Aug 23, 2005

The problem of modern Arabic music

Many accuse modern Arabic songs with extreme degradation.

You hear: Oh, Om Kalthoum's songs are the best.
You hear: All this Amr-Diab, Nansi stuff is nonsense.

But is it?
What makes a good song?
You can spend years researching the question. You can come up with a complicated rating system that gives points depending on the originality of the melody, the meaningfulness of the words, the "dignity" of the singer, etc. But then at the end, you would just create a very complicated system to answer the question "how much do you like this song?"; a question you can answer instantly after listening to it. And, if some other person creates another rating system, most likely his results will differ from yous. Thus, this whole rating system idea does not get us anywhere.

So again to the question, what makes a good song?
It seems that what matters the most, is whether people like the songs or not. Do the people in the Arab world like the modern songs? Just by looking at the concerts, bus stations, radio channels - a resounding yes, people love the music of today.

And this brings us full-circle: why do people accuse modern Arabic songs with extreme degradation, if they actually like them?

I don't know. Do you?


  1. Great post.

    I'm very entertainment challenged so I don't really keep up with new music trends but...

    Personally, I believe that modern Arabic music is divided into two parts- the good part, and the horribly horrible part. I would consider that Nancy Ajram, Amr Idyab, Ragheb Alamah, Carol Samaha, and Elissa as good musicians. They, for the most part, produce music that is worthy of being called music on an aesthetic level at least. On the other hand, the modern emergence of Arabic singers that basically sell their body instead of their music like Haifa Wahbi, Jad Choery, Ruby, and Maria, induce feelings of disgust that let's us dub all new music as "bad". At least for the part of the population that is for the most part over 25.. Most of the kids actually think that the likes of Maria and Haifa are good musicians.

    Personally, I'm a Fayrouzist... Modern Arabic music is more suitable for parties, weddings and gatherings than for when you're alone in the car(which is where I listen to music most of the time).

    Another point you can't forget inno il Arabs in general ma be3jebhom il 3ajab. Sha3eb wala ankad ya zalameh..

  2. Thanks Roba for your input. I'm still not sure what to think about the subject. expect a "Arabic Music: Take Two" blog soon :-)

    Afnan, my lovely wife, agrees with you on Nansi - she's much better than Ruby :-)

  3. This is not my comprehensive point of view, but it is just a point I wanted to point out:

    My answer for the question that asks what makes a song a good one is: If there is one (and one is enough) person who likes this song, then this song is a good one. The point of listening to music is entertainment -it is entertainment industry anyway. And whatever the reason for which whoever that person who listens to such a song by Haifa Wahbi listens, I believe I can assume that he is entertained by that song. So, it actually serves the purpose of the song. Some people may say that but guys listen to Hiafa Wahbi just to see what "packages" she flaunts. Aha...! then why these kind'a people actually buy her albums?. Any singer would never succeed without selling albums. So, without the visual entertainment of the song many people still listen to it!. Now this leads us to the second word of "entertainment industry" which is ofcourse .... ?!!! aha: industry. Intuitively, when it comes to business whatever makes money, business people would go for it!. But hey...why business people who are profit-oriented people would invest alot of money of these songs?!!. Because -once again, enough people would buy the product!. Now we are catching the tails here and closing the circle of the investors (Record companies), consumers (regular people: mainly teenagers and young people), and product makers "producers" (singers). The point is again, is that there are enough people who are entertained by these songs by the so-called not-so-good singers to make a business out of it. Which means it is not only very few minority who like it. Now, imagine that me, or any one who are with me in this room wants to make an album. would he ever find a record company to invest in it?!. I would extremely shocked if that happens, which means that THIS IS A BAD SONG!. Which no one will ever be entertained by it.

    I have mad a lot of assumptions here , for example that everyone gets the same marketting power. which is not true. But hey ... it is not a perfect world!.

    And sorry for sticking my nose into this but I just felt like saying what I have just said.

  4. hi,
    being a young british arab i like both types of music,
    but the shame with arabic music is its so limited in its subject,
    i appreciate even in western music love is the major topic, but at least there is some variation (e.g Kanye West)... arabic music however (e.g Nancy) is simply about love and thats it!
    and although some good beats make up for it.. it does tend to get monotone!
    thats my say!!