An extreme, yet precise, dose of Beirut is embodied by Mashrou3 Leila. A transient musical experiment, literally translated as an overnight project, a band whose music is synonymous with Beirut, with its daily addictives, daily absurdities, and as band member Raafat Majzoub effortlessly describes, “The product of its day-to-day experiences, its stubborn security and lack of the latter…its musical bombshells.”
Starting out as a musical workshop at the American University of Beirut in 2008, the sounds of band members Haig Papazian, Carl Gerges, Hamed Sinno, Omaya Malaeb, Andre Chedid, Firas Abou Fakher and Ibrahim Badr came together in an experimental manner, mixing in hints of Arabic Tarab, folk pop, electro, and rock. Perhaps best known for their many street performances throughout Lebanon, Leila is heard in various venues in Beirut, taking over public piazzas as well as clubs and pubs. A place to play, to match and mis-match, Mashrou3 Leila is the musical project which ignites passion, incites nonchalance, and spurs the imagination.
How did your musical journey begin?
It began during our University years at the Architecture and Graphic Design department. We had all stopped playing music because of the workload from our studies and one day Haig, Andre and Omaya hung some posters calling for a weekly jam for whoever played music. So once a week we met, composed and played our music.
What/Who inspires you to write your music and lyrics?
I think each member comes from a distinct place when writing music, but we all realize the importance of the bigger picture. So the diversity doesn’t amount to conflict but rather to richer textures and sounds. Much of the writing happens inside the jam room, when all of us are together, so on our first album, we were heavily drawing on our daily experiences as young adults in a troubled Beirut. But as time has progressed I feel the topics and the themes have evolved to a more personal human level.
Is the final sound of a musical track an individual or group effort?
Definitely, a group effort. We all like to believe that we contribute to whatever makes the song better, whether that means that we are playing several instruments, doing percussions or sometimes not playing at all! We like to experiment with the sounds we can obtain in the studio and in the technical process of recording and producing music.
Who/What in your early beginnings influenced your music?
Like I said, much of our early work was derived from our day to day experiences in Beirut. From the moment we met we agreed to start writing our own original music—we never covered other bands or things like that. And I think we were all silently (maybe not so silently) fed-up with a lot of the Lebanese music that was being produced, things that are very plastic and far from our realty.
In your opinion, what was the hardest challenge you faced in your musical career so far?
Being a musician in the Middle East is definitely a challenge. The lack of infrastructure and funding forces musicians to be their own managers, booking agents, distribution label and marketing team. This takes a big chunk out of the time reserved for writing music which, theoretically, is supposed to be the primary concern. Balancing everything needed to keep Mashrou3 Leila alive and spreading the music is definitely a big challenge.
How has the Middle Eastern world reacted to your sound?
Other than Beirut, we have played in Cairo, Amman, Dubai and Doha, and all of these cities had exceptional audiences. I think that the Arab world has started sharing its cultural productions through things like Facebook and Twitter and other social media. This is starting to diversify and educate artists on the goings-on in countries around them.
Do you feel that music should always serve a specific purpose?
Not necessarily. Music can be a vehicle for advocating change or for spreading awareness or even just for fun.
What are some of your favorite tracks, and why?
My favorite track is a new, not yet recorded track called ‘keef bitbee3ni lal romaan’. It’s really a great track to get audiences pumped up!
What would you like to accomplish in the future?
Play more gigs and put out more recordings.
Will Mashrou3 Leila visit us in Kuwait?
Get us a gig!!!
For more information, please visit: www.mashrou3leila.com