As the regional soundscape continues to mutate, experimentation within melody and storytelling is becoming more commonplace
The concept of indie Arabic music isn’t brand new, but it has been growing steadily as artists continue to let loose with their sound — and as the internet makes it easier for us to access less commercial music. Whether it’s through playing around with spoken word, adding everyday noises into the mix, or infusing electronic elements while remaining faithful to the Arabic language, the soundscape has continued to mutate and shift into more experimental territories, including these five tracks that break the mould.
1. Layla Rina — Ansak (Forget You)
‘Ansak’ is a dreamy, multilayered track about trying to forget someone through futile distractions, yet always coming back to them in the end. Layla Rina’s voice is at its most mesmerising when she holds a hypnotic note, but she doesn’t rely on one stylistic choice here. Instead, she restlessly breaks the song up into different melodic segments, cracking open a window into another world whenever her listeners get too comfortable. Rina, who hails from Nazareth, released the album ‘Rouq’ last year, following it up with Ansak earlier this month.
2. Bisher — Galat Lah (She Told Him)
Jordanian singer-songwriter Bisher writes a sensitive tune with Galat Lah, evoking a conversation between two distant lovers trying to work through the sting of growing apart. The gentle, guitar-driven ballad shines in its simplicity, building to a weeping flute in the final third. A wistful, poetic and understated effort.
3. Garaseen — Hablak (Your Rope)
Jordanian electro-pop duo Garaseen bring a contemporariness to Hablak, a sparse yet compelling track from their self-titled EP. Mixing in a hint of jazz guitar, the track draws on Garaseen’s indie and electronic pop influences, from Tame Impala to MGMT. Meanwhile, the duo subtly distorts pronunciations of Arabic words — an increasingly common occurrence in experimental regional music that doesn’t follow traditional Eastern melodies. Garaseen — both the name of the band and the album — is a pluralised, Arabic play on the French word Garcon, meaning boy.
4. Dina Al Wedidi — Alive
Egyptian singer Dina Al Wedidi, who comes from an oriental literature background, inserts a spoken word element to her track ‘Alive’. The name is fitting, as the melody is layered with a heartbeat, while Al Wedidi’s straightforward poeticism lays out different kinds of ‘prisons’, real or abstract, that can exist in the world. Featuring Egyptian producer Hussain Sherbini, the track builds from scarce instrumentation to the alarming sounds of a train barrelling down tracks, mirroring the album art.