Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

A new take: from Elissa to Mohammed Assaf, here are 10 Arabic music videos shot during the pandemic

Regional artists have found new ways to present their music while maintaining social distancing

Elissa recorded her video for 'Hanaghani Kaman Wa Kaman' from home. Elissa / YouTube
Elissa recorded her video for 'Hanaghani Kaman Wa Kaman' from home. Elissa / YouTube

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic forced some of the region’s biggest pop stars to approach music videos from a different angle.

With social distancing and travel restrictions in place, the normal industry practice of lavish shoots in exotic locales have been ditched for fresh and innovative ideas.

Some of these new perspectives include embracing video conferencing formats, creating story concepts involving physical distancing and harnessing technology for epic choral performances.

Here are 10 music videos produced and released amid the pandemic. Not only do they point to the resilience of the regional music industry, but they form a growing body of work soundtracking these uncertain times.

1. ‘Hanaghani Kaman Wa Kaman’ by Elissa

In April, Lebanese star Elissa delivered the first taste of her hit new album, Sahbit Raey. The single Hanaghani Kaman Wa Kaman, bursting with Egyptian pop flavours, came with a fun video encouraging people to stay home as a safety measure against Covid-19.

Presented in the style of a video conference by Lebanese filmmaker and visual artist Eli Rezkallah, the accompanying video had Elissa joined by fellow compatriot and singer Haifa Wehbe, family members and fans as they danced along from their respective homes.

2. ‘Mashallah’ by Sons of Yusuf

The Kuwaiti hip-hop duo Sons of Yusuf made use of their idyllic quarantine surroundings by using it as the setting for Mashallah. Shot in the brothers’ beachside chalet, the video was all recorded on mobile phone, mostly in one take, and in the span of a day.

3. 'Yally Ahebak Mout' by Majid Al Mohandis

The pandemic forced Majid Al Mohandis to downscale his normally lavish videos. Instead of the grand European backdrops he often favours, he instead settled for a simple studio where he crooned in front of large screen depicting his love interest.

4. ‘Al Faraj’ by Omar Abdallat

Omar Abdallat kept it close and personal for his new single Al Faraj. The Jordanian singer had the camera basically shoot him singing the song in the studio and it surprisingly works. The black-and-white visuals give the video a timeless feel and without all the production bells and whistles, one can appreciate Al Abdallat's towering voice.

5. ‘Entou Amalna’ by Ragheb Alama

In April, Lebanese crooner Ragheb Alama released this stirring video dedicated to compatriots working on the frontline of the pandemic. Translated to mean "You Are Our Hope", the video juxtaposes footage of Alama singing from a makeshift studio at home with masked doctors and nurses working in the field.

6. ‘Bel Hajr El Sohi’ (Quarantine) by Chantal Bitar and Rayan Habre

What began as a series of resonating tweets became a soulful new song released in April. Composer Rayan Habre, son of famed Lebanese composer Khaled El Habre, started an isolation Twitter diary documenting conversations with friends, his thoughts and insights while staying home in Beirut.

Such was the reception that he adapted the words into a folk song and asked friend, Chantal Bitar, to provide vocals. A simple video was shot with Bitar, Habre and band members performing the song in a video teleconference visual style.

7. Dalaa Dalouna by Mohammed Assaf

Released on the occasion of Eid Al Fitr in May, the Palestinian singer Mohammaed Assaf goes back to his roots with this thumping ode to his homeland. The video features evocative images of Palestine, where his band members perform the track, while Assaf is shown providing his vocals in a studio.

8. ‘Khalik bil Bait’ by The Mosaica Singers

You will be hard pressed to find a more charming public service announcement than this. In a bid to encourage the country's residents to stay home, Jordanian choir The Mosaica Singers released the enchanting song Khalik bil Bait, accompanied with a video made up of edited footage of members recording their respective vocal parts from home.

The song’s lullaby nature is down to its fusing of late 19th-century Italian folk song Bella Ciao (recently made famous by the Netflix hit Money Heist) with Hashishet Albi by Lebanese songwriter Khaled Mouzanar.

9. ‘Bon Voyage’ by Carole Samaha

Lebanese singer Carole Samaha shot this music video amid the pandemic. And, as the behind-the-scenes footage (added to the end of this video) shows, the production took no chances with every member on set submitting to temperature checks and wearing face masks. As for the concept of the video, Bon Voyage finds Samaha jealously pining for her partner, played by Egyptian actor Bassel Al Zaro, who is abroad. Her only contact with him is through video conference calls and she suspects he may not be alone.

10. ‘Waqe’ Majnoun’ by Samira Said

For the Moroccan singer and actress, the pandemic added an extra layer of resonance to this video. Released in late March, the song raises awareness of issues surrounding mental health. With the pandemic beginning to shut down the entertainment sector around that time, the video's cast of characters shot their footage separately with Said only appearing for brief moment at the end.

And here is one more to make you smile …

‘Angelina’ by DJ Stan performed by Afro by Sarah

OK, Lebanon's Sarra Karrit may not be a professional performer, but family music videos shot while isolating at home in Beirut garnered her a cult following.

In this fun video, shot as part of a TikTok dance challenge, the Lebanese Afrobeat dance instructor and her funky clan show us how to disinfect your place, Afrobeat-style. Try watching this without grinning.

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Read more:

The 11 best Arab independent musicians you should be listening to right now

9 songs that capture Lebanon's passion and heartache: 'even in your madness I love you

20 songs that turn 20 in 2020: from Coldplay to Creed and Britney to Baha Men

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Updated: August 20, 2020 04:00 PM

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