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.


A powerful ode to a long-lost golden age

"Love and Revenge" went on show in Abu Dhabi. (All images supplied)
Updated 23 min 7 sec ago
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A powerful ode to a long-lost golden age

ABU DHABI: There’s a scene in Wael Koudaih and Randa Mirza’s audio-visual collaboration “Love & Revenge” that takes its lead from Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso.” A series of censored kisses stitched together to music, it epitomizes much of what the show tries to achieve. A sense of tenderness.   
 
“It talks to human emotions,” says Mirza of “Love & Revenge.” “It talks to people in a way that is away from political agendas. The Arab world is rich in culture, in meaning, in love. There’s happiness and human relationships. All of this is completely ignored when the Arab world is only seen through the prism of fundamentalism and politics.” 
 
An emotive and powerful ode to a long-lost golden age, Love & Revenge has been touring Europe and the Middle East for the past few years. Now it is set to make its New York University Abu Dhabi debut on Sept. 12-13, following two successful performances at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in May. 
 
A fusion of electro pop music and cinema from the Arab world, it is the first collaboration between Koudaih, a former Arabic hip-hop trailblazer, and Mirza, a Lebanese visual artist. Both live between Lebanon and France.  
 
Driven by a keen sense of nostalgia, Koudaih’s modifications of classic Arabic songs accompany Mirza’s edited film sequences. There’s Samia Gamal and Leila Mourad, Sabah and Taheyya Kariokka. “All are set,” says Koudaih, “to the patterns and aesthetics of today’s music.” 
 
In one sequence, for example, selected scenes have been taken from Hussein Kamal’s 1969 film “Abi foq Al-Shagara,” starring Egyptian actors Abdel Halim Hafez and Nadia Lutfi. As their love affair unfolds on screen, Koudaih’s remix of Mohamed Abdel Wahab’s “Ya Msafer Wahdak,” sung by Nagat Al-Saghira, is used to accentuate the emotions of Mirza’s edited scenes. 
 
“The whole idea was to try and find a concept for each song,” says Mirza, who watched more than 100 films as part of her research. “To try to understand what the music is conveying, what it is saying, and find ways for the visuals to enhance it or to let it flow. 
 
“When I watched the films I was waiting for a particular scene. A particular shot. And if I found an interesting scene I would start cutting the scenes that I liked, constructing my own sequence database. From this I would choose stuff in order to create meaning and to create a story that would run with the music. 
 
“It was a playful process. I would run a song continuously and start using my database to see how the meaning would change with the music. What emotions could I feel? When did it work? When did it click?” 
 
As well as Mirza and Koudaih, the live performances include Mehdi Haddab, an Algerian electronic oud player, and Julien Perraudeau, a French musician who has created his own set-up out of a collection of small keyboards.  
 
“The archive is crazy,” says Koudaih, who is better known by his stage name Rayess Bek. “When you dig inside these movies —  inside these songs —  it’s unbelievable. You can see and hear the society, but you can also understand the taboos, the limits of that society, and the complexity of the people. And we wanted to focus —  not only, but mainly —  on the image of the Arab woman in cinema, because it’s an important topic that’s still relevant today.” 
 
“The representation of women in these movies is very intriguing,” adds Mirza, who first met Koudaih at university in Beirut. “At first sight you have the reaction that the Arab world was freer in the 20th century – more than it is today – and what was possible in the media is not possible anymore. But if you look closer at this representation you understand that it has always been an objectifying representation. You have a lot of women in bikinis, you have a lot of women being seductive on screen, wearing very light clothes and showing their female charms in front of the camera. But the reality in these movies is that all the dancers are considered bad women.  
 
“At the end of the movies the woman who cheats on her husband, drinks, dances or sings, dies. There is not a single film in which a woman is empowered. Even the films that tried to be a bit feminist had a very limited view of feminism. A woman could choose the husband she wanted, but of course the goal of a woman should always be marriage; to be always protected by a man. And this is problematic. Very problematic, because we’re still there somehow. Women are not complete individuals, free to be whoever they want and to have as equal a role in society as men.” 
 
The title of the project takes its name from Youssef Wahbi’s 1944 film “Gharam wa Intiqam” (love and revenge), which is famous as the last movie to star the Syrian Druze princess Asmahan.

Blessed with a powerful voice and an exceptional vocal range, Asmahan’s formidable character, glamor and onscreen persona helped turn her into a cultural icon. It also ensured she was shadowed by controversy, dying in mysterious circumstances before the film was finished.

The film’s ending was subsequently changed to mirror Asmahan’s passing, with art mirroring life. It is Koudaih’s mid-tempo, beat heavy reinterpretation of Asmahan’s “Emta Hataraf” that is arguably the project’s standout track. 
 
“You know, there is one thing that has really fascinated me with this project,” says Koudaih. “At the end of our shows we always ask the crowd to come on stage and dance. In London and in Abu Dhabi we had veiled women who came up on stage and were dancing like crazy.”
 
Maybe this is a big part of its success. The fact that it provides a happy, upbeat and danceable view of the Arab world. 
 
“We played in Tunis and the people were crazy,” says Koudaih. “We were sold out. It’s not because we are stars. We’re not. I think it’s because this area of the Arab world is missing. This golden age, this freedom, this music. People miss this.”