About Mashrou' Leila

Let's start with a basic assumption: A band based in Beirut, whose CD sleeves are a whirl of Arabic lettering, whose lyrics are written in a Lebanese dialect -- that's one for the world music pile, right? Wrong. If there's one thing Mashrou' Leila excel at, it's confronting and dismantling assumptions. The loose collective of students who began jamming together in 2008 at the American University of Beirut has gradually focused into an ambitious, fiercely articulate quintet: vocalist/lyricist Hamed Sinno, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Firas Abou Fakher, violinist Haig Papazian, drummer Carl Gerges, and bassist Ibrahim Badr. And the music they make has focused, too, into a charged, atmospheric version of pop that is geographically impossible to place. You hear it the moment Ibn el Leil’s 'Aeode' begins with an assured yet restless bassline, bruised by the memory of dancing all night to Blondie and Joy Division; a shuffle-snap rhythm; synth notes that scan the scene like searchlights; a violin picking its way across rubble, and finally, after two full minutes of building intensity, a voice, breathy and unearthly. This isn't a song or an album to limit to known categories: it's music that might reshape the world.