Music in Global America




Abdel Halim Hafez sings  'Ya Alby Ya Kahly'  by Mohamed Wahab, the "father of modern Egyptian song." Besides bringing Western instruments and harmony into Egyptian popular music, Wahab also borrowed from American rock & roll and jazz. The beginning of "Ya Alby Ya Kahly," for instance, is borrowed from a Ray Charles song, "Hit the Road Jack" and introduces the sound of saxophones. As the 1970s waned so did the style of music pioneered by Wahab.  Shaabi, a working-class form of music, became popular in Cairo in the 1970s. The word  literally means "music of the people."  The music of the great singers of the previous decades became known as tarab, the music of feelings. Shaabi was now the new music, the music of the street, distributed on pirated tapes and CDs. The genre used political commentary and humor to express the difficulties and frustrations of modern Egyptian life.  The genre sounded new because Shaabi had absorbed then-current American popular musical sounds and styles and mixed them with Egyptian pop. Growing out of shabbi was mahraganat (lit. "festivals") the independent underground music of working class Cairo youth using mixing apps and beats found on the web. Heavy auto-tuning, fast tempos and simple rhythms combined with lyrics often tackling political and social issues appealed to the many young people of Egypt in the years following the Spring Revolution.

Amr Diab is the best-selling Arabic singer ever. Born in Egypt in 1961, he became popular among the young urban populations of the Middle East and Mediterranean in the 1980s. In much of his music he blends Egyptian and Western instruments and styles. "Habibi ya nour el ain" combines Arabic rhythms and lyrics with Spanish guitar and French accordion playing. Also in the video are frame drums (dafs) of the Middle East and North Africa. In "Habibi ya nour el ain" Diab also plays on the cultural influences of the Arabic and Romani ("gypsy") influences in the music of Spain: Arabs  occupied most of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) during an  800-year period (711 - 1492), and intermingled with the Romani, which gives much Iberian music a decidedly Arabic flavor, demonstrated here by  improvised vocal ornamentation on scales derived from the Arabic maqam, sections of free rhythm alternating with definite rhythm, and refrains that involve a kind of call-and-response format between solo vocalist and a small male chorus. 


The music video for Lamjarred's 2015 hit single, "LM3ALLEM" (Arabic: لمعلم‎), earned a Guinness World Record achievement after garnering 500 million views on YouTube within three months of release. As of July 2018, the video is the most viewed Arabic music video on YouTube, with more than 640 million views.


Nancy Ajram (b. 1983) is a multi-platinum Lebanese singer and Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.  By 2007, Ajram had sold over 30 million records, ranking third best selling female artist in Lebanese history. With more than one million subscribers, Nancy's official facebook page is now the most subscribed Arab artist page on Facebook. She is the first Arab who has reached this number.


Lydia Canaan of Lebanese singer-songwriter, the first "rock star" of the Middle East, the first internationally successful Lebanese recording artist, first Middle Eastern artist to sing in entirely in English, and the first to have music videos shown on MTVMiddle East and other MTV channels . "Her musical debut was described as having defied tradition, challenged convention, and transcended millennia-old gender barriers." Canaan was catalogued in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Canaan is also a civil rights advocate who has spoken frequently before the UN Human Rights Commission. She has been involved in humanitarian causes and charity work throughout her adult life. [Wikipedia]

Acrassicauda is an American-based Iraqi thrash metal band formed in 2001. It is often credited as the first heavy metal group to emerge from Iraq. The original band consisted of four members and played concerts during the rule of Saddam Hussein. They became well known outside of the local Iraqi metal scene after a Vice magazine profile, and received even greater coverage with a feature-length documentary about the band and its troubles in Iraq called Heavy Metal in Baghdad. Their first album was released in 2010. [Wikipedia]

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