It’s a question heard frequently from curious new arrivals to the region: does the Middle East have an independent music scene?
While it’s easy to roll your eyes in response, the ignorance is often unintentional.
With the Arab world bereft of radio channels and television programmes dedicated to underground artists, the various scenes – from rock and hip-hop to electronic music – took matters into their own hands with members launching Instagram accounts full of revelatory information.
From new releases by the next big thing or tributes to vintage artists from the past, these pages have grown to become an indispensable source of information for the thriving music community bubbling beneath the surface.
Here are 10 Instagram accounts you need to follow to know what’s cooking in the Arab indie music scene:
1. Arab Sounds
An offshoot of its website, this is a vibrant and informative account focusing on popular and independent Arabic music.
As well as posting snippets of new releases, Arab Sounds also crunches streaming figures to present a weekly top 5 Arab music chart.
2. Scene Noise
An excellent portal focusing on electronic music and independent acts from the Mena region.
From bite-sized reviews and information about new releases to announcements about virtual gigs, Scene Noise doesn't skip a beat.
3. Rap Scene
With about 200,000 followers, Rap Scene could perhaps be the "No. 1 Hip Hop Community in the Middle East".
The site provides a strong lowdown of the region's thriving hip-hop community, with news of latest releases and what's trending on social media.
4. Mena Heat
The place to go to find out which burgeoning talent or tune is popping on TikTok and social media.
Fun and quirky, Mena Heat provides a great insight into the next generation of musicians and content creators.
5. Saudi Musicians
Think of this as an online jam session. The account already features more than 700 Saudi artists, from guitarists and oud players to rappers, sopranos and classical musicians.
Altogether, the account provides an evocative snapshot of the kingdom's creative community.
6. Alternative Arabic Music
7. Palestine Music Expo
The account may be linked to the annual event in Ramallah, but between festivals it provides valuable insights into the Palestinian music community.
In addition to highlighting new music, the site is also home to interesting facts – such as the most-streamed Palestinian song on YouTube – and webinars on the scene.
8. Moroccan Rap Memes
It's common knowledge that Morocco's hip-hop community is a regional leader. But for an indication of the depth of talent out there, you can't go past this account.
Don't let the name fool you – the page is not full of funny memes. Instead, it is home to some serious knowledge on the Moroccan rap scene.
9. Habibi Funk
While it may have started as the account for Habibi Funk, a boutique German label specialising in vintage Arabic and jazz releases from forgotten Arab acts, the page is now a haven for those looking to discover the golden sounds of the past from previous generations of Middle Eastern indie acts.
10. Rap DXB
This is the new kid on the block. Launched at the start of this year, Rap DXB is already forging a path to becoming a strong portal for the UAE indie music scene.
Featuring artist spotlights, a look at new videos and online gigs from Ras Al Khaimah, Rap DXB is proudly waving a flag for the local scene.