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

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.


Have you heard the one about the Muslims making a splash on the UK comedy scene?

Updated 19 November 2019

Have you heard the one about the Muslims making a splash on the UK comedy scene?

  • New breed of comedians use their Arab origins to fuel culture-clash comedy routines and smash stereotypes
  • Super Muslim Comedy Tour visited 11 British cities to raise money to help impoverished children in crisis-hit countries

LONDON: Thanks to stars such as Billy Connolly, Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Britain has long been a hotbed of comedy talent.
Lately, a new crop of Arab Muslim stand-up comedians have taken to the stage across the country, representing the UK’s ethnic diversity and offering a fresh alternative on the comedy scene.
Fatiha El-Ghorri, Omar Hamdi and Esther Manito were among seven Muslim comedians that toured 11 British cities as part of the Super Muslim Comedy Tour. This charity event is organized by Penny Appeal, an international humanitarian organization that works to provide poverty relief in crisis-hit countries worldwide.
In their acts, the three performers challenge the stigmas and stereotypes associated with how the British public views Muslims and Arabs, and vice versa, using their own experiences and backgrounds as inspiration for their humor.
British-Moroccan comedian El-Ghorri, for example, uses comedy to break down the barriers that she has come up against as a Muslim and as a woman.
“I think in the West in general we have a perception of Muslim women as being weak and oppressed, especially with Muslim women that wear the hijab,” she said after a performance at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London. “It’s difficult for women in general but it’s more difficult for a woman that looks so different, as I do, because people don’t want to take a chance on you.”

British-Moroccan comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri is challenging the stigmas that not only come with being a Muslim, but also a Muslim woman. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

The comedy industry has long had a problem with female comics because promoters worry that audiences will not connect with their material, she said. At most of the events she has performed at she was the only woman on the bill, she added, and wearing a hijab makes it even harder to find a platform.
“So I like to challenge that and the perceptions people have of us as Muslims,” she said. “And also, within the Muslim community you have tribes: you have the Pakistani Muslims, the Arab Muslims, and we have traditions and cultures different to each other.”
Stepping onto the stage to the sound of a song by rapper Jay-Z, 38-year-old El-Ghorri kept the audience in stitches from the beginning to the end of her routine, as she merged eastern and western words and trends to come up with hybrid terms such as “Minder” (Muslim Tinder) and Mipster (Muslim hipster).
Despite the challenges and obstacles she has faced, she has no intention to give up her dream career.
“I’m not going to stop,” she said. “This is what I want to do and I’m gonna be here and I’m gonna do it. If one club won’t take me, another club will.”
The Super Muslim Comedy Tour, which is in its fifth year, kicked off in Aberdeen, Scotland, on Nov. 6 before heading south, stopping off in major cities before concluding in London on Nov. 17. Arab News caught up with the performers in the capital on the penultimate night of the tour.
Welsh-Egyptian comedian Omar Hamdi said one of the interesting things about stand up is that it takes him to places he would normally never go.
“This tour started in Aberdeen, which is like the northeast corner of Scotland — it’s practically Norway,” he said, adding that the “vibe there was different” to what he experienced in Bayswater, for example, a posh area in central London. “Even a distance of a few miles makes such a difference in the energy of the audience and what they’re into,” he explained.
This is the third time the 29-year-old has been part of the Super Muslim tour.

This is the third year Welsh-Egyptian comedian Omar Hamdi has joined Penny Appeal’s Super Muslim Comedy Tour. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Every year it’s different but it’s always fun,” he said. “I think because it’s been going a few years it’s become a bit of a brand. People come along more excited about the show, they have more expectations and it just gets bigger and better.
“The interesting thing is that wherever you go, people are there to laugh but they’re also there to support an amazing charity.”
Hamdi has also performed at Dubai Opera and the Royal Albert Hall in London. He is a presenter on the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) Award-winning BBC Wales consumer-affairs show “X-Ray,” and has a comedy special, “Omar Hamdi: British Dream,” on Amazon Prime in the UK.
During his routine on the Super Muslim tour, Hamdi, who was born in Cardiff, jokes about how his parents ended up living in Wales, which is not the most obvious destination for Egyptian immigrants.
Esther Manito, meanwhile, was born and raised in Essex, east of London.
“There were absolutely no ethnic minority groups around, let alone Arab ethnic minority groups,” she said. With a Lebanese father and a mother from Newcastle, in the northeast of England, her parents’ cultural differences, in particular their very different ways of speaking, provide a rich source of inspiration for her comedy.
“My style of comedy is very much observational,” said Manito. “It’s about family life, family dynamics and identity, and growing up with dual heritage, so all of that comes into play when I’m doing stand-up. My surroundings have given me so much comedy material.”

The Super Muslim Comedy Tour was held at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London, after touring 10 other cities across the UK. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Kae Kurd, from south London, is the host of the show. The 29 year-old, who hosts a YouTube show called “Kurd Your Enthusiasm,” was six months old when his parents moved to the UK in 1990. They were part of the resistance that fought against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
He said the response from audiences has been very positive throughout the tour, even if it occasionally takes a little time for them to warm up.
“Sometimes, I think people are nervous to laugh because they’ve probably never been to a comedy show before, so they don’t understand that they can laugh out loud,” he said. “But it’s been fun and everybody’s really enjoyed it.”
The proceeds from this year’s tour will help the Forgotten Children campaign, which aims to get young people in places such as Lebanon, Senegal, Pakistan and Bangladesh off the streets and into safer environments.
Sisters Ripa and Nazifa Hannan, from Hackney said it was the first time they attended a Muslim comedy show.
Ripa, 34, particularly liked El-Ghorri set and was able to relate to all her jokes, especially as they are from the same are in London.

British-Moroccan comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri (C) with fans Ripa Hannan (L) and her sister Nazifa (R). (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“You know when women can kind of relate to another woman especially when, we come from Hackney too, so we got every single joke of hers and so it resonates for us,” she said.
Nazifa, 27, said they often attend comedy shows but tend to see acts like Trevor Noah or Russell Howard.
“This is the first Muslim comedy show and it was fantastic, hilarious and the fact they spoke (for a) very good cause,” she added.