The hottest artists in the Arab world right now

Here are the leading artists (those with the most plays on the service since the start of the year) in various genres. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 August 2018
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The hottest artists in the Arab world right now

  • Here are the leading artists (those with the most plays on the service since the start of the year) in various genres

We asked regional digital music platform Anghami — which currently boasts around 70 million registered users across 180 countries — which artists have dominated 2018 so far in the region. Here are the leading artists (those with the most plays on the service since the start of the year) in various genres.

Egyptian pop: Amr Diab


No surprise to see Diab topping this list. The 56-year-old pop star has been wildly popular for decades. His fusion of Egyptian, Arab and Western beats has proved a hugely successful formula and his latest album, “Kol Hayati,” showed he’s lost none of his mainstream appeal.
Also hot: Elissa, Tamer Hosny, Assala Nasri, Sherine

Lebanese pop: Wael Kfoury


Twenty-five years on (and counting) from his first release, the “King of Romance” continues to wow audiences with his love songs. The 43-year-old’s most popular tracks this year include June’s release “Akhadet El Arara,” and singles from last year’s “W” album, “Sorna Solh” and “Halla Ta Fe2ti.”
Also hot: Ziad Bourji, Elissa, Adham Nabulsi, Nassif Zeytoun

Khaleeji pop: Hussain Al-Jassmi


The 38-year-old Emirati singer — like Diab and Kfoury — has long-dominated his respective genre and proves that, on Anghami at least, the old-school Arab pop crew reign supreme. His New Year’s Eve release, “Ahebak,” was a smash hit and he’s followed that up with a slew of singles this year.
Also hot: Majid Al-Mohandis, Abdel Majeed Abdallah, Essa Al-Marzoug, Rashed Al-Majed

International pop: Ed Sheeran


Even his much-derided ‘acting’ appearance on “Game of Thrones” apparently can’t derail the 27-year-old singer-songwriter’s domination of the global music industry. Last year, famously, 10 singles from his album “÷” hit the UK Top 10 and that popularity has clearly translated to the Middle East. He tops this list without having released anything new in 2018.
Also hot: Camilla Cabello, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, Sia

International dance: The Chainsmokers


The US DJ-production duo’s cross-genre sound (incorporating elements of indie-pop and hip-hop, as well as dance music) dominated the Billboard charts in early 2018 with the release of their “Sick Boy” EP, and they have seen similar success in the Arab world this year, with five singles — particularly “Somebody” — driving their ascent to the top.
Also hot: David Guetta, Clean Bandit, Avicii, Alan Walker

International R&B and soul: The Weeknd


The acclaimed alt-R&B artist — real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye — is one of the more interesting acts on this list; someone who has taken his genre into previously unexplored — often unsettling — territories, both musically and lyrically. His “My Dear Melancholy” EP, released in March, is a prime example. Tesfaye will likely remain at the top of the regional list this year, boosted by his upcoming performance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.
Also hot: Chris Brown, Khalid, Akon, John Legend

International hip-hop: Drake


Like his fellow Canadian artist The Weeknd, Drake’s often-downbeat take on his genre has garnered both critical and commercial acclaim. This year’s double-album, the 25-track “Scorpion” — featuring collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Future and a posthumous contribution from Michael Jackson — broke numerous records for streams and sales.
Also hot: Post Malone, Eminem, XXXTentacion, Russ

Arabic hip-hop: Ahmed Mekky


The Egyptian actor and rapper has had a big year, starting with his nostalgic social-commentary track “Wa’fet Nasyt Zaman,” which tackled a number of topics including drug abuse, (mis)treatment of the elderly, and the influence of social media and mixed jazz, blues and traditional Egyptian music.
Also hot: Zap Tharwat, Flipperachi and Daffy, Klay, Sons of Yusuf

International indie: Lykke Li


The 32-year-old Swedish electropop artist dropped her fourth album, the trap-influenced “So Sad So Sexy,” in June, and it’s gone down well in the region, it seems. This always-inventive singular artist co-wrote the majority of the album with US singer-songwriter Ilsey Juber.
Also hot: M83, Cage the Elephant, Hurts, Sevdaliza

Arabic indie: Cairokee


The Egyptian rockers — who rose to international fame during the 2011 revolution — haven’t released anything new this year, but 2017’s “Noaata Beida” clearly continues to resonate with fans. There’s a clear Egyptian bias to the ‘Arabic indie’ list — indicative of the huge potential audience there, but also of the creativity raging in that country — with only Lebanon’s Mashrou’ Leila breaking Egyptian dominance of the top five bands.
Also hot: Sharmoofers, Mashrou’ Leila, MTM, Wust El Balad

Foreign-language Arab artists: Anthony Touma


The Lebanese singer’s sophomore album, “Ups and Downs,” released this summer has seen his popularity continue to grow in the region. Touma originally rose to fame on France’s version of “The Voice” and later collaborated with Enrique Iglesias on the French version of Iglesias’ “Let Me Be Your Lover.”
Also hot: Mayssa Karaa, Aman, Shébani, Lea Makhoul

Most popular artist overall: Elissa


Although she doesn’t rank first in any of the genres overall, the Lebanese star has accrued the most listens of any artist on Anghami’s platform over the course of the year so far, helped by the release of her eleventh studio album, “Ila Kol Elli Bihebbouni.” Her versatility — both her Lebanese and Egyptian tracks are extremely popular — means her success is split across those categories, so she didn’t actually top either.


‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan

‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2019
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‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan

  • Jordan-based indie-pop band 'Hayajan' has released a new album
  • The majority of tracks on “Khusouf Al-Ard” fall into one of two categories: Upbeat funky pop or slower synth-led ballads

DUBAI: It’s been more than five years since “Ya Bay,” the debut album from Jordan-based indie-pop band Hayajan, was released. Frontman Alaa Wardi was already hugely popular for his online videos of layered a capella covers, but in the years since he has become a genuine online phenomenon with almost a million YouTube subscribers and two solo albums to his name.
Wardi, and his voice, naturally, loom large over Hayajan’s recently released sophomore album “Khusouf Al-Ard.” But it would be a mistake to see this record as ‘Alaa Wardi plus musicians.’ Guitarists Odai Shawagfeh (who also plays with El Morabba3) and Mohammed Idrei, bassist Amjad Shahrouh, and drummer Hakam Abu Soud are equally responsible for Hayajan’s impressive sonic soundscapes.
The majority of tracks on “Khusouf Al-Ard” fall into one of two categories: Upbeat funky pop or slower synth-led ballads. Often, though, those pop tracks have pessimistic lyrics at odds with the bouncy, foot-tapping feel of the instrumentation.
In “Zubalah,” for example, Wardi warns a Martian newly arrived on earth to leave again ASAP because the planet is “trash” and “There is no hope for a better future.” On “Al-Ghabah,” he tells a tale of a bullying animal who becomes king of the jungle and burns it to the ground to quell an uprising, leaving himself ruler of nothing. A fable that could be relevant to any of the world’s ‘strongmen’ rulers.
Throughout the record Wardi shows his vocal chops not just on the top-line melodies, but with great choices of harmonies. The rhythm section is super-tight and the crystalline, angular guitar riffs are often instant earworms. Many of the tracks use the old ‘slow build to crescendo’ trick to great effect. “Kbirna” — a nostalgic ballad that employs Imogen Heap-style Vocoder effects — in particular culminates in the kind of soaring soundtrack-friendly climax that Sigur Ros seemed to have made their own in the Noughties.
The one bum note on the record is “Jibna Al-Eid,” in which Wardi’s requests for us all to come together cross the line into saccharine simplicity (as does the music). The result being a track that sounds like the kind of bad festive charity single usually accompanied by a video of the assembled vocalists grinning unconvincingly at each other.
Still, the rest of the album makes up for that misstep. Along with “Kbirna,” opening track “Yalla Bina” is a high point — driving, funky rhythms interspersed with staccato guitar stabs and a vibe reminiscent of French band Phoenix.
“Khusouf Al-Ard” is a confident, bold record that rewards the patience of the band’s fans.

Listen to the full album here: