Mashrou’ Leila: the Lebanese indie band championing Arab gay rights


Mashrou’ Leila are giants in Lebanon. Walking through Beirut with the band on a warm afternoon, it feels like everyone is staring. We squeeze into a retro diner in the city’s bustling Hamra neighbourhood, and have hardly started talking before two women interrupt for a selfie. Lead singer Hamed Sinno is a flamboyant performer with an electric stage presence, his formidable voice as comfortable soaring as it is flirting with Haig Papazian’s keening violin. As their sound matured into superbly sleek electropop on 2015’s Ibn El Leil, their international profile steadily grew. Yet because of their outspoken support for LGBTQ rights (Sinno is a rare out gay figure in Arab media) they have received more press for their politics than their music.

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