While retro Arab music has never ceased to be popular in the region, and continues to thrive within the youth- through the emergence of music collectives like the re-issuing label Habibi Funk– the Arab world’s contemporary musical identity spans everything from cosmic trap to conceptual techno. Whether based in the region or outside, emerging Arab rappers, singers and producers reflect on the evolving dynamics of the Arab identity.
While you already know about the internationally acclaimed and controversial Lebanese indie band Mashrou’ Leila – whose front leader is openly gay – you might be looking for some new inspiration. As we wanted to put a spotlight on some of our favourite emerging talents, MILLE rounds up five best up-and-coming Arab artists you have to know.
Raised between Morocco and Queens, New York – 21-year-old singer Dounia is famed for her sensual voice as well as for her stance on body positivity and intersectionality on social media. With her 90’s-inspired aesthetics and rebellious attitude, the young singer is making waves and disrupting the music industry. Her appearance on Berlin’s cult Colors Studios just dropped and model, influencer and activist Barbie Ferreira recently directed her video for So Cool – her cred’ is strong.
Just like the Moroccan groundbreaking band Shayfeen, young Moroccan rapper ISSAM is taking the hip-hop scene by storm with his spellbinding voice and modern trap beats.
Tunisian born and Qatar-raised Deena Abdelwahed is a music pioneer in the region. When she started playing music in Tunisia as a university student, she was the first DJ playing Chicago Ghetto House around town, and ever since, Abdelwaheb has maintained her avant-garde reputation. As her Soundcloud bio says, “Looking for the futuristic Arab club music”, she now plays around the world and has appeared on a Boiler Room set in Amsterdam. Through her experimental sounds combining traditional influences and mesmerizing psychedelic beats, the cutting-edge artist also seeks to have a political voice with songs such as Ena Essbab, supporting Tunisia’s LGBTQ’s community.
French-Algerian RnB artist Ta-Ra (FKA Ta-Ha) – who also calls herself Tuareg Shawty – is known for her dreamy voice and mind-blowing beats. Despite being still relatively low-key, Ta-Ra has already been co-signed by Skepta. Her new and awaited project is said to drop in the next months.
Based in Haifa, Pngwng Cru is the first Palestinian band making grim Arab trap, praised for their DIY spirit, nonchalant attitude, insolent auto-tuned lyrics and cosmic beats.