With artists and bands such as The Narcicyst and Mashrou3'Leila, the Arab music scene is moving towards the unknown. Below you'll find a unique list of Arab music - traditional and modern - you simply can't miss, chosen by a panel of fascinating individuals.
Sundus Balata picked: Shadia - Ya Habibti Ya Masr
Why? Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!
Hamida Al-Kuweiri picked: The Narcicyist featuring Shadia Mansour- Hamdulilah
Why? This song represents the new wave of Arab creativity and cultural innovation in this day and age. Musicians like The Narcicyst and Omar Offendum have reinvented Arab culture with a modern Western twist, and inspire me as an aspiring Arab artist.
Danah Abdullah picked: Azar Habib - Ajbeen el Leil
Why? The late Azar Habib is so nostalgic. His melodies and voice remind me of youth and a more laissez-faire lifestyle and of course, of Beirut!
Noora Sharrab picked: Amir Sulaiman ft Ayah Freeway The Narcicyst & Omar Offendum - Jan25
Why? For many, the song #Jan25 represented the tireless hours spent in front of news stations, primarily Al-Jazeera, as Arabs from all over the world, including those living in the Diaspora, expressed what was a vibrant and unshaken struggle for freedom, for fundamental human rights and for democracy for the people by the people. The call to ouse Mubarak, was not only a call against a dictator, but for an entire regime change, against corruption, deception, fraud, manipulation and despotic acts. #Jan25 was a song that was rooted in the feelings of so many people, both in Tahrir Square and out. The song brought to light the inspiring protests from Bouazizi's spark in Tunisia to the resilient struggle in Egypt. As expressed by the numerous artists that produced this piece, this song stood in solidarity to the people in Tahrir Square and all over the Middle East to say, "We are with you", "we are supporting you", "you are not alone!" And truly, those in Tahrir Square were not alone.
Naira Badawi picked: Mohammed Mounir - Shababeek
Why? If my life had a soundtrack accompanying it, 90% of its songs would be by Mounir. The 4 minute eargasm that is Shababeek invokes memories of watching the sunrise from a dingy balcony in Alexandria. Shababeek screams regret and laments over the things we left behind. Mounir's voice carries traces of the saddening homesickness that results from the summer's farewells (or at least, that's what I hear). Summer 2010 was spent gazing through the shababeek of my Nina's house by the Mahmoudeyya and through the rolled down windows of taxis speeding along the Mediterranean. I long for Masr and this me right back to her.
Nour Nsheiwat picked: Fairouz - Ahwak
Nour Nishouty picked: Soap Kills - Wadih
Why? This song is by one of my favourite Lebanese bands, one of the first groups to produce contemporary Arabic music and embracing less serious and rather fringe lyrics.
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Sheyma Buali picked: Rayess Bek - Thawra
Why? Because it is energetic and in the spirit of today.
Joseph Maalouf picked: Miah - Charablabada
Why? I found this sound to be very unusual for a Lebanese artist and I liked it! The whole album by Miah 'Catimini' is a home-made album with songs that come from the heart, and each piece has a touch of inevitable cynicism.
Karim Sultan picked: Ahmed Adawiyyah - Habba Fouq
Why? I chose the song "Habba Fouq" by the Egyptian popular singer Ahmed Adawiyyah - this is the 2010 summer song for me and a number of others in Egypt, so for me, it's part nostalgia and part pure vintage sha'bi catchiness. Plus, it's always interesting when music reflects accurately the scene in which it was born, and classic Adawiyyah sounds like downtown Cairo (in the 1970s).
Nassra Al Buainain picked: Mohammed Abdo - Kel Ma Nasnas
Why? I am a fan of Mohamad Abdo's old songs because I find them perfect in terms of lyrics, meaning and melody. Kel ma nasnas is written by Prince Khalid Al Faisal.
Mariam Nader picked: Mashrou’3 Leila - Raksit Leila
Rawan Risheq picked: Abdel Halim Hafez - Ahwak
Why? This song is a real classic Arabic song/artist that never loses its charm or soul. This song is the epitome of poet longing. Simply love it and him!
Ali Suleiman picked: Kadem Saher - Zedini 3ishkan
Why? This is probably the earliest song of this style that I can remember from my childhood. I first heard it on the television while at my grandmother's house in Amman, and it's the first song whose lyrics I learned by heart.
Shannon Farhoud picked: Omar Offendum - Finjan
Why? The song's lyrics come from Nizar Qabanni and is a great mix between modern beats and traditional poetry.
Laila Masri picked: Souad Massi - Raoul
Why? I chose the song because it depicts the mental state a lot of young Arabs are in. They need answers to questions about their purpose in life, the meaning of existence, the reason behind the political problems in the Arab world that is stopping them from finding solace in an identity they can comfortably relate to. Ultimately, a lot of us young Arabs today want to live and find peace in a chaotic world.
A version of this article was originally published in Kalimat Magazine.