Photo by Raymond Gemayel
Here's what we know about Lebanese rock band Mashrou' Leila:
1. They emerged back in 2008, their music has been called "the soundtrack to the Arab Spring," and last year they were on the cover of Rolling Stone!
2. The Beirut based band effortlessly blend Balkan tones, elastic vocals—courtesy of Hamed Sinno—and indie rock influences. In the case of new song "Maghawir," premiering below, Mashrou' Leila open the track with rich brass and utilize keening strings, clattering sticks, and punk-funk beats to thrilling effect.
3. The band's name is a pun in Arabic, translating either as Leila's Project or A Night Project, a nod to both the band's origins in evening workshops crammed in around their studies, and to the mystical female figure of Arabian legend.
4. If you're looking for songs about love and being down in the dumps, click elsewhere. The quintet write lyrics—sung in Arabic—that concern LGBTQ rights, political freedoms, race, religion and modern Arabic identity. We Actually interviewed the guys last year about how vocal they've been in campaigning for gay rights.
5. "Maghawir" is a no different. The song was penned in response to two shootings that occurred in Beirut over the past few months. (FYI, "Maghawir" is a name given to the Lebanese army.)
6. Here's what the band had to say about the lyrical inspiration and their feelings on the subject:
"‘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.
"The lyrics are formatted to read like a list of steps to follow on a night out in Beirut, satirically referencing the hordes of tourist-targeting bucket lists that overshadow readership on Lebanon like 'Things to do in the city of nightlife,' while maintaining a conscious attempt to sketch out the more tangibly tragic facets of such rampant and un-policed violence and gun ownership by accentuating the innocence of the victims involved—be that by opening the lyrics with a happy birthday wish, or only alluding to the actual death of the victim by running the metaphor of losing someone in the crowd of a club.
"On the other hand, the lyrics constantly brings up gender to situate the events within a broader discourse on gender and the recruitment of Lebanese men into locally-revered militarized masculinities, where said violence often becomes not only common, but rather part of a list of gendered provisions for the preservation of men’s honor, as demonstrated in the case studies the song refers to, where both assailants shot in retaliation to having their pride (masculinity) publicly compromised.
"In marrying the lyrics with upbeat dance-worthy music, the song gestures towards the evident normalization of such behavior, wherein lies the critique of the 'capital of the night,' by questioning whether or not violence is just another thing we can dance to, another element of the country’s nocturnal paysage under the continued patronage of the political elite which often chooses to protect criminals because of vested political interests."
Mashrou' Leila Tour Dates
10/22- Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
10/24 - Montreal, QC - Le National
10/27 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall
10/28 - Los Angeles, CA - Club Bahia
10/31 - New York, NY - (Le) Poisson Rouge