Shaimaa El Shayeb. Courtesy Sony Music Mena
Shaimaa El Shayeb. Courtesy Sony Music Mena

Doing Hindi right: Egyptian talent taps into Bollywood’s rich musical vein

Shaimaa El Shayeb doesn't do things by halves. Along with changing genres for her most recent single, the Egyptian singer has also tackled the Hindi language.
The 25-year-old is the latest Arab singer to be tapped by Bollywood film-industry executives to record an Arabic cover for a film.
El Shayeb will cover the signature song Habibi Radha from Shah Rukh Khan's romantic comedy Jab Harry Met Sajal, which releases in UAE cinemas on Friday.
El Shayeb joins a growing list of Arab artists lending their talent to Bollywood covers, including Moroccan rai star Douzy (Radio from Salman Khan's Tubelight) and the UAE's Adel Ebrahim, who produced a version of Gerua (renamed Telagena) from 2015 romantic comedy Dilwale.
"I am proud of being the first Egyptian," El Shayeb says. "It's a really cool thing because Egypt is just mad for Bollywood, so to be involved in this project, particularly with something starring Shah Rukh Khan, is amazing."
The initiative was put into play with the swift efficiency Bollywood is renowned for when it comes to production. El Shayeb was offered the gig about a month ago and didn't have long to learn the Arabic lyrics and the small smattering of Hindi before being asked to record the track in just two days.
For an artist renowned for her slow, mesmerising take on pieces by classical Arabic music artists Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez, El Shayeb admits her biggest challenge was wrapping her vocal chords around Habibi Radha's upbeat mesh of pop and dance music produced by Bollywood veteran Pritam.
"That not only worried me but the label [Sony Music] as well. They saw my work on YouTube and they realise a lot of my songs are longer and orchestral, so they had some concern if I could pull it off," she recalls. "So we worked hard to get it right, and [in] getting the right kind of lyrics to fit in with the tempo. At the end they were happy and surprised we did such a good job."
The song sets up El Shayeb for what will be an active few months ahead. She is presently working on her fourth album, which will see her move away from the classical Arabic standards to more original folkloric compositions.
Having performed the classics on stage since she was 10, El Shayeb says now is the time for her "to grow up".
"I wanted to work on songs that reflect where I am right now in life and my experiences," she says. "I have been doing these old songs for a long time, and it was interesting in a way because I was singing about topics such as love and heartbreak that I never really experienced ... as a child. The new songs are in line with where my life is at now."
The daughter of renowned singer Fatma Eid, El Shayeb says she was fortunate to have made her name as a child star.
She says the plethora of talent shows, not to mention the rampant use of social media, has made it more challenging to spot new talent nowadays. 
"There are so many voices that are crowding the scene that you don't know where to go," she says. "It is tough for the crowd to follow someone as there is no nurturing and no patience with young artists. When I began I felt there was a lot of people supporting me and wanted me to succeed. It is tough to have that kind of sustained attention now."
At the same time, El Shayeb praises social media for spreading the appeal of classical Arabic music.
"I don't share that feeling that people don't care about it," she says. "I see the opposite. People can hear more of it now online, and they reach out to me on my Facebook page and say how they love these songs. I think the music is still in a good place."
Jab Harry Met Sajal is in cinemas from Friday


Mercedes-Benz's MBUX digital voice assistant, Hey Mercedes, allows users to set up commands for:

• Navigation

• Calls

• In-car climate

• Ambient lighting

• Media controls

• Driver assistance

• General inquiries such as motor data, fuel consumption and next service schedule, and even funny questions

There's also a hidden feature: pressing and holding the voice command button on the steering wheel activates the voice assistant on a connected smartphone – Siri on Apple's iOS or Google Assistant on Android – enabling a user to command the car even without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Water waste

In the UAE’s arid climate, small shrubs, bushes and flower beds usually require about six litres of water per square metre, daily. That increases to 12 litres per square metre a day for small trees, and 300 litres for palm trees.

Horticulturists suggest the best time for watering is before 8am or after 6pm, when water won't be dried up by the sun.

A global report published by the Water Resources Institute in August, ranked the UAE 10th out of 164 nations where water supplies are most stretched.

The Emirates is the world’s third largest per capita water consumer after the US and Canada.


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others