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.