The 10 best Arabic songs of 2022, from Egyptian pop to the Saudi folk sounds of sheilat

This year's killer tracks underscore the dynamism of the regional music scene

Lebanese singer Elissa released one of the biggest songs of 2022.  Youness Hamiddine / Mawazine
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The diversity of the Arabic music scene has been demonstrated once again, with works ranging from the thought-provoking to the unforgettably catchy.

Some of the best Arabic songs released this year cemented the reputation of aspiring stars as well as introducing a new sound from Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese pop-star Nancy Ajram proved that collaboration with western artists can work, while Algerian singer Khaled finds new inspiration by delving into his past.

Here are 10 of the best Arabic songs released in 2022.

1. ElBakht by Wegz

Named the most streamed artist in Egypt and Mena for the third year running on Spotify, Egyptian rapper Wegz cements his place as one of the Arab world's most popular stars.

This year's rise is predominantly down to the monster El Bakht, garnering more than 167 million views on YouTube alone.

The track finds him tempering down some of the electronic intensity of trap music to include more organic sounds, like the oud.

Tying it all together are the trademark melodies that are both vibrant and affecting.

2. Wasa3 Wasa3 by Ahmed Saad

Another Egyptian artist who had a killer 2022, Saad dominated the airwaves this year with three hit singles.

While Aleky Eyoun and Sayrena Dounia are wonderful ballads, the thumping Wasa3 Wasa3 is the best of the bunch.

The track is a sprightly melange of Egyptian and electro pop delivered with a hip-hop attitude.

It is the anthemic chorus that seals the deal. Earlier this month more than 100,000 fans sang along during Saad's performance at Saudi Arabia's Soundstorm festival.

3. Ya Ibn Khamash by Mohammed Al-Najm

The most streamed song in Saudi Arabia, Ya Ibn Kharmash underscores the rising popularity of sheilat, the Saudi folk music form.

Mixing the electronic vibes of mahraganat music — particularly through the strident synth lines and auto-tuned vocals — with Khaleeji percussion, the genre is fast becoming a new movement proudly led by local artists such as Al Najm.

Ya Ibn Kharmash is a fine example of the sound taking Saudi youth by storm.

4. Hurt by Souad Massi

When Souad Massi first heard Johnny Cash’s haunting 2002 take of Nine Inch Nails' mournful Hurt, the Algerian singer felt compelled to produce an Arabic version.

“This is not only because of how inspiring and beautiful his version is,” she told told The National.

“As an Arab musician, these painful and contemplative lyrics are not really found in Arabic songs, which, for better or worse, tend to focus on the lighter side of human relationships.”

Massi’s version remains faithful to the original, while delivering emotionally fraught lyrics rarely heard in modern Arabic pop music.

5. Sah Sah by Nancy Ajram and Marshmello

Arab and western pop music collaborations often don't fare well, but the teaming of Lebanese pop-star Nancy Ajram and US DJ Marshmello proved to be the exception to the rule.

This is down to both artists doing what they do best, with Ajram’s earworm hooks and throwaway lyrics fitting neatly within Marshmello’s percolating synth production.

Sah Sah made it into the US Billboard Dance Charts two weeks after its release in August.

It is the first Arabic-language song to enter the prestigious charts.

6. Trigue Lycee by Khaled and DJ Snake

As part of his first album in a decade, the Algerian rai star revisits his youth with a reworked version of his debut single.

Where the original version of Trigue Lycee, released in 1976, had Khaled's ebullient teenage vocals expressing hopes of being a singer on the "road to school", the heft and gruffness of the re-recorded vocals and beats, courtesy of Algerian EDM star DJ Snake, gives the rai classic an unexpected poignancy.

7. Etnaset by Muslim

The Egyptian singer captured many hearts with this soulful, lovelorn, piano ballad.

In addition to the emotionally fuelled lyrics ("Your absence lingered and the love of you remains overpowering/ I await a glimpse of the light in your eyes") what makes Etnaset resonate is the elegant minimalism of its performance and production.

8. Min Awel Dekika by Elissa and Saad Lamjarred

Elissa may have delayed recording her album this year to focus her attention on the Qatar World Cup, but she still managed to satisfy her fan base with this duet with controversial Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred.

While Min Awel Dekika doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it’s a lush, string-laden ballad making use of both singer’s strengths.

The response was immediate with the song trending regionally and amassing more than 300 million streams on YouTube.

9. Beirut Tuffhaton Lil Bahr by Jahida Wehbe

A poetic and jazzy tribute to Beirut.

Lebanese singer and poet Jahida Wehbe teams with compatriots Sary and Ayad Khalife, the sons of revered composer Marcel Khalife, for a song pairing her husky tones with a colourful improvisational score featuring piano and violin.

The lyrics celebrate Beirut's splendour and tenacity and also feature an amalgam of poetry by Darwish, Adonis, Boland Haidari and Khalil Hawi.

10. Amrat by Rasha Nahas

Also the name of her new album, lead single Amrat finds the Palestinian singer dialling down the tension inherent in her work.

A fine showcase of acoustic and electronic sensibilities, with its throbbing base lines and atmospheric keyboards, Amrat is a languid meditation on love and exile.

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Updated: December 30, 2022, 6:02 PM