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Translated from the Arabic, “Mashrouʼ Leila” means “An Overnight Project.” It was formed in the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut by a group of students at the American University of Beirut in 2008. A few passionate students and musicians that had no intention of becoming famous, they only sought a purpose through music. In just few years, Mashrouʼ Leila has shown a side of the Middle East that the world or even the Middle East itself has never seen before.
Most people categorize the band in the “Rock/Indie ” genre, but that is only a stereotype. This project is much more than that: it leaves the listener daydreaming in open space due to two elements: the lyrics and and how they arrange their instrumental music.
(A Track From The Group’s Latest Album”El Hal Romancy”)
Lyrically speaking, what made Mashrouʼ Leila a success is their great and different songwriting, which reflects what happens now in the Middle East, from politics and war to love and materialism. These musicians have taken the advantage of being brought up in this politically volatile region with its negative energy and transformed their experiences into poems that the people of the country can relate to.
While the members of Mashrouʼ Leila were no more than normal university students in architecture and design, they do not have outstanding musical skills and have not even had music lessons. The project has six members consisting of violinist Haig Papazian, guitarist Andre Chedid, pianist Omaya Malaeb, vocalist Hamed Sinno, drummer Carl Gerges, and two other guitarists Firas Abou Fakher and Ibrahim Badr.
Instrumentally speaking, what made this project sound majorly different is how the violin is used, followed by the piano and the vocals. If those three elements were missing or arranged differently, then it would sound like a normal rock band. Haig Papazian adds a dramatic effect to their music in a western-folk style. The listener will feel the drama and the message they want to deliver in that storytelling form. And this is where the vocalist’s role falls into the structure of the group.
While Hamed Sinno sings in Arabic, even listeners from the Middle East would have trouble interpreting the lyrics and that is due to the different way it is being sung, full of energy and pain and in very local words. Yet that did not stop the whole world from listening to them, and the group has toured a big portion of the world including the Middle East and some western countries such as France and Canada. Along the way, they gained thousands of fans that might not be able to understand what they say but can definitely feel it.
(The Group Performing At Egypt’s Most Successfull Show”Albernameg” With The Host Bassem Youssef)
In just a few years, the group has so recorded two studio albums named “Mashrou’ Leila” (2010) and “El Hal Romancy” (2011). Both albums were hugely successful across the Middle East and other parts of the world. One of the project’s most successful songs was “Raksit Leila” from their first album, a song that won many awards. Musically, it was a revolutionary addition to the Middle Eastern music scene; lyrically it was metaphorically speaking about eggplants, but on another level it was about friendship and having fun.
(Official Video Of The Song”Raksit Leila”)
Even though the group has been playing since 2008, they have only recently started to be more well known, especially across the Middle East. During and after the Middle Eastern uprisings, they were taking part in their own revolution; a revolution through music, a wake-up call to purify the lost art of music in the Middle East that was once the world’s center of arts and music.
Photo Courtesy of Aslan Media