I need new music - suggestions?

Aziyade

Well-known member
So my kiddo was born in late 2011, and I don't think I've bought any new music since then. I'd prefer some recent recommendations for pop singers, the kind of stuff you could dance to at mixed Arab-American parties without anyone raising an eyebrow. (I have everything Um Kalsoum and the classics already.)

Anybody have any recommendations? I don't even know where to start with new music since it seems HMC is still selling the same CDs from the 90s and I have pretty much their entire collection.

Thanks!
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I retired two years ago (or was it three years? Is that possible?) not long after I discovered Amr Diab who probably everyone else has known about for donkey's years. Also like Turku, specifically an album called Nomads of the Silk Road, and Bassam Ayoub.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Depending on how you look at it, it's either good news or bad news that the MENA music industry has caught up to everyone else. If you want online streaming and download availability, it's a vast improvement over the former experience of hoping Rashid Music had what you wanted to order by mail, and if you yearn for the old days of physical CDs, it's kind of a bummer because that market has mostly collapsed. And like everywhere else, COVID-19 has knocked a huge dent in the entertainment industry abroad, too.

Most of the big artists who were around in 2011 still are. Less famous ones, especially those who don't have huge media machines promoting them, sometimes put out a single at a time instead of albums, because we're sort of in a post-CD, digital-media world now. If you're interested in smaller artists, it helps to know where to look for them or get yourself hooked into software that recommends based on what you've liked in the past. Just about everyone has a full social-media presence now, but navigating them often requires either being able to read at least a little of their native language or being content to limp along with Google Translate.

I don't claim to have comprehensive knowledge of the Arabic music scene (and next to none of the Turkish scene), but I have the impression there aren't a lot of younger singers rushing to record traditional stuff. All of the youth energy in Egypt seems to be in the hip-hop/club fusion styles (mahraganat, electro sha'abi, techno sha'abi), and Western-style bands, which is very much YMMV in terms of using it for dancing, although I'm sure there are exceptions.

One of the hottest artists in Egypt now is Mohamed Ramadan (he's had a steady stream of viral hits), but he's also a bit in the YMMV category. He often includes a few distinctive dance moves in his videos a dancer could poach to look hip (see what I did there?), but a lot of older Middle Easterners and foreign BD students might not get the references, much less understand the mixture of slang-y Arabic and foreign words he's rapping.

Dunno...recommendations pretty much depend on what you like, but you should be able to find something at one of these links, or via whatever service you'd use to access the latest from Taylor Swift....

https://youtube.com/user/RotanaAudio
https://youtube.com/user/Mazzika
https://youtube.com/user/NayForMedia/
https://youtube.com/user/platinumrecordsmusic
https://youtube.com/channel/UCJCj2HtcnbOyCj1rmKaxwJg
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
Hey y'all, I appreciate the suggestions!! And Tourbeau, thank you for the links! I quite like what I watched of Mohamd Ramadan - I enjoy the pop stuff, even just to listen to. And he has a song about Covid, which is oddly catchy. (ha) I'll check out the others next. Thanks again!

Amr Diab -- I LOVE HIM. He was always one of my favorites. I like that Spanish-y sound.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Here's the Sunday longread...

I quite like what I watched of Mohamd Ramadan
Mohamed Ramadan is a hoot, isn't he? He's also a very popular actor--and major props to him for captioning his YouTube clips in English. 💐💐💐

Ever since Ricky Martin, a segment of the MENA music industry has been hoping to score a big international hit. (Miles certainly tried, but 9/11 messed up the timing of that effort on both sides.) Then Psy rode "Gangnam Style" to the top, and now BTS and others are demonstrating there is a lucrative world market for catchy music in a language most people don't speak, so you can't blame Mohamed Ramadan for thinking, "I'm talented and charming. I could be next!" and working hard to make it happen.

Amr Diab -- I LOVE HIM. He was always one of my favorites. I like that Spanish-y sound..
Amr Diab used to be my favorite singer, but then he went through a phase where it felt to me like he was trying too hard to stay popular. I didn't mind that he wanted to experiment a bit ("Allem Albi" is my favorite album of his after all), but I lost where he was going with his music around the same time as he had the (first?) falling out with Amr Mostafa, who had been one of his principle composers and a major contributor to his acoustic-guitar-driven sound.

I don't entirely blame Amr Diab. Amr Mostafa was...hmm, how to put this...having some issues about being respected, so he broke off to have a solo career and sing his own material (yeah, he probably was holding back some of his better songs, even though he owed his career to writing for Amr Diab--but it's not like Amr Diab couldn't have his pick of the best songwriters in Egypt, and he also had longstanding relationships with most of them already), but then Amr Mostafa stuck his foot in his mouth during Tahrir Square, and he's still trying to get back to where he was in 2008. (Full disclosure: If you ask me who my favorite Egyptian musician is, I'll probably say Arm Mostafa, but it pains me he went eight years in between significant new releases and the end result was "Leiebt maa'a al assad.")

Anyway, to cut a long story short, a few years ago the two Amrs supposedly patched things up, and started working together again...unless you've heard that they had another falling out this summer and Amr "How do you say 'Temperamental Genius' in Arabic?" Mostafa was posting and deleting catty tweets using Hussain al Jasmi to throw shade at Amr Diab.

Anywho...I sort of feel the same way about Ehab Tawfiq as Amr Diab, although Ehab doesn't involve any tea spilling in the Egyptian music industry. I loved the stuff Ehab put out in the 90s and early 2000s, and then I went years thinking "meh" about his records because they seemed so desperate to appeal to younger club goers at the same time Ehab was becoming a middle-aged man who should have had more confidence in the maturity of his artistic direction. But now he seems to have finally started making stuff I like again.

I also went from buying every album Mohammed Fouad put out to losing interest. Like Amr Mostafa, Mohammed Fouad failed to resist the siren's call to say stupid stuff during Tahrir Square, and he went from being one of Egypt's top entertainers to a bumpy ride back. I don't know that I felt the quality of his music (what there was of it) diminished in the last decade as much as it was one of those "Go away so we can miss you" things for me.

Of the rest of the Egyptian "al jeel" guys (who are now "The Generation" of "Dudes in their 50s"), I think Mostafa Amar and Hisham Abbas did the best job of maintaining quality. IMHO, both of them have managed to make music that evolved incrementally over time, so it didn't feel stale, but it also didn't seem to be randomly buffeted by whatever else was popular. Hisham Abbas has been considerably less prolific than his contemporaries, but I'd rather wait years for something worth hearing than have an artist churning out dreck every year just to stay visible.

And Hakim, who always worked in the sha'abi lane, is also still putting out music. (Sorry, Hakim, that was an unfortunate segue.) I suppose it's a plus Hakim hasn't chased after the mahranagat trend too much, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to some "Meh, doesn't this sound like a record you already made?" moments in the last decade with him as well. (Between you and me, our ol' buddy Mostafa Kamel put out an album a few weeks ago that I thought was much better than Hakim's last.)

Rounding out the troika of musicians who went from the heights of popularity in the Egyptian entertainment industry to "Please shut up and stop wrecking your own career" during Tahrir Square, Tamer Hosny has had his own long, rough return, but he's crawled back into Egyptians' graces enough that his latest duet with Mahmoud al Esseily duet is up to 18M views.


Of course, no conversation dishing on the last decade of Arabic pop would be complete without talking about Fadl Shaker, the Undisputed King of "Hold My Beer Qahwah Arabiya" when it comes to destroying your own successful music career. In the flounce to end all flounces, Fadl quit the music business around 2013 to become an Islamic radical. The Lebanese government declared him a terrorist, tried him in absentia for his participation in anti-government activities, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He's been on the lam ever since, but in 2018, he decided he wanted to go back to being a crooner of pop ballads, and it hasn't been working out quite as well as he'd hoped. He's made sone nice records, but people aren't in much of a mood to forgive him.

Assala Nasri, Elissa, and Jannat have recently put out albums (haven't had a chance to hear Assala's yet). The Saudi singer Waed released a nice record with some different ethnic flavors this month, too.

Assi al Hellani, Ragheb Alama, Samira Said, Sherine, Najwa Karam, Saber al Rebai, Kazem al Saher, Majid al Mohandes, Rabih Saqer, Rashed al Majid, Hussein al Jasmi, Loai, Nabil Shuail, Wael Kfoury, Mohamed Mounir, Fares Karam, Saad al Soghayer, and many others are also still working. Nawal al Zoghbi and Nancy Ajram appear to have new albums in the pipeline. Did I miss anyone's fave?
 
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