Swaying With Leila

On the band’s latest album, Raasuk



By Jawanna Sawalha

“Titzakre lama eltele inek ra7 tijawazene, bala floos ou balah beit.” (Do you remember when you said that you’re going to marry me, without money or a home) A song that I think most of the Arab youth have had memorized by now.

An iconic song by the Lebanese indie band Mashrou’ Leila, of which has become almost like an anthem for the people in the Middle East.  Leila’s music has been iconic for it’s lyrics, and unique sound of which violinist, and My.Kali‘s latest cover guy, Haig Papazian had a great part in doing.

Papazian, who plays the violin in the band is actually one of the founding members of Mashrou Leila, along side guitarist Firas Abou Fakher.

They started the band as way to vent about the political and social situation in Lebanon, whilst still studying for their undergraduate degrees at the American University of Beirut.

After auditioning many people to form a band, four other people were added and, voila, Mashrou’ Leila was born.

Leila recently released their third album “Raasuk”, they have created a distinctive sound and have branded themselves with their iconic violin playing of which, is not very common in bands in the same genre as them.

The album “Raasuk” took about a year to come together, it all started right after their second album “El Hal Romancy” was released. The album was recorded in Montreal, and Haig admits to changing a lot of the lyrics throughout the recording process.

“There’s something about working in Montreal.” Papazian said.  “It made the songs so crisp and clear, something that would not be found in a regular studio.”

Haig believes that “Raasuk” is so different from their previous albums.

“Our first album was just venting and experimenting.” Haig said. “We’ve changed over the past five years, grown and become more experienced,”

Leila have been trying to create a different sound and style in each album, the various writing styles used in every album makes each one more unique than the other.

“El Hal Romancy”, Leila’s second album has a more romantic vibe to it according to Papazian. “Raasuk” however, is a combination of both venting and romance but in a much more metaphoric and philosophic way.

“There’s a depth to our lyrics on this album.” Haig added.

Haig believes that his playing on the violin is played in a very traditional way, while still trying to broaden the spectrum of what the violin can do.

“I guess we play the violin the way it should be played,” Papazian said as he scratched his head. “The violin’s melody makes the song catchy and is easier to memorize.

The album “Raasuk” tackles everything from politics, love to sex. A song, which has caused some controversy in the region, was their song “Eskandar Maalouf.”

The song has caused many rumors to float around about the true meaning of the song. Some rumors were saying that it is about Lebanese singer Mohammad Eskandar, and Lebanese TV host Joe Maalouf.

The rumors claimed that both personalities are “homophobes” and that they have criticized gay people on public TV.

The truth of the matter is, “Eskandar Maalouf” which was named the sex song before it’s given name, is a very provocative song about desire and seduction.

“I feel it is a very playful song.” Haig admitted. “Seduction is the main theme of the song.”

The writing of the song was meant to mock the macho representation of men in Arabic music.  One of them is a Mohammad Eskandar song that was very sexist and degrading, trying to show his manly attitude to the world.

“We’re in 2013, how can you write a song like that.” Haig commented.

Leila’s had just released the video for the song “Lel Watan”; followers of Leila were talking about the video. The video includes a belly dancer moving on a stage while Leila’s members show one after the other performing and dancing.

“I believe people had certain expectations from us for the video.” Papazian said. “We were not trying to shock anyone, but we are older now and we have different thoughts and opinions.”

With the variety of songs on the album, Haig is mostly proud of “Nueid Nueid Nueid”, and his favorite of all would be “Bahr”. He believes the song is very poetic, sensual, dark and sad. Haig mentioned that it is a song about mourning and death.

“It’s also about the unknown future but yet a song of possibilities” Haig added. “The narration is unknown if it’s male or female and I love that about it.”


Watch Mashrou’ Leila مشروع ليلى – Lil Watan للوطن

Be updated on Mashrou’ Leila’s music through their official Youtube channel (here)

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