Written by Maged El-taher
Thanks to Reem M. Hegazy for the translation. Thanks to the talented Amina Mohammad and Ala’a Zakaria for helping me on the artwork. Thanks to Mohamed Samir Tawfik for helping me on the researchings. Special thanks to Nada El-Dessouky for translating the lyrics and checking/editing the whole thing.
What you’re about to read is my analysis and explanation to the words according to their contexts in my readings and research or what I thought that they were related to.
After 2 years of waiting, Mashrou’ Leila has finally released their new album “Ibn El Leil“. The first word that popped into my head when I heard the album was that it must be different, because in this album the band has decided to change their style to electronic instead of instrumental. I was not comfortable with that idea, especially because the singles released prior to the album were substandard, but then I found out that the idea of recording yet another instrumental album equivalent to their usual music style is going to be a difficult task, since, considering how perfectly done “Raasuk” was, they would’ve been expected to make something even better, or at least at the same level. The new album is a mix between electronic and instrumental music where you can clearly recognize the sound of the violin, the guitar, the keys and the drums. Also, the songs’ lyrics are very unique and show maturity in the choice of words, expressions and metaphors; a noticeable part of the lyrics is inspired by Greek Romanian mythologies in the analogies. The album is about partying but being miserable at the same time, and starting to observe the world through one’s grief, therefore the album is written as a recitation of life events in the same order as they are in the track list.
The album starts with a dancing rhythm then the writer trying to reach Aoide..
Aoide is the daughter of Zeus the great god in the Greek Romanian mythologies, and the muse of voice and song.
“Take the billows away from me, I’m the prisoner of my mirror, Aoide, I keep calling your name, free me from my demons, I’ll water your soil with their blood, perhaps my melody would grow, Aoide, redeem me, control my mouth, redeem the worshippers”
The writer starts trying to reach Aoide asking her to help and inspire him, and to release his demons, and that he’d quench her with his demons’ blood so that she’d inspire him.
“The demons” are a metaphor for his interior suffering. He asks her to possess him and control his mouth and his words, giving him inspiration..
“Words are breaths, and life is breathing, talk to me, your ghost terrifies me, I’ve always seen it throughout my whole life, if only it would converse with me, perhaps the words comfort me, Aoide, soothe me, pour the words out from me, redeem the worshippers”
He describes words as breaths, and he needs to breathe to be alive, and then tries to get Aoide to talk to him. He describes her ghost as terrifying to him, and that he’d always see it, and that he just wishes that it would respond to him perhaps the words soothe him. He asks her to comfort him and “pour” the words out from him as a requital..
The song in general describes his struggle in writing, and it’s as if he is trying to gain inspiration from Aoide.
The album then moves to a kind of festive rhythm in “3 minutes”, which was the fist single released from the album “Ibn El Leil”
The song is about how we all could become different people with different lives because of how the lyrics of the written songs are interpreted according to each person, as if the writer has transformed into different people and went trough their lives and experiences..
The song starts with “I can hide under your skin; I can fit into all of your faces”, “I can be you if you want to, I can sing all of your words, I can imitate your life “,
“just tell me who you want me to be so I could satisfy you ”
as if the writer is trying to communicate with everyone trying to convince them that he could be like them, and continues asking everyone who they want him to be to satisfy their needs.
“leave my wage on the table, pin your dream on my anklet”
The writer describes himself as someone who’s taking people’s orders (dreams), and so he’s telling them to pay and pin their orders on his “anklet”. He specifically used the term “anklet” because it is usually used by entertainers.`
The song continues with basically the same idea until “the difference between freedom and submission is choice, and I’m the one who chose, agreed and stated.”
The writer is saying that all of what he’d said were by his choice, and that he wasn’t forced upon it.
“call the devil by his name and call the artist a deceiver, most of the things I feel come from imagination, if I contradict myself we all contain multitudes ”
This phrase is directed to the society that gives bad people respect and calls artists deceivers, not realizing that they are performing fictional stories and portraying lives different from their own, or calling them contradictors/hypocrites, but the writer says that even if he’s hypocritical, it is because he contains multiples of people who are not all the same..
The song is a narration of how one thing can be interpreted differently by different people and the way society perceives artists.
“We keep watch by the forest moon, drink from the gazelle’s heart, drive stakes into the ground to draw wine from the spring, all the women and the men arrive shrouded in hides, awaiting he who dies and then returns to life”
In “Djin” the writer takes us to a celebration as the ones in old Bacchanalia that were done to worship Bacchus the god of alcohol, freedom and ecstasy in Greek Romanian mythologies, which was famous for gathering and partying till ecstasy.
“Oh I don’t do sodas, man I don’t do tea, I drown my sorrows, forget my name, and give myself to the night”
It’s obvious that the writer got tired of his sorrows so he decided to party and drink. The imagery here was the celebration in Bacchanalia because he’s saying that he will drink till ecstasy, with the use of words from the song “Mashrabsh El Shai” by Laila Nazmy, claiming that he wouldn’t drink soda or tea because they wouldn’t help him overcome or forget his sorrows, but the alcoholic drinks will, and that he’d lose himself in the ecstasy that accompanies them..
“Liver baptized in gin, I dance to ward off the djin, drown my liver in gin in the name of the father and the son”
There is a pun in Gin which is the alcoholic drink and the Djin which is the “the devil”, then he describes that he will drink too much that he will lose himself..
“Tomorrow I rise with the night, and the reckoning bell tolls, but hangovers hurt far less than these woes, between myself and my joy a wall as thick as a wine glass, Berlin’s couldn’t stand, pour me another; tear down the wall”
He states that despite the severeness of the hangover he’ll have after drinking, it won’t compare to the pain in his suffering due to his sorrows…
He then claims that there’s a wall between him and his joy the thickness of the cup he drinks from; he then mentions that Berlin couldn’t withstand, in other words, comparing The Berlin Wall with the “wall” between him and his joy and that if The Berlin Wall, that was a symbol of power at a time, was destroyed, then the “wall between him and his joy” could be destroyed too.
And the song in General talks about celebrating and drinking till wasted to forget the sorrow.
But obviously that turned out to be the opposite because the writer has moved to sadder lyrics in Icarus, which was named after Icarus the son on Daedalus from the Greek mythologies.. The story is that Daedalus has crafted wings for himself and his son Icarus to escape from Crete island in which they were prisoned. The wings were made of feathers and wax, which was why Daedalus instructed Icarus not to fly so high that the sun wouldn’t melt his wings nor too low that the dampness of the sea would clog them, but a sense of complacency engulfed Icarus making him fly so high that the sun melted his wings, causing him to fall in the sea and die ..
Icarus symbolizes the passionate artist, whose impetuous, passionate and rebellious nature, as well as his defiance of formal social conventions, may eventually prove to be self-destructive..
and that is what the writer meant by this song..
“The plans accumulate with the excuse that tomorrow is far away, he doesn’t get how he turned out to be like his father and is still failing at everything, the eye desires but the hand can’t reach, all the instruments sing for him and chain him to tubes”
the song started as a description of his life; he’s ambitious but can’t do anything..
“The song will be sung, tomorrow you won’t be with us”
This line represents the end, he resembles the “song” as his life that is over once it’s sung ..
“He had ambitions, but life happens, it’s like the time’s a passer that passes by, throwing him uncaringly”
He continues describing that life made him give up on his ambitions by neglecting him
And the song continues with the same idea till the end. He’s pretty much describing a lot of people having dreams that got destroyed because of the wrong place they were in or the lack of availabilities..
“Feathers and wax, tomorrow wasn’t like that”
And then the writer moves with us to “Maghawirr” which he wrote as a response for the shootings done in Beirut.
Noticing that the Lebanese soldiers are called “Maghawir”.
The song is narrating two shootings done in Beirut in the same week resulting in the death of many young ones, including those who were celebrating their birthdays..
The song is written as list of precautions you have to follow to live a night in Beirut like a manual for tourists like “things to do in the city of nightlife”, showing the violent aspects and the widespread phenomenon of carrying weapons and highlighting the innocence of the victims in those accidents.
For that he starts the song with “First of all, happy birthday to you”
And he does not literally mention the death of anyone in the song, he only uses “disappearing” or losing sight of someone in the crowd of the nightclub as allusions to their deaths “We were together having fun, where have you gone?”
Then the writer talks in terms of genders and that Middle Eastern people glorify the masculinity as if it’s sacred thing, and that sometimes violence is not only widespread but it’s a part of a judgment list placed by the society as a part of a man’s honor, because it’s told that the reason behind the accidents was to defend their masculine pride from mortification and to prove their masculinity.
With these lyrics we can hear a dancing melody, which raises a questions; are violence and/or death just another thing we can dance to? is it just a regular thing that happens in our night community?
The song ends with the phrase “And here no one gets caught, Adonis; the victim of the jungles”
There is a comparison between these events and the events in the myth of Adonis mentioned in Greek mythologies, and how the mess is always the blamed factor and the criminals are protected.. His mother, Smyrna, daughter of Theias, king of Syria, conceives a child by him through trickery, then Theias found out and was determined to kill her. She ran away to the jungles and the gods intervened and turned her into a tree. Then the child, Adonis, comes out of the tree. Aphrodite the goddess of beauty fell in love with, and a war between her and Persephone, the goddess of the under world, that also admired his beauty, because of this dispute, Adonis was killed. So, here the writer is trying to say that just like how Adonis was the victim of personal conflicts, the victims from the accidents in Beirut are as well, but people get away with their crimes because of the political positions, and the accidents are often blamed on the messiness of the society.
Then the writer takes us to a more sensual lyrics in “Kalam”
The song talks about how the society set limits for romance and relationships..
“They marked the country’s limits on my body and on yours, and skin tears up words”
but the lyrics that follow describe the attempt to break away from those restrictions..
“I feel like I can feel what you’re feeling, what’s wrong with feeling what you’re feeling?”
In a very smart way the writer formulated the words so that a part of it is directed to a male and a part to a female; as if there is no difference between them.
“I taste the whiskey and the sins on your lips, without our language of talking disrupted, letters spin us when I whisper all the secrets in our mouths, then you go back to your word and I to emptiness”
In this phrase the writer resemblances the sensuality and the passionate touching as the speaking language so that when the significant other retreats he retreats to a word, but the writer goes back to emptiness and not belonging to anything..
The song came with a quiet melody that fits the lyrics as if it’s representing it.
Then the album takes us to a night club called “Ghost”. The song talks about a night club that has been shut down because of the clubbers’ identities and sexualities, and how the Lebanese authorities humiliated them and violated their freedom..
He starts the song with
“I sang along with a chorus of ghosts under my country’s gunshots, and the Dabkes I’ve danced under the traffic lights… I got high on the current from the roots of the pole, and
poured the neon’s tears on the eyes”
The writer describes his loneliness in partying in the streets after the club has been shut down, and the reflection of his misery on the nature around him that it becomes a part of his suffering or his punishment due to his nature.. and despite the fact that being homosexual is a natural, inborn characteristic of his, the government imposes punishments on homosexuality, so he describes the nature as if it’s crying..
And then he recounts the insult and the violence that occurred to club customers..
“And the caps took us to the prisons to castrate us and achieve insignias, we’ve sewn our banners from the shrouds of the friends’ bodies who were executed”
The writer clarifies the extent of violence and insult those people had faced and says that the police or the authorities did that to get promoted to higher positions, and that was happening at the expense of other people being executed and tortured.
“The mushroom is starting to grow, tomorrow we inherit the land”
I consider this line as on of the best written in the whole album. The writer chooses the resemblance with fungus (mushrooms) because mushrooms are considered salutary and good enough to be edible even though they grow in molds, and also they spread, and that was a resemblance of our society; that even though our society is full of injustice and corruption, there are a lot of people growing in the middle of it and one day they will overpower the molds..
“I’ve spent my life with my rights depending on your feelings, and erased from history as if it’s your own, to them we recited verses from Sapho and Abu Nuwaas and on banners we’ve sewn them for our revolutions”
The second Verse is complement to what the writer started narrating. He describes the injustice in living according to the beliefs of the authorities, and that those homosexual people are excluded as if they never existed. And the final words are for the higher authority, where he mentions “Sapho” and “Abo Nawas” who are poets well known for writing about their homosexuality and the injustices they faced, and that this will eventually lead to a revolution..
The song ends with a verse inspired from Mohammed Mounir’s song “A’lli Soutak Bel Ghona”
“Raise up your voice with singing, songs are still allowed..”
The writer goes back to the main idea of the album that those tragedies could be one more thing we could sing and dance to.
After all the sadness and miseries the writer had talked about, he completes them with
“I feel like he still sleeps next to me, sell me a dream for I want to escape, I’m rolling alone in bed every time el mesaharaty passes by”
As if he got tired and he wishes for a dream to escape from his sorrow and pain by. In “Falyakoun” he talks about reaching the peak of sadness and being exhausted from it, so he decides he wouldn’t care about anything anymore, and that whatever happens happens.
“El mesaharaty” here is a reference to the song “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan; the song talks about inspiration whether it’s coming from a sober mind or a drugged one, and that art is a way of expressing feelings and experiences and meditation and escaping from life and reality..
So, we can say that art and drugs are basically the same, because they could both be used to increase one’s knowledge or to escape from reality.
The writer here expresses his loneliness during writing no matter whether he was conscious or oblivious, and being engulfed in his thoughts.
“I’ll just put on my smile, happiness suits me anyway, whatever happens happens all I care about is to keep singing”
Apparently this verse abbreviates the whole song; that he kept recounting the miseries of his life and people’s bizarreness and hypocrisy, and that even his imagination became a part of that melancholic, never-ending cycle. But then again he decides to be carelessly happy and to let whatever happens happen.
But he ends the song with “I’ll just put on my lie”
As if he’s admitting that him being happy could be a just another lie and him being in denial.
And then we move to “Bent El Khandaq”
“Here you have your whole life and all your habits, and you’ve grown up as if you’ve been born with the feeling of not belonging, your skin doesn’t fit you or your dreams anymore, you worry you might sleep for years and wake up still your daddy’s girl”
The beginning of the song expresses the meaning of the whole song which is the feeling of alienation and not fitting in even in your own society. The song is in the feminine voice, because the majority of those facing the issue are females.
The writer claims that despite of the society’s attempts to convince her that this the right place for her and that this is her life, she can’t shake the feeling of being different the community she’s in..
“If the soil is saline why do we plant promises, let’s go, sister, drive us somewhere without coming back”
Soils that are rich with salts are soils in which crops can never grow well, and here, the writer analogizes society to saline soils, and promises to seeds implanted in it; meaning that that the promises are of no value as long as they’re in this society
“Why betray him, he’s always betrayed you, why sell him out, he’s always sold you out”
The line is taken from the song “Tekhonoh” by Abdelhalim Hafez. It probably means that she no longer cares about her homeland or leaving it because she feels like it has always abandoned her..
“Your mother told you it was normal, that you’d get used to it someday, and you try talking with the people around you but you remain lonely, and truth be told, you’ve tried, but you’ve never escaped, and you stayed in the trench, in the deep trench you’ve fought”
The second part came as an example of the usual meaningless promises she’s always heard, which was that she’ll get used to it someday and will fit in with the society, but that never happened and she remained feeling lonely and trying to escape from it and leave it, but all that’s happened was that she felt like a prisoner inside of it, always fighting her way through..
Then the writer then takes us to “Asnam”, which talks about deification and creating dictatorships..
“The records were empty and our lives not singable, and the radio broadcasts our boringness over and over, once we heard a knight, before we knocked down our temples, we went and constructed another for him”
The song starts with describing the condition of emptiness the society’s in before deifying a specific person, and the phrase “before knocking down our temples” reveals that before we bring down those we had previously idolized, we start exalting someone new…
“We shed the light on his face, we saw nothing but his shadow as his face disappeared before the flame, he comes out to perform to imagine himself from the movies, and we believe his words so we could justify the idols”
In this sentence he describes the stages of deifying someone, which is on of the reasons behind the misery in our society because we choose someone, give them the greatest of values until they’re in a position of worship, turning them into dictators.
That’s basically the whole idea of the song..
“He pleased us in his concerts when he started playing for us the secrets we’ve engraved on our bathroom walls, he explained the song so we crucified him on the stage”
Then he tells the usual scenario of deifying someone until they face us with our truths, which we are in denial of, and then we take them down. The reference to their crucifixion is an analogy to the crucifixion of Jesus who was crucified for telling the truth…
“distorted and recited, sanctified and hymned”
This phrase is one of my favorites in the album because it simply summarizes the whole situation in our society from distorting the truth to repeating to sanctifying it.
Then the writer moves to a musical composition named “Sadalsuud”.
Sadalsuud: is a double star that is considered the brightest star in the Aquarius constellation, and is named “luckiest of lucks” and people were happy to see it because its appearance means that the winter is over and that the weather will be gentler with mild, occasional rain and the blooming of roses and fruits, so its appearance was a sign of well being and plain goodness.
The writes mostly positioned it specifically in that position as a sign that despite of all of those tragedies going on with him, he started thinking that eventually everything will be okay and the situation will get better..
So the composition gives us a Spring-ish feeling describing the state of the writer.
But once again we see that this feeling didn’t as last we move to “Ashabi” from which the album’s title “Ibn El Leil” was taken.
“They’re all dancing over the glass on the floor, they’re all laughing in black and white, I crack a black and white smile, we’ve drifted apart like we’ve just met… for a minute in the bathroom we were the closest of friends, fake me attention, tell me I’m loved”
The song starts with the writer describing himself in a place where he’s surrounded with a lot of people partying and dancing and him trying to fit in despite of his sadness, and he wishes that someone would show him that they still care about him, even if it’s fake…
“Throughout the week we die from nine to five, let me forget myself I wanna be just like Beirut… how great is this night, everything we wish for is here, and I hurt myself just to explain my existence”
Obviously the writer’s mind is imbued with depressing thoughts even though he’s in a place where everyone is having a blast, so because his life is full of miseries, he wishes that he would become as indifferent to them as Beirut is to its issues; then he says that this night has all of what he could wish for to take his mind off of his miseries, but his mind keeps reminding him of his sorrows and making excuses for always thinking about them.
“The son of night”
It describes the depressed state of the writer. “Night” is referred to as loneliness and sadness…
“Remember how the music used to affect us, we’ve grown afraid of the darkness in which we used to play… we’ve lived and saw, nothing ever dazzles us anymore, the music is loud no one will hear us”
He reminisces when he used to get amazed and dazzled with things in life, and how it’s become so different now and how nothing ever surprises him anymore, as if life has lost all of its appeal and splendor and became dull, and claims that it would be impossible for the people around him to be feeling what he’s feeling.
“It feels like I’m drowning but yet thirsty, no I’m not crying I just teared up from the smoke”
The writer falls much deeper in his sadness that he feels like he’s drowning but still forcing himself deeper and deeper, and he shows that he’s in denial about crying…
“I pour a glass for two and drink alone, who do you say will come visit my grave, here there’s a lighter come light up my cigarette, look at how many people are around me it’s impossible for me to be alone”
He describes how lonely he is and that he believes that no one would notice if he disappeared or even died, and because of delving even deeper into his melancholic thoughts, he starts to feel extreme loneliness to the point where he feels totally separated from his surroundings, but then he comes back to reality and tries to find interact with those around him to convince himself that he’s not alone.
The song in general talks about when sadness takes control over someone that it makes them always thinking and reminding them of old memories, which always happens at night.
And then we move to the last song in the album “Marrikh”. The song mostly talks about the abuse of drugs just to tolerate reality..
The quiet, soothing music fits well with the lyrics, with the violin sounding like rising and falling, or inhaling and exhaling…
“Grant me some pill when I come down, don’t deprive me from the bottle when I come down”
He describes going back to reality as landing, and his desire to drink again so he’d escape it all and rise up…
“I’m rising up; I keep rising up, I’m falling down, I keep falling down”
He describes his state of going back and forth between escaping reality and going back to it again, like we’ve seen throughout the album.
“Make me forget my father’s hands when I come down, they punish me every time I go up until I come back down”
“His father’s hands” is probably a metaphor for his own sorrows that his mind is never taken off of, even when he’s high…
Mars symbolism relevant to cycles, and the natural rhythms of life and death. On the one hand we have the driving force of new beginnings followed by a period of thoughtful retreat and a symbolic death to the things which no longer serve.
So Mars came to emphasize his struggle with the ups and downs of his life, and how he runs away from reality just to come back to it again like a never ending cycle, but it can also mean the symbolic death of all he’s suffering from, the things which no longer serve…
But the question still remains; did he really reach the point of the symbolic death of all his sufferings, and will have a new beginning, or will his rise to Mars only end up with him falling again?