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Mashrou’ Leila disbanded: Lebanese group announce split

The popular indie-rock band have suspended activity until further notice, lead singer announces
The band featured on GQ Middle East's November cover (Screengrab/GQ Middle East)

Mashrou' Leila, the four-member Lebanese indie-rock band, has disbanded this week after 14 years together following an announcement from lead singer Hamed Sinno.

The singer made the statement on Sunday in an interview with the Lebanese podcast “Sarde after dinner” with Sinno saying that "none of the band members are thinking of working together, for now".

The popular band formed at the American University of Beirut in 2008, gaining popularity for their unique sound, mixing traditional eastern and western music in a way that hadn't been done before. 

The band, which has amassed a fan base around the world, particularly amongst diaspora Arabs, was praised for their take on love, revolution, and queerness through an Arabic lens, all of which were common themes in their music. 

Reaction from fans

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Online, fans mourned the band splitting up, with many recalling memories of attending their concerts and listening to their music.

Many social media users also spoke about the profound impact the band's songs had on them and their personal journeys amidst turbulent times. 

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"The fact that there will be no new Mashrou Leila songs ever makes my heart ache every time I'm reminded. This band's music is the reason I came to terms with a lot of personal issues and it was my way of reconnecting with Levantine Arab music and my native language in general," one social media user wrote on Twitter. 

Others commented on how the band's music addressed pressing issues and helped people navigate difficult situations.

"I don't care whether people like Mashrou Leila's music or not, I'm aware it's not for everyone and music is subjective, but you can't disregard the fact that it's one of the most eminent contemporary Arab bands - all while making feminism, LGBTQ rights and Arab identity their brand," another commented

Some social media users called the group splitting up an end of an era, sharing photos and articles about them, as well as snippets from their previous concerts.

In recent years, the band has faced a backlash for their views and support of the LGBTQ+ community, and their criticism of Lebanese society and politics. 

Bans and backlash

Mashrou’ Leila had previously been banned in various Arab countries, with concerts in Egypt and Jordan being cancelled, citing the band's violation of "public taste".

The band also made headlines when an LGBT activist and fan, Sarah Hegazy, raised the rainbow flag during the band's concert in Egypt in 2017. She was arrested for the action, which also resulted in the group being banned from singing in the country.

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Hegazy later sought political asylum in Canada, before taking her own life in 2020. 

In an article published in 2018, Hegazi revealed she had been electrocuted and subjected to psychological torture during her three months in jail. 

She said she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after her release, a condition that may have prompted her to take her life. 

In their 14-year career, the band appealed to an audience that largely felt marginalised, addressing contested issues in Arab society. While they were a voice for many, conservative commentators mobilised against them, which fans say is rooted in "homophobia and traditional values".

They were featured on the cover of both GQ Middle East and Rolling Stone for their bold style and challenging of the status quo. 

In the lead-up to the decision, Sinno and other band members opened up about the struggles they faced in their rise to fame, highlighting the continuous backlash against their style and genre, all whilst they tried to find "their space" in a relentless field.

Sinno described their career as “a constant battle for breath".

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