget about all this nonsense of the motherland. He’ll learn Chinese, he’ll learn Argentinean, he’ll do whatever it takes to get away and experience something else, even if just for a mere second. (Fun fact #1: There is no such thing as Argentinean. The official language is Spanish) (Fun fact #2: In the lyrics sheet, it says “ar7onteeni” (نيرحنتيا) instead of “arjonteeni” (ارجنتيني)). I believe that either friends and relatives back home, or his home country itself speaks now, and it says: “Why bother listening to me? Why bother talking to me? When I’m calling you back, when you hear me suffering…” He ends with the line “khaleeha zikra”, and the violin plays on to the sound of cymbal taps and undistinguishable piano.
9-“Raksit Leila”: Ah, the closing track, and ironically, the song that ends it all is the one that started it all for them way back when they were competing in the 96.2 FM Modern Music Contest (and won it). Yes, it’s “Raksit Leila”. I personally like how they left it till the end, as it shows that they’re not milking its popularity among fans by putting it right at the beginning or middle even. This is the second track that I have something to compare to, so I’ll be doing that later on. It opens with some lunch chatter, which is soon drowned out by that (in)famous acoustic guitar riff coupled with cymbal hits. Bass gets the song going and piano adds periodic notes in a ska-reggae manner. Violin enters, and it and the guitar join in playing the same riff, which is quite upbeat and Gypsy-ish. Hamed sings of how he feels he’s not focused on useful matters, instead distracted by petty things (if I understood right), and how he owes someone, or someone else owes him, two million dollars. See, right after he brought up the topic of distractions, he suddenly remembers that someone owes him some cash. He continues, asking for someone to sing to him about eggplants, or do anything but complain to him about how tired he is with the state of the country The violin plays the same part it did earlier. The verse is repeated. All fades aout and we’re back at the lunch table. Piano is heard and so are some percussion instruments. Hamed sings “7obbak zalam” (for some reason) and someone let’s out an “ay ay ay ay, rrrrrrrrrr” as the music is now in full Latin mode, with percussion by Khaled Yassine, and Hamed cries out with a “yeahhhhhhh”, though his voice sounds like some effect is applied to it. Violin joins and Hamed unleashes masterful “ya leil”s and “ya 3ein”s. Then comes a whistle solo, followed by the return of the violin. It ends with Hamed repeating the phrase “mish nef3a dekhil il madraben”. I seriously have no idea what the message trying to be conveyed in the lyrics from “il wade3” up till “madraben” is…. So yeah that’s the song. Compared to the old one? This one started off with whole lunch chatter thing, and though it’s not that big a factor in the beginning, it does reappear in the middle, whereas in the old one there was a part where the music would stop and piano would build up back into it. After the acoustic guitar and cymbal intro, it was the bass that heralded in the whole thing, while in the old version it was the more prominent guitar. When the violin is first heard, it is playing its part with the guitar playing the same riff, while in the old version, it is playing it solo, and frankly I prefer it solo. There are Latin percussion instruments utilized here and an “ay ay ay ay, arrrrrrr” to match it, while in the old version there was a zalghouta and only minor percussion. I like the new percussion, but the zalghouta, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind, and I like to think that they just spontaneously came up with it and decided to go with it, just having fun . The juxtaposition of that with everything else is wonderful. That is all… This version is good and all, but it comes a little short here and there, but overall it has the same spirit, so yeah, approved.
-Bonus Track: Following “Raksit Leila” (in the same track I mean), Hamed says “Shou? Leh?”. Wait a while… Then it starts. It is a classical version of “Raksit Leila. There’s synth strings, bass, and it is mainly piano driven, with music-box sounds too. Keep listening after it’s done… There is another classical music piece, with synth strings, keyboard, and synth timpani. I think Carl is responsible for this. It first appeared here: http://mashrou3leila.blogspot.com/2009/09/souk-el-ahad.html
Well, this was it. They delivered, they surprised (in both good and bad ways), and the end-result did not disappoint. The production and studio-work is very satisfactory and the diversity of instruments and styles is evident. The artwork is very good, but the lyrics sheet is riddled with inaccuracies and misspellings.
Hopefully, this has gotten us familiar with their studio sound and we won’t find ourselves taken off guard by new concepts we were not used to associating with them when the next album comes around.
Oh and one last thing: I do very much hope the old myspace tracks aren’t just left there to taunt us and are someday made available (Bonus disc given away at shows? Put up for download?)
Mashrou3 Leila Artist Analysis: https://feelnotes.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/artist-analysis-mashrou3-leila/