There is no doubt that the year 2020 was heavy for all, with economic crises, COVID-19, and so much instability weighing us down. The endless list of painful circumstances took the best out of me in so many ways that I will never be able to forget.
I was miserable, at the lowest point of my entire life so far up until I found a connection in music that would lift me back up.
My former best friend broke my heart that year in January, and I would eventually lose the rest of my group of friends from school. Without friends to confide in, unloading my troubles on anyone else made me feel like a burden.
In the same year, my extroverted nature meant that I took the national COVID-19 lockdown harshly. And in June, I lost my grandfather, whom I cherished deeply. A month after that, my piano teacher forced me not to take my final exam and made me fail the entire academic year.
While under lockdown, online therapy didn’t work for me. In reality, nothing seemed to calm my overthinking mind and depressive episodes—not meditation, nor daily walks, nor watching Friends for the millionth time. It only made me feel like I was slowly, and helplessly, drowning.
The sadness made me cut music off from my life. I hadn’t listened to anything in so long until I casually opened Anghami one day in September. Scrolling through the app, I stumbled upon Mashrou’ Leila.
I had obviously heard of them before, the controversial band that shook the country in the summer of 2019. But little did I know that their songs would become my oxygen.
The first song I played was Fasateen, at the top of their author profile. In the days and nights that followed, I would play their songs non-stop. I breathed in their songs, interviews, video clips, and lyrics, and something in my mental state shifted: I was able to smile again. Slowly, my overthinking faded into the background and my ever-present wish to disappear went away.
Sometimes, I like to think that the song “3 minutes” was made just for me. It tells anyone who judges you to piss off and let you live, even if you’re not what they expected.
Their lyrics were relatable, with the line “تركلي مهري عالطاولة، شك حلمك بخلخالي” (Leave my dowry on the table, pin your dream to my ankle) particularly resonating with my longing for freedom.
Although I barely had any friends at the time, I liked to think that they were my friends. And that they were secretly telling me through music that everything would be fine, and that I would find happiness again.
And Mashrou’ Leila are in fact my friends. Their music accompanied me through thick and thin, through life’s greatest and worst moments at a time when no one else walked beside me. For that, I will always be grateful.
The news of their disbanding broke me, as did Hamed Sinno’s voice when he said that the band would not reunite anytime soon.
I cannot imagine the pain and consequences that they had to go through for putting out their music. But I—like so many others who found themselves in Mashrou’ Leila—still can’t wrap my head around the fact that they’re gone.
To my friends Carl, Hamed, Haig and Firas:
Thank you. Thank you for sparking a rebellious fire within Lebanese youth, and for breaking taboos when no one else did. The truths and love you put into your songs, from lyrics to jammable beats, helped shape the local alternative music scene.
Not only that, but you touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of listeners from around the world. You were my friends, like you were theirs.
Without knowing it, you became the shoulder I could cry on until I felt better. Every time I hear your songs today, I like to think that you had something to do with lifting me out of the darkness and into the light.
I will still dream of seeing you in concert in Beirut one day. I will still imagine myself crying to “3 minutes” and the goosebumps I will get from seeing you all on stage. Hatred and homophobia may have won this time. But your legacy will forever stay with us, and we will continue to play your music in our homes, cars, and hearts—and that’s not something anyone can stop us from doing.
I love you, my friends, and I wish you nothing but happiness.