Mashrou’ Leila Is Back on Stage to #OccupyArabPop

Mashrou’ Leila on stage in Metropolis, Montreal. Photo credit: Mashrou’ Leila's Facebook page.

Mashrou’ Leila on stage in Metropolis, Montreal.
Photo credit: Mashrou’ Leila's Facebook page.

Have you heard of Mashrou’ Leila or #Mashrouleila? It is a Lebanese indie band, founded in 2008, that has started its own #occupy movement last July and a new tradition to use online social platforms to raise funds for its new third album, Raasük. Quite impressive.

Its members are social media gurus and change makers. In July, they started a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for their third album. They wanted to make it the biggest Album release in the Arab World. Their motto was #OccupyArabPop. The hashtag went viral between July and August. Mashrou’ Leila was able to raise +$60,000 and meet 100 per cent of its pledged budget.

This successful Zoomal campaign is giving birth to a new Arab experience and a new #supportArabcreativity campaign on Twitter. The project hopes to identify Arab underground artists such as Mashrou’ Leila and give them more recognition among a wider audience.

Mashrou’ Leila brands itself as different from mainstream Arab pop – an alternative. Its members are young and cosmopolitan. It is like no other band and is bold and innovative.

The band is active on social media and is initiating change. It posts regularly on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Its Facebook fans are almost 120,000. It has 14,000 followers on Twitter and its YouTube channel has +16,000 subscribers.

Up to now, still one or two tweets with the #occupyArabpop hashtag pour in every minute in support of the successful fund-raising campaign or to praise the group that has changed the “alternative” music scene in the Arab World. Its experience with crowd-funding is quite unique and pioneering. The band is setting the lead.

A fan from Paris recently tweeted:

Randy, from Texas, and founder of the @The_gay_agenda, compared Leila to U2 of Ireland:

The following video was the promotional video uploaded for the campaign. It captures some impressions of Lebanese journalists, Leila's production collaborators and the band's stories about the new album.

Beirut-based Outpost magazine writer, Ibrahim Nehme says in the video about them [ar]:

بالعالم العربي هلا ,هن من الأصوات التي أكثر عم بيمثلوا شباب و عم يقدروا يوصلوا الصوت التغييري هن الشباب بدهن إياه

They [Mashrou’ Leila] is one of the voices that most represent the youth in the Arab World. They are able to express the need for change this youth is calling for.

They sing about the troubling status quo in the Arab World, gender identity, sexuality, and hazy Arab politics. They've performed from Tunis to Montreal.

Their recent album is Raasük Arabic for literally “being choreographed” or figuratively for “being manipulated”. First single “Lil Watan” or “For the homeland” was released on YouTube last September 12. It has garnered 74,919 views with 1064 approvals.

The song lyrics read:

وبس تتجرأ بسؤال عن تدهور الأحوال
بسكتوك بشعارات عن كل المؤامرات
خونوك القطيع كل ما طالبت بتغيير الوطن
يأسوك حتى تبيع حرياتك لما يضيع الوطن

If you dare ask a question about the deterioration of the situation
They shut you up with slogans about all and every conspiracy
The herd calls you a traitor each time you call for change
They make you desperate until you give up on your freedom
Until the nation is lost…

The American University of Beirut's student magazine referred to the song as “depict[ing] the Lebanese government exploiting the people’s patriotism without really fixing the country.”

They also use the Lebanese national symbols to show how much the government hides behind them. The chorus expresses a strong sense of exasperation by demanding: “Stop preaching, come make me dance a bit.” This directly mirrors people’s exasperation in their failed government and their constant need to party.

Mashrou’ Leila writes and produces its own music. It shies away from big business. They do not contract with any big or smaller Arab music records company. Instead, Mashrou’ Leila's premium medium is YouTube. Its members direct and edit their own videos. They shoot on a single camera, often in Lebanon. They are not too fancy. They are big on social media and you'd hardly see any negative comment about them or their music. A perfect example is that “El Hal Romancy” their only music video from their second album, El Hal Romancy or “the solution is romantic”:

The band wrote on its website:

We miss you, but we can take seven more days.

Leila’s super-excited for this one. El Hal Romancy – a video… This time.. she wanted to hold the camera – she wouldn’t pose for this one, she just wouldn’t.

She grabbed the camera with few of her friends, few lovers and a bride and attacked Beirut. Beirut wasn’t enough, she attacked Trablus. Trablus wasn’t enough, but there was no money and no time left. She came back with this.

Areej Mahmoud, creative director of Leo Burnett MENA who directed Leila's new video “Lil Watan” (to the homeland) totally gets their vision. He states in the promotional video:

ما في كثير ناس عام بجرب يخلقوا صوت فريد بالعالم العربي، للشباب تبع العالم العربي – الشباب الذي ما بدوا يكون غربي وما بدوا يكون تقليدي

There aren't many people trying to create a unique identity for the Arab World, for the Arab youth – an identity that is neither Westernized or traditional.

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