Sep 15, 2005

Problem of Arabic Music: Take 2

I have started discussing the problem of Arabic Music in a previous post. Roba has helped with a nice comment, that I would like to use in continueing the discussion.

The question: why are there many bad Arabic songs today?

Roba had 3 main points:
1- Some modern songs are better (e.g. Nanci) than others (e.g. Maria).
2- The younger generation (kids, as Roba called them) actually think that Maria is good.
3- Music is not just good or bad - it depends on the occasion (e.g. wedding vs every day)

Before we delve into the discussion, let me re-cast the question. Of course, music is one of those "taste" issues that people cannot just agree upon. Furthermore, people tend to like their own music and hate that of younger generations. The question I'm posing is beyond all these variations. If you take all these measures in account, you will still find that the modern Arabic pop songs are not just different; they are actually bad relative to older ones.

In the first post, I stated that since music is taste-based, then "good/bad" criteria must be defined by the collective opinion of people, thus: popularity. And that created a dilemma: how come many people say that modern songs are bad but still they listen to them?

The solution is simple: popular does not necessarily mean good. As Roba has said, she might not mind dancing to a Maria song at a wedding, but that does not mean that the song is actually “good music”. So, people might like bad songs, but they appreciate good ones.

I think this is true in all ages. The Viennese audience was amazed by Beethoven’s 9th symphony, but, they were not dancing to it at their festivals or little parties. There must have been some form of light folkloric “dummy” compositions that were played at homes.

So now the question we have is: Why is some music popular but not good?

And that, I will inshallah try to think more about for my next blog...


  1. You know,not all old arabic songs were good,I mean a famous and widely popular old lebanese singer sang:not only the skirt is nice,it is your figure that accents it!!so you see some were really stupid lyrics and yet no one complained..seems to me every generation has to have the good the bad and the ugly..a lot of the new songs are rubbish but also a lot of them are nice tunes and make you cheerful ,make you want to dance and enjoy yourself,i am not standing up for the likes of Maria or the hundreds of other singers that mushroom around us every day but there is no need for all the songs to be serious long um kulthoum style songs,there's a time and a place for everything!!

  2. Excellent point. It's very simple... I've always found it to be true and fascinating that the masses like garbage. The more you scale something down to the greatest common denominator, the more people it will appeal to, yet at the same time, the less complex it becomes, thus it's shit. Every once in a while, something amazing is appreciated by the masses.

  3. Thanks for your comments.
    Salam, I agree. I think in the article I've over-generalized when I said that new arabic songs are bad. I meant to say "very bad" :-) just kidding, I meant to say "a bigger percentage" of today's songs are bad compared to older songs. Man has tremendous ability to produce badness in all ages :-)

    I think you've hit it on the head. There's a relation between "scaling-down" something and its popularity. And the new paradox, as you mention: but at times, the masses will actually come to like something amazing. I have few thoughts, but I want to wait a bit before I write about them. Until my next blog.

  4. "Why is some music popular but not good?" Muhammad arrabi wrote:

    Muneeb arrabi writes:
    i'm gonna be short as possible since this kind of subjects could take forever.

    The simple answer is "it's all about the (lahen)".

    You could see a very popular song with very stupid lyrics like:

    "awya awya"

    nevertheless, everybody are ready to listen to it whenever it's in a place with loud speaker.(loud speakers make difference too)

    On the other hand, many of "majeda arromy songs" and many other songs with meaningful lyrics are just unpopular because they fail to provide a good "lahen" to these lyrics.

    You can also see arab people listening to turkish songs (magabyte), hindi songs (punjaby) without understanding anything, yet they like them very much.

    Another good example is the song "macarena". Very popular world wide, yet nobody knows who is "macarena".

    Another example is "hotel california". Very popular world wide, yet noone cares about the meaning of "hotel california" (several interpretations were suggested... i guess all of them nonesene... just a great song with average lyrics)

    Another example would be 2 songs for fairooz, equally famous. and everybody likes to listen to them. But very different lyrics level:
    "3a hadeer al bosta" and "a3teny annay wa ghanny".

    The first contains "average if not less" lyrics( you would disagree with me here because we all like this song very much, for a second i disagreed with my slef. But go thru the lyrics and you would see what i mean)

    And the second song of course with great lyrics(jubran khaleel jubra is the author)

    But because they both have wonderful "lahen" they are both famous. and people like to listen to them.

    On a similar example, you can also see how "dr.dre" songs (which have very good lahen comparing to other undergound rappers song) gain popularity in the whole world regalrdless what kind of rap lyrics is associated with it.

    I used to listen to rap songs without understanding whether it's a song about missed up childhood or becoming a gangster, or how much weed and liquor on my table or just describing female figures dancing in a club.

    HOWEVER, good lyrics definitely support the song. And it could make you think more about the song or attach more it.

    Look how much popular kathem assaher songs are. (good lyrics & good lahen... al though i really hate his songs i don't know why). People from different levels enjoy his songs such as ("zeedeeny 3eshqan", "ana wa layla", "3allamany hubbuky").

    Another point which should be taken is that if someone cares much about the lyrics in the song. He can just read a poem (well versed, more eloquent, better as a result).

    But when he wants to "LISTEN" to a song, he subconsiously means "lahen".

    As a conclusion, "lahen" weighs 90% in any song success/popularity. The remaining 10% for beat, lyrics, fame of the singer, marketing, and other stuff.

    P.S: If we're talking about songs with video clips.... then is a different category which leads to different factors with different weights... but still lahen plays a role in its success.

    P.S2: Of course for every rule there are exceptions. But test my conclusion with many songs that you know then evaluate my result.

  5. 100% totally agree with what muneeb wrote.

    Big artists should hire you muneeb to assess their works :-)

  6. Hi, this is tamara kalkila... i just wanted to comment on what muneeb said.
    I never looked at the subject of liking a song from the same point Muneeb mentioned.
    But now since he mentioned this, i guess lahen is truely what i enjoy most in the song.

    ooohhh maybe this is what he means by "subconcisouly listens to "lahen" "

    i got to admit. claps claps claps to muneeb.