“I could hide in your skin
I could wear all your faces
I could hide in your closet
I could wear all your suits” – 3 Minutes by Mashrou’ Leila
This is the translation from Arabic of part of the first verse of the song, 3 Minutes, by the indie rock band known as Mashrou’ Leila. Formed in a university in Lebanon, this group is making headlines as they are the first of their kind to speak out on subjects that are considered taboo in the region.
While Lebanon is considered to be the most liberal one out of all Middle Eastern countries, it still has huge issues when it comes to equality. Whether it’s gay rights or women’s rights, although it has made great strides, there’s still so much more to conquer, and Mashrou’ Leila is aiming exactly towards that. Fronted by the openly gay Hamed Sinno, accompanied by Haig Papazian on the violin, Carl Gerges on the drums and Firas Abou Fakher on the guitar, this band has already landed quite a following, even appearing on the cover of Rolling Stones Middle East. What started out as a project in university has become somewhat of a revolution, as they have been able to be the voice of the Middle Eastern youth through their lyrics as they talk about the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community faces, feminism, politics and gender.
But of course, when being in such a conservative region, these types of things are met with a lot of backlash. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the band occurred during a concert in Egypt, during which a pride flag was raised by an audience member mid-show, resulting in the band getting banned from playing in the country ever again, and the awful part is that this wouldn’t be the first country that the band has been banned from as they are also banned from playing in Jordan.
Alas, the band still continues on touring all around the world and plans on releasing their fourth full length album soon. And until then, their most recent album, Ibn El Leil, which directly translates to Son of the Night, can keep you entertained with songs that make you want to grab a few friends and just dance like Djin, or heart wrenching ballads like Marikh, or even bold songs that tell stories, like Maghawir, dedicated to two shootings that occurred in Lebanon due to poor gun laws, and Tayf (Ghost), a tribute to a gay bar in Beirut that was shut down by the Lebanese authorities.