Mohsen Nasser Mohsen Nasser is an Oud artist and teaches Music at the Kythara Center in Cairo

Arabic Music Today is Becoming Samey

1 min read

Arabic music today is becoming ‘samey’. What do I mean by samey?

There has always been a distinction between Masry (Egptian), Khaleeji (Gulf), Algerian and Bedouin music and while each influenced and borrowed from the other they never fully combined.

One element, for example, the masry oud riff would dominate one segment and give way to the energetic and fluid style of Gulf or vice versa. This was acceptable as long as we could recognise the overall flavor of the music.

The lines have become blurred and Arabic music is no longer something we can enjoy according to distinctive tastes and moods. Where are the Um Kulthooms or Fayruz who could move your emotions with one line?

Songs today are produced by committee. What is the latest trend? Will this sell?

Artistic integrity and genuineness which were the hallmarks of Arab artists is what set them apart from the rest of the world in which the market always trumped art (see the number 10 pop hits from any decade in Europe or the USA for ample proof of this).

Today, we have gone as far as borrowing Indian clips that we intersperse in some of our songs.

This is a desperate attempt to cover all bases and piggyback on the success of Indian music in the Arab world. In doing so, we have lost some authenticity and lyrics have become an afterthought.

I attended a wedding recently in which we couldn’t decide what to play. We put on Masry and Gulf music and the only discernible difference we could tell was the accent of the singers. They all sounded like generic pop songs.

And that’s the problem. Arabic musicians are trying to modernize their music in the worst way possible: emulating trashy pop music from the west. Adding beats, synthesizers, overuse of electric instruments that don’t fit the unique organic Arab sound.

In the end, we put on English music. Why listen to a cheap Arab knock-off when we can go to the source? Arabs need to rediscover their roots and learn what made Arabic music once the envy of the civilized world.

What we are sorely lacking today is spirit of the founding fathers of Arabic music. They played for themselves and if an audience happened to be around and could appreciate their message that was an added bonus.

Mohsen Nasser
Mohsen Nasser Mohsen Nasser is an Oud artist and teaches Music at the Kythara Center in Cairo

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