Mixtape No. 32: Mashrou' Leila

Mashrou' Leila

Mashrou' Leila

Words: Firas Abou Fakher
Photographer: Joshua Schaedel

It might have been the weather that threw us off: we weren’t expecting cold and stormy skies when we arrived in NYC in October, and jet lagged sleep in a taxi cab meant that the show later that night was gonna be tough. On stage, a journalist opens with a question about what it means to be having our first US tour and none of us really answer, I think I might have said something about how unexpectedly cold the weather was.

There was no go-to answer here and besides, everybody’s seen the tour scene: planes landing in wide shot, dusty floors in some port or another, falling asleep on busses, mouth slightly ajar, scenery passing by in background. And it seems that the same VW van pastel images and headlight eyes reappear in everyone’s mind every time the conversation steers itself towards the word ‘tour’.

Maybe none of us really answered because we try to not tell people that we just don’t know. We don’t mind not having an idea, I mean, when we started in Beirut 8 years ago, there was absolutely nobody to ask about how to be an Arabic pop band wanting to make music. And so naturally, we had no idea what we were doing quite often. Journalists always want the answers before anything really happens.

Fumbling past our opening response, the conversation on stage in NYC heads towards Lebanon, the music and our position in the Arabic pop industry, and why there are so many people from Lebanon heading towards the U.S. And it’s true, even the crowd then and there seemed to be a collected summary of schoolmates and colleagues. The answers this time are clearer, and we talk uneasily about the gentle push away from home that we feel while we endlessly sprint between giants under the Beiruti sun.

We talk about the right colors in cities, the proper sounds of a synthesizer and the correct volume to listen to music at. He asks about the shows in Egypt or Jordan and whether they’re different from shows in France or England, we talk about the malnourished music scene in the arab world, and why arab artists are gaining international spotlights in recent media.

When we started in Beirut 8 years ago, nobody asked about how to be an Arabic band wanting to make music.

Something keeps us coming back to Beirut and keeps us wanting to affirm the possibility of having a story to tell while everybody else goes on about beaches and bombings and beauties and whatever headline grabbing CNN worthy version of that.

We do talk about the first U.S tour that night in NYC. We say that this is the longest road and the furthest we’ve ever been from home with our music, maybe we worry about losing it somewhere on the road and going back home without it. We talk about how being ‘on the road’ is a term so filled with American signals, Kerouac knows. The term doesn’t fit well anywhere else. Maybe that motivates us to look up from our screens more often so we wouldn’t miss it.

A few weeks later, before a show on Sunset Boulevard, among the questions about music and touring and west-coast best-coast type things, another journalist goes back to the same question, he asks what it means to be having a US tour now, and again we look at each other and no words are formed, I think we might have said something about how we don’t know yet and about how much we enjoyed the weather.


Check out more of Mashrou' Leila's jams on their site and new album.

@mashrouleilagram / @hamed.sinno / @haigpapa / @carlgerges