What music did the Arab world listen to during summer?

Spotify’s latest trends report indicates Arab hip-hop and shelat songs from Saudi Arabia are popular

'Zahra Hala Helwa' by Lebanese pop-star Myriam Fares was one of the regional songs of the summer, according to Spotify. Photo: DCT Abu Dhabi
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Arabic hip-hop and the Saudi Arabian folk music tradition of shelat are some of the popular sounds listened to in the region this summer, according to Spotify.

The streaming service released its annual Songs of the Summer report on August 24, with Mena-specific data released on Wednesday. The report breaks down the listening habits of Spotify's 365 million monthly users globally across the hotter months.

Globally, Olivia Rodrigo's hit good 4 u claimed the top spot and also came in at number one in summer listening charts in the US, UK, Canada and the UAE.

The analysis states the track racked up more than 600 million streams on the site between May 29 and August 22.

Since its release it on May 4, the hit was added to more than 325,000 playlists generated by users.

Good 4 u was followed by Beggin from Italian Eurovision winning band Maneskin, Puerto Rican reggaeton star Rauw Alejandro’s Todo De Ti and Montero (Call Me By Your Name) by US rapper Lil Nas X.

While the global stats correlate with the major western pop charts, the report tells a more interesting story when focusing regionally.

Let’s take a look at what has been streamed this summer across the Mena region.

1. Hip-hop is on the rise

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Spotify’s Mena launch in 2018 was the regional hip-hop scene.

Where before rappers were mostly shunned by major record labels, the arrival of the world’s biggest streaming service to the Arab world not only revitalised scenes across the region but showed the world they were both vibrant and eclectic.

At its core, hip-hop is parochial art form with artists spinning tales filled with local dialect and references.

Songs of the Summer shows listeners are appreciating the local sounds with charts in leading markets Egypt and Morocco lead by native artists.

Afroto is making his claim to be Egypt's next big hip-hop star with Msh Bel 7ozoz being the most streamed track in the country.

Current leading light, Wegz, however is not giving up the throne too easily.

Not only did his track Asyad El Soot (featuring Egyptian rapper LZHYMR) come runner-up, he also has a total of four songs in the top 20.

The Moroccan charts are also dominated by hip-hop acts.

ElGrande Toto scored the first and third most streamed summer song with Haram (Pablo 11) and Mghayer, respectively.

Coming in second place is Tagne’s Nadi Canadi.

It is the same story in Tunis with local stars ALA, with Double Face and RedStar's Ech Mazel (Khafa) coming first and third respectively.

The latter's track also received big numbers on YouTube with more than 40 million views.

In Palestine, the summer belonged to exciting new rapper Daboor.

A member of the sprawling Palestinian hip-hop collective BLTNM (pronounced "Blatnum") the Ramallah rapper proved he can shine in own light with debut solo single.

The hard hitting Inn Ann, featuring fellow BLTNM partner Shabjdeed, topped the local chart

Shabjdeed also made the list with solo single Amrikkka landing in sixth place.

2. Saudi Arabia is in love with shelat songs again

The shelat revival is under way in Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, a new generation of young Saudis have updated the old Bedouin folk music form of celebratory and patriotic songs, performed a cappella and featuring local colloquialisms, with modern studio twists such as the vocoder.

Five shelat songs feature on the summer list with Ghenwa’s Sheila Tarab Hamasia and Mohammed Bin Grman's Wasl Al Mahabah reaching the highest positions of 13th and 15th place respectively.

When it comes to the most popular local tracks heard across the kingdom, Ashkor Jamalk by Abdullah Al Mukhles and Wesh Ezrak by Abdullah Al Farwan came in at second and third place.

The most streamed song in Saudi Arabia during summer was the global hit Beggin by Maneskin.

3. It’s out with the old when it comes to regional pop stars

They may rule regional arenas, but major Arabic pop stars are not getting as much love on Spotify.

Subscribing to the streaming service’s ethos, regional users seem to be more interested in hearing new and fresh sounds than the latest summer hit by seasoned names.

That said, some popular acts managed to have their songs cut through with listeners.

In Egypt, Zahra Hala Helwa by Lebanese singer Myriam Fares and Egyptian actor Aser Yasin came in at 20th place.

Crooner Wael Kfoury also found some joy with singles Kelna Mnenjar and El Bint El Awiye (the latter achieving regional viral status on YouTube) coming in at fourth and 18th place respectively in Lebanon.

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram, who released the new album Nancy 10 and has played sold out shows in Saudi Arabia and Egypt recently, hasn't managed to translate that momentum on Spotify over the summer.

She appears in none of Mena's top 20 summer listening charts.

Updated: September 02, 2021, 3:12 PM