Best Tracks of 2015
from Middle East & North Africa

“Intro to Shamstep”

Possibly the most spectacular newcomers to have come out from the Middle East last year, 47SOUL combine musicians from Jordan, Palestine, Syria and the US but are working together in UK.

They brought us a new sound, which they called Shamstep, and where sample-ised and electrified mijwiz paves the way for completely unique experience only this band can give you at home or at their dazzling live shows.

With a huge support from their fans, they recorded their first album in London, calling it simply “Shamstep”, and opening the record with an amazing “Intro” to their new style.

47SOUL on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

“Habib Galbi”

“We are three sisters from a small village in southern Israel. Our father’s parents came from Yemen and brought their amazing culture and tradition. From a very young age we fell in love with Yemenite folk music, which was always playing at our house,” the trio of Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim told us.

Their debut single, “Habib Galbi”, has been one of the most spectacular videos released last year and brought A-WA (pronounced Ay-wa) global attention, from Al Jazeera to Japan’s national television NHK.

“Habib Galbi” was actually their first demo they sent to the producer Tomer Yosef, suggesting a collaboration. The chemistry was immediate. “We’re very happy that the video clip got so many great comments,” A-WA said. “Maybe it’s the pink!”

A-WA on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, www.


Formed in 2012, Alif is an ensemble comprised of five musicians coming from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. 

After an extensive period of touring, the group recorded their new album, “Aynama-Rtama”, which came out in September and “Holako (Hulagu)” is the first single off this new effort.

It’s an upbeat song led by oud and buzuq, with a strong vocal melody, backed by ambient keys and groovy rhythms. The words are taken from a poem by an Iraqi-Assyrian poet and writer, Sargon Boulus.

Alif on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, YouTube.

Arabs With Synthesizers
“Nabd” feat. Khaled Nweiran

Based in Amman, Jordan, Arabs With Synthesizers are carving a sonic space out for themselves on the Internet via original productions, mixtapes, and remixes.

The electronic production project was started by George Rizeq and Basel Naouri, the latter of who is the keyboardist from electronica collective, Zaed Na’es.

According to Rizeq, they strictly avoid the presence of digital instruments in the studio, instead opting for analogue synths: Roland Tr-8, Nobation BassStation II, Nord Stage 2, and the Korg Poly 800.

Arabs With Synthesizers on Soundcloud, Facebook.

“Habeetak Bel Turki”

One of the most acclaimed bands from Jordan, Autostrad was born in 2007 out of a long-lasting friendship and have recorded three albums to date. Currently, they’re working on the fourth one.

“Habeetak Bel Turki” means “I love you in Turkish”, as the idea of the song started with Turkish soap operas that invaded the Arab a few years ago, the band told us about this recent single.

Autostrad’s 4th release is supposed to differ from the previous ones, but don’t worry. “As we always focus on the music, and on producing something unique and eclectic,” they said, “we are trying to merge many styles together and still have that unique Autostrad touch in it.

Autostrad on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, www.

Aya Metwalli

The latest track released by Egyptian singer/songwriter Aya Metwalli forges a new path for the musician and her cult following in Cairo.

With a more experimental tone than her guitar based work of the previous years, Metwalli’s new trials and tribulations with left-field genres such as Arabic trip-hop heard in “Triangles” are exciting signs of the artist progress in her production capabilities.

In the recent months, she’s only shared one new and rather unconventional track called “Alice“, so hopefully she’s currently working on a full-length effort we’d love to see out this year.

Aya Metwalli on Soundcloud, Facebook, YouTube.

Bachar Mar-Khalifé
“Kyrie Eleison”

Born in Beirut, but living in France since early childhood, Bachar Mar-Khalifé is a graduate of the Conservatory of Paris and most probably one of the most diversely talented person in the young French scene.

With a music taste that seems to ignore geographical, cultural and musical borders, Bachar brings together his boundless inspirations on his last year’s album, “Ya Balad”, or “O Homeland”.

Its opening track, “Kyrie Eleison”, might be one of the most dramatic, but also the most spiritual ones. Bringing together Arabic singing and lyrics inspired by the title prayer from Christian Mass, it’s a universal prayer for peace.

Bachar Mar-Khalifé on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp.


Probably the only internationally co-funded music piece on this list, “#Who_You_R” is the Palestinian hip-hop crew DAM’s statement about women’s rights and their role in Arabic societies.

It’s a result of Tamer and Suheil Nafar brothers’ cooperation with the United Nations’ Population Fund (UNFPA). But first and foremost – with an extraordinary singer Maysa Daw.

“I’m very proud of both the song and the video, and I think it is an honest attempt at criticizing our society,” she said. Indeed, “#Who_You_R” is a strong statement, but also an extremely catchy one.

DAM on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, YouTube, www. Maysa Daw on Facebook.

El Jesr

One, if not the most distinct YouTube phenomenon to have come out from Saudi Arabia this year is the video called “Kafil” (كفيل), or “Sponsor”. In its own special way, it raises the issue of labor exploitation in this country – especially of Pakistani immigrants.

The video was produced by the initially comedy channel El Jesr (الجسر), or Bridge, a slogan coming from the fact that they blend music and comedy in their work.

In “Kafil”, their videography is impressing. And the lyrics – a Pakistani enumerating, in a bad Saudi dialect, who builds houses, sewers and bridges for ungrateful locals – are hilarious.

El Jesr on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.


Founded by Jordanian songwriter and singer Muhammad Abdullah about 8 years ago, the trio El-Morabba3 (المربّع) have been constantly breaking boundaries of places and genres to deliver their very own version of Arabic alternative.

While you’ll clearly hear global influences in this Amman-based group’s music, as well as their affinity for modern electronic music, precious details like the sound of tabla or quarter tones occasionally remind you where they come from.

As obviously do the lyrics, in the case of this superb single asking, “Where are you / Where am I / Where are all those who are different”.

El-Morabba3 on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Feel El Neel
“7at 2eedoh” ft. Nathalie Saba

They first went public with their cover version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff“, which employed “a cheap Nubian accent in an attempt to mimic the Bob Marley reggae feel”.

And then early last year, this mysterious collective from Egypt’s capital, Cairo, dropped an immediate viral hit, featuring Nathalie Saba on vocals, and it stayed with us for the whole year.

As long they give us undescribable songs like this, we won’t ask the names.

Feel El Neel on Soundcloud, Facebook. Nathalie Saba on Soundcloud.

Gamal El Bagoury

Egyptian artist, composer, singer and percussionist Gamal El Bagoury appropriately asks you to use headphones while listening.

Accompanied here only by Mohamed A. Essa on oud and bassist Eslam Elkamary, with “Lilah” he created an inconspicuous yet powerful miniature that will show its depth and beauty the moment you start paying attention.

It starts and ends with a little “Lilah, lilah”, or “Night, night”, as if Gamal tried to suggest you turning off the lights might be a good idea as well.

Gamal El Bagoury on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

Hawa Dafi
“Enta Meen”

One of 2015’s biggest surprises, Hawa Dafi (هوا دافي), or Warm Breeze, come formed in Golan Heights, and soon after released their debut album called “Our Story”.

As musically reach as you’d expect from rather more experienced band – and suggesting all musicians behind it have been on stage for quite a while – the album is also one long and emotional story thought to listen to in its entirety.

With its powerful chorus, “Enta Meen” (انت مين) is one of it’s highlights, a dramatic yet somehow optimistic song promising you that better times will, eventually, come. And it’s hard not to believe them.

Hawa Dafi on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, www.

Hello Psychaleppo

Working under the moniker of Hello Psychaleppo, Syrian artist Samer Saem Eldahr’s down-tempo, tarab-laced productions continue to ooze with originality and Arabic textures.

In his memorable 2015 track, “Beirut”, we enter into an echoing Arabic vocal line overtop increasing layers of melodramatic synth lines, only to find ourselves deep within microtonal melodies and some awesomely grimy bass-beats.

Hello Psychaleppo on Soundcloud, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, www.

Islam Chipsy & Eek Kahraba

With over 50 gigs booked in Europe this year alone, keyboardist Islam Chipsy and his band EEK are pioneering an entirely new genre of music known as Electro-Shaabi.

Using a YAMAHA PSR A200 keyboard that is modified to express the Arabic mirco-tone scale gives Chipsy a wildly original sound that is amplified with his sinuous pitch-bending technique and his two drummers.

Catch him live if you can, but good luck trying to keep an eye on his rapid firing hands amidst all the dancing he induces.

Islam Chipsy on Facebook, Instagram.

Jerusalem In My Heart
“7ebr el 3oyoun”

Lebanese-born, Montréal-based musician and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh started Jerusalem In My Heart exactly 10 years ago, but the project’s first album came out only two years ago. In 2015, he released his second full-length, “If He Dies, If If If If If If”.

“It is a song that is in two parts, the first being a pensive dream state, seeing and reflecting on four elements that point to a Mesopotamian landscape, but one that is slightly distorted and always paired,” he told us about the single “7ebr el 3oyoun”.

“The song then falls into its second part, where a rupture occurs,” he added, ” we are in an anchored rhythm and where ‘I’ talk about ‘me’, in that ‘I’ am cementing the idea that ‘I write with my eyes, and what I write is not a lie’.”

Jerusalem In My Heart on Facebook, www.

“Ala Hallet ‘Aini”

One of the shortest, but also one of the most intense songs on our list, “Ala Hallet ‘Aini” comes off the soundtrack of the French-produced, by Tunisia-based movie “As I Open My Eyes“.

While the song has been written, produced and mixed by Khyam Allami (with lyrics by Ghassan Amami), it was performed by a “fictional band created for the film”, which includes incredible Tunisian singer Baya Medhaffar and Montasser Ayari on oud.

Indeed, this band seems to good to be real, but as dreams sometimes happen to come true, we hope Joujma’s movie theatre origins will eventually lead them to music stages.

Baya Medhaffar on Twitter, Tumblr.

Luka Blue
“Hashrab Hashish”

Egyptian singer Luka Blue’s “Hashrab Hashish” has gathered more than 4 mln spins already, and multiple lip-syncs on YouTube for this unforgettable single.

It’s been featured in the documentary “The Thread & The Wall“, which focuses on the situation of women in the contemporary Egyptian society. In “Hashrab Hashish” (هشرب حشيش), Luka Blue sums up the restrictions of growing up as a girl in the country. And a remedy to all of that.

“My gradnma told me girls should wear dresses,” she sings. “My mom told me I shouldn’t play in mud. My aunt that wears a veil told me to sing freely but I’m going to hell, my dad told me nothing… So I’ll do the right thing and smoke hasheesh.”

Luka Blue on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Majed Alesa & Misfer
“Samry King”

“The story behind the video is that it is a traditional Saudi song, which was originally written by Soliman bin Shuraim – a very well known poet, the studio 8iess told us about their spectacular work, “Samry King”.

While the singer’s name is Misfer, the video was conceived and edited by Majed Alesa (ماجد العيسى), a Saudi director and editor deeply inspired by music. Majed wanted to bring the old music theme to create something modern. He made it catchy by speeding the rhythm and westernizing the melody.

“The edit made the poet and the song listenable for different types of people,” 8iess told us. “And this is actually what our studio is all about to spread our ideas and reach as diversed people as possible.”

Majed Alesa on Soundcloud, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.

Mashrou’ Leila

From a very different place than their previous effort, and having toured around the world, Mashrou’ Leila finnally released their new album last year, called “Ibn El Leil”.

The massive single “Maghawir” combines Hamed Sinno’s full voice with brass section and quasi-electronic beat. While its title literally means “Commandos”, it’s actually a popular name for the Lebanese army.

The songs “narrates a possible version of a club shooting in Beirut,” the band explained “drawing on references to real Lebanese case histories from two different shootings that took place within the same week, both of which resulted in the deaths of extremely young victims, each of who was out celebrating their birthday.”

Mashrou’ Leila on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, www.

“Betti Sahranah”

Mina (مينا) means “port” in Arabic, and it’s the name of a unique new band whose members actually could have met in one of many ports of the Mediterranean Sea – somewhere in the middle between Portugal and Palestine, their home countries.

Mina’s two marvellous singers, Sophia Portugal (naturally from Portugal) and Terez Sliman (from Palestine), are accompanied by three Portugese musicians: Rui Ferreira, Helder Costa and Ricardo Coehlo.

Together they not only enhance each other’s cultures and music influences – from traditional music to modern jazz – but also life experiences, emotions and dreams. Just like in their beautiful song “Betti Sahrana”, a story about lovers from Tunisia, one with no happy ending:

Mina on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook.

Mostafa Rizk

Blues music with an Egyptian flavor is what you’ll find on “Bab Ellouq”, a new album from singer and composer Mostafa Rizk (مصطفى رزق), who recently presented his new material at Cairo’s venerated club Darb 1718.

While musically Mostafa constantly mixes blues with local influences and international pop, lyrically he gravitates to love ballads. And it’s no different with “Elkhir”, the latest track to surface on his music channels.

While it mind remind you of a more bluesy Cairokee or Abu Shabab, it’s a truly unique mixture of wide inspirations, clear style, and above all Mostafa Rizk’s charisma.

Mostafa Rizk on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.


Born in Casablanca and raised in Marrakesh, Oum El Ghaith Benessahraoui is a singer, writer, and composer with a penchant for jazz and soul. At the same time, she’s deeply committed to her Sahrawi roots.

Oum’s latest album is called “Zarabi,” which means “Carpets” and is a reference to the colorful carpets of M’hamid El Ghizlane, a small oasis town located in the far south-eastern end of Morocco.

The carpets, crafted by women using traditional techniques, are on display in the clip for “Hna,” a nimble song in which Oum’s voice is accompanied by jazzy double-bass and trumpet along with percussion and oud.

Oum on Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube, www, Twitter.

“Khally Balak Hatmoot”

Egyptian musician Youssef Abouzeid has released his third EP under the PanSTARRS (بان ستارز) moniker with a dark, droned out alt-rock soundscape that is both eerie and captivating.

The post-rock, ambient undertones of the “Ghaby Ghaby Ghaby” (غبي غبي غبي) EP give the overall PanSTARRS sounds a more sophisticated direction, while still maintaining the sonic identity of Abouzeid’s preceding body of work.

While you should check out the whole album, you might start with the opening track, “Khally Balak Hatmoot”, or “Be Careful You’ll Die”.

PanSTARRS on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook.

Rayess Bek
“Emta ha Taaraf”

Based in Beirut, Lebanon, Rayess Bek has been touring around the world from Paris to Tokyo presenting his very own, sometimes unbelieveble, mix of instrumental hip-hop, electronic equipment and Arabic music.

“Emta ha Taaraf” is the opening track of Rayess Bek’s (real name Wael Koudaih) latest EP called “Love and Revenge“, possibly one of the most fascinating releases to have come out last year.

For this particular track, the producer decided to re-make a classic song even sampling its original author. Try to guess the name yourself.

Rayess Bek on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, www.

“Olive Oil Soul”

Safar started making music together in 2013 initially as a guitar-voice duo, but since then they’ve been collaborating with other Lebanese musicians. And mixing different languages depending on the situation.

The music and lyrics of “Olive Oil Soul” explore what it means to be home. “As youth, we are in this questioning phase, looking for our identity, our comfort zone, exploring new territories,” the Beirut duo Safar told us about this beautiful song off their debut EP, “23 Kilograms“.

“We are melancholic but also hopeful,” Mayssa Jallad and Elie Abdelnour told us. “You might find home in a grand gesture but also in the small things.”

Safar on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Soopar Lox

Egyptian electronic band, last year Soopar Lox released their synth-laced debut album, “Semsesizer”, and its rhythm, textures, and Arabic/English vocals evoke a sun-kissed beach somewhere in the Red Sea.

After so many invigorating shows live, it’s exciting to see the band recording and releasing their work while finding a unique identity within the wide spectrum of electronic music from the region.

Check out the track “Sunrise”, and if you ever get the opportunity to hear them live: Go, dance, enjoy!

Soopar Lox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, www.

Souad Massi
“Faya Lâyla”

The most acclaimed Algerian female singer, Souad Massi released her new album “El Mutakallimûn” (Masters of the Word) at the end of April last year.

Accompanied by oud, piano, guitar, banjo and (electric) piano, she intertwines Medieval Arabic poems with 21st century protest songs.

The first single off the album is “Faya Lâyla”, and it’s accompanied by a moving video painted live with sand by talented Moroccan artist Nadia Amlou.

Souad Massi on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter.


A very young trio from Egypt, Takh’s lyrics might seem childishly funny, but they’re thoroughly suitable for their age, their target audience, and the sunny mood of the songs.

At the same time, Takh (طاخ) are excellent as far as songwriting, arrangements and production are concerned, and the growing popularity of their consecutive songs is well-deserved.

Among the few great singles they’ve given us yet, “#DaWalaDa” seems the most cheerful and consistent. One little hint: while we realise vocals and beats are absorbing enough, try to dedicate one full listen just to the bass.

Takh on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook.

Terez Yazan and Friends
“Snoring Moon”

Saxophone, accordion, violin, drums, electric and bass guitars – and of course Haifa-born Terez Sliman’s incredible voice. Actually, there’s even some snoring in “Snoring Moon”, an amazing from one of Middle East’s best-sounding collective.

The single comes off their last year’s full-length album, “Almond Blossom”, produced by the acclaimed producer Samer Jaradt and filled with perfectly written, arranged and colourful pieces like this one, mixing local influences with jazz.

While they do achieve an amazing sound in the studio, this group of friends are certainly ones you should see live if you ever have a chance.

Terez Yazan and Friends on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Who Killed Bruce Lee

One of the best and possibly loudest blues/rock bands you’ll find in the region, Beirut-based group Who Killed Bruce Lee will release their new album “Distant Rendezvous” later this month.

Included as a bonus track on this upcoming record will be “Elvis”, an energetic 4-minute jam that came out last summer and stayed with us since then due to immediate riff, powerful rhythm section and of course Wassim Bou Malham’s vigorous vocals.

If they consider a song like this just a “bonus track”, what should we expect from the proper concent of the LP?!

Who Killed Bruce Lee on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, www.

Yacoub Abu Ghosh
“Ayqithini” ft. Laila Sabbagh

There’s something both familiar and surprising, charming yet unsettling in this intense song by Jordan’s legendary multi-instrumentalist Yacoub Abu Ghosh and Palestinian singer Laila Sabbagh.

While both music and lyrics have been written by Yacoub, Laila’s vocals filled the words with the intensity equal to the ever-changing arrangement’s.

“Ayqithini” comes off Yacoub’s new album of the same title, and if after a few listens you finally feel you’re starting to grasp what’s happening in this song, there’s still the whole album ahead, as vivid and as beautiful.

Yacoub Abu Ghosh on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Laila Sabbagh on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Za’ed Na’es
“The System” feat. Maii Waleed

Collaborating with an exciting range of Arab contemporary musicians, the Jordanian collective ZA-ED NA+ES continue to release a series of riveting tracks on their SoundClound.

Their sound is expansive, dynamic and lacks limitations as each track is created alongside a featured artist. Be it indie pop numbers like “Shatteit” or the more folktronica sound of Alexandria-based Maii Waleed.

Maii lend her voice to Zaed Naes’ latest track, “The System” (السيستم). “How do you walk. How do you think. How to breathe,” that’s the only introduction the band gives us about this song. The interpretation is all yours.

Zaed Naes on Soundcloud, Facebook, YouTube, www.

Zahed Sultan

Kuwaiti artist Zahed Sultan’s sophomore album “eyeamsound” is an epic follow-up to his debut album released in 2011, titled “Hi Fear, Lo Love.”

In both albums there are references to mobility and heartbreak, but “eyemsound” becomes a politically charged discussion as heard in tracks like “Democrazy” and “Bedoon”.

The latter creates a visceral interpretation of the sobering stories of the traditionally nomadic, Bedouin life. Lyrically, the track is somber and surreal, which is then highlighted by the dubby bassline, percussive bursts, and the jangling “sik sik” of finger cymbals common to Arabic music.

Zahed Sultan on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, www.