Of all the driving-related songs in pop music history, it was perhaps inevitable that The Beatles' Drive My Car would become the first anthem for the women in Saudi Arabia who, from June 24, will legally be allowed to drive on the kingdom's roads.
And PRI's The World (an American public radio magazine with an emphasis on international news) has partnered with world renowned Berklee College of Music to celebrate both the change in Saudi policy and the Lennon/McCartney classic by Arabising it, lyrically and musically, and recording what is undoubtedly one of the most poignant cover versions in recent years.
Click below to listen:
The song, written mostly by Paul McCartney with lyrical input from John Lennon, originally appeared on The Beatles' 1965 album, Rubber Soul, and was used as the B-side to Michelle when that track was released as a single. Over the years it has been covered by many artists but the version recorded on May 17, at WGBH's Fraser Performance Studio in Boston, Massachusetts, will have a special resonance throughout theGulf region this month.
The song was arranged by Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash, and features the vocals of Syrian singer, Nano Raies, while the group of musicians collectively involved was given the name Nano and the 6-2-4, in reference to the 24th day of the sixth month, in which the driving ban is set to be lifted.
Alatrash has said that, as a Palestinian, he had become used to being stopped and asked for documents when he drove in his homeland, so he sympathised withhow many Saudi women felt under the ban. "Driving a car is a basic thing to live in dignity," he said in an interview on PRI's The World.
In order to allow the resultant track to be recognisable as a Beatles song, Alatrash kept the energy levels similar, while swapping most of the instruments used by the Fab Four for regional acoustic items and Arabic percussion, while student vocalist Raies wrote subtly different lyrics to suit the new narrative while maintaining the unique Middle East vibe.