Dr. Ramzi Salti's Arabology Show Spotlights Best Arabic Songs of 2021-22

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Dr. Ramzi Salti’s Arabology radio show is back after a 2-year hiatus with a new episode which highlights the best indie Arabic songs of 2021-22.  The episode aired in February 2023 and can be enjoyed here.

To hear the latest podcast, please listen below or at this link:

Playlist and Artist Info for Arabology 14.1

1.  Shkoon -- Lala (single)

The German Syrian band Shkoon released their long-awaited debut album “Rima” in December 2019, followed by a huge album tour. Their music is a message for cultural diversity.  But the band is more than a German Syrian live act with Arabic lyrics. In addition to their own lyrics, the band is using old traditional music elements of Syrian folklore along with occidental electronic beats.  Band members are Ameen Khayer and German producer Thorben Diekmann and violinist Maher Al-Kadi. Khayer fled Deir Ezzor in 2015 because of the ongoing civil war and ended up in Germany as a refugee (having reportedly walked around 6,500 kilometers from the Greek island of Lesbos).

2A. Emsallam -- Aref innak (ft Adan Wakeem) from Dyslexia

The original track (above) is already an unconventional piece, particularly when compared to much of Emsallam's body of work. Featuring vocalist Adan Wakeem, the track is a brooding, grinding, blues-inspired gruff of a piece that oozes a very particular type of atmosphere - it’s dusty, it’s hot and it pulls together a number of influences to create a textured palette on which Emsallam sings in a pleasingly strained vocal style. 

2B. Emsallam -- Aref Innak Remix

Fairplay have remixed “Aref Innak,” originally created by Emsallam and Adan Wakeem.  Hailing from Jordan themselves - but based mostly in Spain these days - the duo of Fuad Abu Jaber and Faisal Tadros look at it as a great opportunity to engage in local work from their homeland.

3. Bashar Murad - بشار مراد -- Christmas Aswad

Bashar Murad is a Palestinian singer/songwriter, and filmmaker producing globally influenced pop music rooted in Palestinian spirit. His music challenges stereotypes and highlights social issues facing Palestinian youth that are seldom addressed in Palestine, including living under the occupation, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. 2018 was a busy year, as Bashar released several tracks which garnered regional and global attention including, “Shillet Hamal” (Bunch of Bums), Ilkul 3am Bitjawaz (Everyone’s Getting Married) and the United Nations commissioned song and music video for “Ana Zalameh” (I Am A Man). By 2019 he was touring, playing his Arabic pop gumbo across the Middle East, Europe and Canada. He also directed the video “Emta Njawzak Yamma” for Palestinian Rap Group, DAM (Cooking Vinyl), and released “Klefi / Samed”, a collaboration with Icelandic Industrial Punk band Hatari. Bashar's new EP titled “Maskhara” was released through PopArabia June 11 2021.

4. Hasan Kai Sphinx from Salma Sunshine EP (6 tracks)
Hasan Kai (Nakhleh) is a Swiss/Syrian musician and producer. Member of TootArd band.

5. A5rass | الأخرس -- Lesatni Janbi (Remixed by Hijazi)

Worked for Saudi oil company before moving back to Jordan where he has become a sensation over the past few years. A5rass (The Mute One) is ironically his family name (ironic). 
يذكر أن الاسم الحقيقي له هو محمد الأخرس.

6. Siilawy -- Ashanek

His real name is Husam Al-Silawy; he is Jordanian
اسمه الفني وشهرته هي سيلاوي.هو أردني الجنسية.
هو من مواليد عام 1993 للميلاد. وقد بدأ الفنان حسام السيلاوي مسيرته الفنية منذ عام 2016 ميلادي.

7. Big Sam بيج سام -- Ma Bithoon
سامر صوان المغني الفلسطيني درس تخصص الهندسة في أحد جامعات الوطن، ودخل تخصص الهندسة
وعن قريب على حد قوله سينال على درجة البكالوريوس فيها، وهو متأثر بشخصية بيج في الطفولة ودمجها مع إسمه ليصبح بيج سام BIGSAM، وينال على ثقة كبيرة من الجمهور والمتابعين في الفترة الحالية.

8. Khyam Allami --  Tawazon II Or lack thereof from A peine j’ouvre les yeux على حلة عيني 

9. Jawhar -- Been Been from new album Tasweerah.
Jahwar is a Tunisian singer and songwriter with three albums to his credit. His style of music is somewhere between folk and pop, often referred to as “Arabic Dream Pop”. After Winrah Marah, released in 2018 comes Tasweerah, a new album for the artist. The title of the project is polysemous, meaning portrait, image, snapshot, but also projection of the mind. The album is “a series of stills, a series of more or less personal portraits. The songs are, each in their own way, attempts at a universal portrait of the artist. They question his place and that of the imagination in society, and pose the creation and quest for beauty”.

10. Emel Mathlouthi - Holm from The Tunis Diaries.

Her rendition of the Persian song "Soltane Ghalbha"

11. Al Ahram Orchestra -- Saidi Rara (Egyptian Cane Dance) from Rough Guide to Bellydance

12. Wegz -- Al Bakht
His real name is Ahmed Ali. He is known as Wegz. He is an Egyptian actor and trap singer. He became famous in Egypt and the whole Arab world after releasing his song "Dorak Gay" on March 11, 2020, which had great success back then as it passed 24 million views on YouTube in 2 months only.

In four short years, since his debut music video went viral, the Alexandrian rapper has quickly made a name for himself by disrupting Egyptian hip-hop with his experimental blend of shaabi and trap. In 2018, he worked with mahraganat superstar Sadat on “Kharban”, a slow-burning track that resonated around the Middle East region.

To date, his most well-received track, though, has to be “Dorak Gai” in 2020. With over 72 million hits on Youtube, the alleged diss track was aimed at fellow Egyptian actor-singer Mohamed Ramadan after he replaced Wegz on an ad campaign for energy drink Sting. Veiled lyrics (“law enta baba, ana meen” or “if you’re the godfather, then who am I”) coupled with some potent iconographies that referenced Ramadan’s works in the accompanying music video positioned “Dorak Gai” as a treasure trove of metaphors for his fervent fans. Predictably, “Dorak Gai” went on to become Egypt’s most-streamed song on Spotify in 2020.

On this new single, Wegz tests out his afrobeats influences after having featured alongside the chameleon of Moroccan rap, El Grande Toto, in his last clip “El Bakht”

On a swinging beat produced by Rahal, Wegz avoids the ego tripping clichés to offer a track of haunted romanticism. He expresses his feelings of unrequited love with a voice coated in autotune: “Taking a chance, I asked her out and she rejected me. She surprised me. Where is my prestige? My love, I laugh at my fiasco” (ElBakht – Wegz)

بلعب البخت (وبعدين؟)
سألتها ورفضتني
استغربتها، أومال فين هيبتي؟
حبيبي أنا بضحك على خيبتي

13. Amir Eid -- Ana Nagem from Rivo soundtrack

Rivo is an Egyptian TV series about Maryam who seeks to discover the truth about her father's relationship with Rivo, a famous band in the nineties.  Over time, Maryam discovers the secrets that her father was hiding.

14. Ramy Adly -- Happy from The Siege

Egyptian American musician and Master of the Oud Ramy Adly has just released a new album titled The Siege in which he is accompanied by an orchestra and the Oud in taking listeners on a musical journey that is fueled with feelings of pride but also despair. the record is about those lives affected in wars throughout human history.

Ramy Adly is an American/Egyptian artist, young master of the Oud, the versatile Guitar- like instrument that shaped Arab classical music. Grounded in the main Middle Eastern, ancient Egypt and the Arab classical styles thanks to rigorous training in his native Egypt, Adly has branched out repeatedly, incorporating jazz idioms and embracing conversations with other large musicians around the world.

15. Naima Shalhoub F-- our (Roumieh prison blues) from the album Siphr.

Local Lebanese-American musician and activist delivers a globally inspired album full of grace.

The concept of SIPHR materialized during Naima’s creative retreat in an apartment in Mar Mikhael Beirut, after spending 2 weeks on the road with family in their homeland, Lebanon. During her retreat she was guided to start studying the mystical meanings of siphr (sih-pher) which means zero in Arabic, and the meanings of numbers 1-9, life’s continuities, that are contained in the siphr. Produced by
Excentrik (aka Tarik Kazaleh)

"I went to Lebanon on tour in 2017 and connected with several grassroots organizations. I visited Roumieh Prison, with the help of Zeina Daccache of Catharsis, an organization working for justice in Lebanon. I facilitated a music session with 52 incarcerated men, similar to the work I’ve been doing in the women’s prison in San Francisco."

16. Souad Massi -- Dessine moi un pays ارسم لي بلاد from Sequana
Sequana is the tenth album from the Franco-Algerian singer-songwriter Souad Massi. If her music was previously coloured with folk and chaabi, the sound palette broadens here as far as the Sahel, the Caribbean and Brazil, and on some tracks ventures into rock. Souad Massi has completely renewed her musical team, opening a new chapter in a career that began in the 1990’s and was marked by her departure from Algeria for France. With Justin Adams (Rachid Taha, Tinariwen, Robert Plant…) on production, accompanied on some tracks by the likes of Piers Faccini and Naïssam Jalal, Souad Massi continues on her path as a committed, liberated woman

17. Hana Malhas --Ya Msafer Wahdak

Remake of the Abdel Wahab classic.  

18. Said Mrad سعيد مراد  -- Oriental Ringtone

Said Mrad is a music lover, who eats, sleeps and consumes music. Born in Lebanon, his career in the music scene dates back to 1990 when he first started as a DJ playing in some of the most respected nightclubs around Lebanon such as PRIVÉ, JET SET, OPERA, and GOTHA.

19. Ramadan -- R3d, Shabjdeed, Daboor, Ramadan 

Songwriter: Shabjdeed, Daboor, Ramadan.  Music producer: Al Nather الناظر

"Ramadan" is a song released on 05 August 2022 in the official channel of the record label - "BLTNM بلاتنم".

It makes the most sense that BLTNM, a Palestinian label is dominating the hip-hop scene in the MENA region. Ever since its foundation in 2015, BLTNM has been producing increasingly revolutionary tracks, many of which have become anthems to Arab youth all over the globe.

Recently, BLTNM announced the formation of a new triad, R3D, consisting of Shabjdeed, Daboor ضبور, and a fresh face, Ramadan. Of course, it’s not a BLTNM project if Al Nather isn’t in on it. R3D made its debut with a deliriously sick self-titled 3-track EP.

The first track, Ramadan, is a slow-burning banger, that somehow makes you want to get up and dance your ass off with that traditionally-Arab orchestral riff and the minimal drums. The lyrics are, surprisingly, soulful. The following track, Ma Bijish, has drum and bass elements with a winding melodic synth throughout. The EP finale, Bi Balash, is closer to the usual aggressive sound of Shabjdeed and BLTNM, with its heavy bass but slow-paced trap.

20. Assasi -- Damage

Assasi is from Aleppo, Syria, and asked to be identified only by his stage name due to the risks associated with speaking out on political issues in his home country.

Like so many young Syrian creatives during the civil war, he landed in Beirut for a few years before hardening borders drove him to India, Nepal, Malaysia, and finally to Maine in the United States. Hip hop remained Assasi’s anchor through it all. His project, “Third World Wide,” reflects this global journey as well as the friends, influences, and lessons Assasi picked up along the way.

Assasi Presented “Hakawati” Fri Feb 10, 2023 7:30 PM - 8:45 PM Mayo Street Arts, 04101

As in the Syrian culture of “Hakawati” [storyteller] at local cafes, a man sits on a raised ornate chair and wears the fez with a traditional outfit, holding a big book full of stories about the country and its cities and neighborhoods. And then he begins to read to the people.

While you’re sitting and sipping on your beverages, Assasi will take the role of “Hakawati” and tell stories about his journey and how he got here, and what his people have gone through. He’ll be storytelling between songs and through the songs.

21. Shkoon -- Ramallah from Rima

22. Omar Kamal -- Ya Rayeh Sawb Bladi

Originally written, composed and recorded by Ahmad Kaabour

23. Rim Banna -- Ya leil ma atwalak from R.I.M.I.X

Remixed by Ministry of Dub-Key, Nour, Nasser Halahlih and Checkpoint 303.
On R.I.M.I.X, DJs and sound artists from the Palestinian and Tunisian alternative scene join forces to pay tribute to Rim Banna by remixing seven of her songs. Just like Rim, the remixes are a mixture of eternal optimism, defiance and resistance as well as beauty, devotion and fragility. The up-beat, electronica, dub, house and club-style pieces are composed in the spirit of celebration of Rim's legacy. This album, released exactly 1 year after Rim Banna passed away, is a reminder that her voice and message are here to stay.

24. Faraj Suleiman -- Questions on my mind from Better than Berlin

Faraj Suleiman is a Palestinian a composer and pianist. His music is strongly influenced by Arabic/Eastern melodies and rhythms. He often incorporates those scales and modalities in his compositions. In addition to being inspired by his Arabic culture, he is also influenced by Jazz traditions. As an Arab musician/pianist trained in classical music, he constantly searches for new forms of expression to equally appeal to his "Eastern" and "Western" listeners.

He released a number of albums and musical projects before "Better than Berlin"(Songs album) and lately "Fahim" - a songs album for children.  He also composed music for theatre and film, such as the multiple award- winning film by Ameen Nayfeh "200 meters".

Better than Berlin احلى من برلين , a songs album with lyrics written by Majd Kayyal, composed and sung by Suleiman — melodies and stories of Palestinian strangled dreams in the city of Haifa, musical images of love, frustration, and migration, in the shadow of colonialism and gentrification. These are songs of nostalgia to a city we have never left, songs about getting lost in streets we know by heart”.

25. Mike Massy (composer) -- Salon Zahra theme music

26. Mike Massy ft Yal Solan -- Chou Original from Salon Zahra Soundtrack.

17. Tania Saleh -- The Fortune teller بصارة براجة from 10 AD 

Arabology is a radio program/podcast that is hosted by Dr. Ramzi Salti, Lecturer at Stanford University, showcasing music and other cultural productions from the Arab world. The show airs on KZSU 90.1 FM and all podcasts are housed at this link.

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