مشروع ليلى Mashrou Leila (Night Project or Leila’s Project, depending on whether you consider that Leila is a girl-name or not) is a pop band formed in Beirut in 2008. Its creation has been a pleasant surprise in the Arab art scene. Its songs are good for international pop standars and its members are truly and independent artists that exercice their freedom of speach with the only limit imposed by their own creativity. And, yes, they do that in the Middle East.
One of the topics in its first album is a love story between two men. The song in question is called شم الياسمين Smell the Jasmine. The lyrics play with the ambiguity of the traditional Arabic poetry, in which the authors may use male pronouns to refer to their beloved women. The ambiguity ends when the male protagonist of the song says he would like to be the other man’s woman.
In addition, the singer of the group, Hamed Sinno, is probably the first Lebanese singer who has publicly declared himself a gay. He says that “someone had to do it.” Hamed had no problem in ardently displaying the rainbow flag during their first big concert at the Byblos International Festival 2010. It is rumored that the Prime Minister at that time, Saad Hariri, attended, but left after half an hour quite disgusted with some of the lyrics and the messages of the band.
Bellow you can listen and read the lyrics in Arabic and English to Smell the Jasmine and another of their hits: Fasateen.