Arabic is a very rich language and those who have delved into it know that its splendor runs deep and wide. But, as Arabic slang started taking different forms across the different Arabic dialects, so much of the language's original magic has been lost ... at least in this author's humble opinion.
Once upon a time, great singers of the Arab world colored the poems of our modern linguistic heritage in tunes and beats. Until the pop culture claimed the throne and commercialization threw linguistic appreciation to the wind.
Luckily, not all artists are willing to give into what sells, especially if it jeopardizes something they hold dear, such as literary wealth.
Below are our favorite artists from the Middle East, whose songs are as much a pleasure to the ear as they are to the soul. While not all of them sing in formal Arabic, they all preserve our literary heritage in their poetic lyrics.
1. Kulna Sawa – Syria
Founded in 1995, the band has four studio albums to date. Varying between love songs, reflections on local struggles and even martyrs, Kulna Sawa is known for its diverse use of instruments and blending music genres. In 2004, the group's members received two peace awards in the United Nations headquarters in New York.
2. Rim Banna – Palestine
The Palestinian singer, lyricist and composer is famous for dedicating her artwork to the Palestinian cause, as well as spreading peace and love. Banna was born in Nazareth, in the Galilee. She studied music and singing in the High Institute for Music “Gnesins” in Moscow. She specialized in modern singing and conducting singing ensembles. Her works comprise 10 albums, including two for children and two albums in collaboration with world musicians.
3. Hamza Namira – Egypt
Egyptian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who usually sings in the Egyptian dialect, is one of many Egyptian artists who have utilized art as a space to discuss and reflect on the daily life concerns and others about the political upheaval in Egypt.
Namira makes music about life in general. The message he wants to express through his work is: "Life has a lot of things that are worthwhile, things that deserve expressing in music and songs, so it's not fair letting love and romance monopolize music."
4. Marcel Khalife - Lebanon
Khalife is a renowned Lebanese composer, singer and oud master. A graduate of the Beirut National Conservatory of Music in 1971, Khalife set out to free the Arabic lute, the oud, from the traditional strict techniques that constrained it.
Khalife has played in some of the world’s most notable music halls, such as the UNESCO Hall and The Champs Elysees Theatre in Paris, the Sydney Opera House, The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and many others.
He also has composed soundtracks for many documentary films and fictions films.
Marcel Khalife's lyrical and instrumental recordings add up to more than 20 albums and DVDs.
5. Badiaa Bouhrizi – Tunisia
The underground Tunisian composer and singer calls her sound “Netassaya,” a “new sound of Northern Africa,” which is rooted in malouf, a traditional music found in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya that Bouhrizi learned to sing in school choir, like many Tunisians.
6. Abdulrahman Muhammed – Saudi Arabia
Muhammed, who is currently a freelance videographer and photographer in Jeddah, first stepped into the spotlight of the music scene when he qualified as one of the 10 finalists in the TV show and competition Superstar, which aired on Future TV.