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Pop Culture in the Arabian Peninsula: Societal Expressions, Commercial Issues and State Cooptations

The Dubai Effect: From Egyptocentricism to Gulf-based Pan-Arabism in Arab Pop Songs

L’effet-Dubaï : de l’égyptocentrisme à un panarabisme à consonnance golfique dans les chansons pop arabes
Richard Nedjat-Haiem

Résumés

Cet article explore le concept de «pluri-arabité» dans le contexte de la musique pop arabe contemporaine. Il utilise Dubaï comme métaphore de la diversité culturelle et examine l’impact de cette diversité sur la continuité des identités régionales arabes. Il analyse l'évolution du paysage de la pop arabe, depuis la domination culturelle égyptienne jusqu’à une représentation plus diversifiée des identités linguistiques et culturelles. À travers des études de cas d'artistes comme Assala Nasri et Balqees Fathi, l'article explique comment des artistes de différentes régions du monde arabe redéfinissent les centres culturels, remettant en question la centralité cairote. Le rôle des chaînes satellites et des plateformes digitales dans la recomposition du financement et de la diffusion de la pop arabe contemporaine est également analysé. En perspective, l'article examine les potentiels développements dans les industries de la musique et des médias, à la lumière des efforts de Riyad pour s'établir comme leader culturel dans la région.

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Introduction

1In the spring of 2017, the singer Hind al-Baḥrayniyya released a video clip entitled “Lahjāt al-ʿArab” (Dialects of the Arabs).1 The lyrics employ seven ways of saying “I want you”, each of the verses quoted here in a different Arabic dialect:

بلهجة أهل بغداد أريدك / b-lahjǝt ʾahǝl baghdād arīdak

In the dialect of the people of Baghdad, I want you

قولة أهل الكويت أبيك / gōlǝt ʾahǝl lǝ-kwēt abīk […]

The speech of the people of Kuwait, I want you

برمسة إماراتي أباك / b-rǝmsǝt imarātī ʾabāk […]

In Emirati talk, I want you

بيروت أنا ذابت بهواك وقلت لك إني بدي ياك / bayrūt anā dhǝbt i-b-hawāk w-ʾilti-llak innī bǝddī yāk […]

Beirut, I melt in your love, and I told you that I want you

أفهمها إنت بالسعودي، أبغاك / ifhamhā ʾinta bi-s-suʿūdī abghāk [...]

Understand what I’m telling you in Saudi (Arabic): I want you

عوزاك وهذا النيل يشهد (ʿawzāk wa-hādhā n-Nīl yishhad) […]

I want you and the Nile is my witness

كنبغيك نحبّك يا سيدي نموت عليك بالزاف حنّا/ bizzāf ḥǝnnā ka-nbghīk nḥǝbbǝk yā sīdī nmūt ʿalīk

  • 2 Special thanks to the editors and anonymous reviewers of this issue of Arabian Humanities for their (...)

[pseudo-Moroccan Arabic] A lot, we/I love you, I adore you my man.2

  • 3 Lagrange 2022.
  • 4 As suggested by an anonymous peer reviewer for this paper, Dubai and therefore the Dubai effect, is (...)
  • 5 Term coined with my doctoral advisor Dwight Reynolds.
  • 6 Brettany 2012. 
  • 7 Arab media studies scholar Marwan Kraidy studies and lays out the major trends Kraidy 2017. 
  • 8 Lagrange & Chaveneau 2020. 

2This song is not an isolated instance of deploying multiple dialects in song, but rather represents a broader phenomenon that has been sweeping the Arab music industry over the past decade, which I label the “Dubai Effect.”3 The lyrics highlight a process whereby artists incorporate various dialects, reflecting a cultural shift in the Arab world. Drawing on the metaphor of Dubai, a city known for its cultural diversity, I argue that it symbolizes a new cultural model, encouraging the intermingling of Arabs from different regions and promoting the maintenance of their own regional Arab cultures and identities.4 I refer to this Dubai-like form of cultural Pan-Arabism as “Pluri-Arabism”,5 which brings forth new forms of national and linguistic identity within the cultural conversation. While the “Dubai Effect”, a term coined by urban studies scholar Shannon Brettany, has been observed in urban development, architecture, and other fields, its impact on the performative arts has received limited scholarly attention until recently.6 The financing and dissemination of contemporary Arab pop culture have been reshaped since the turn of the century by leading satellite channels such as MBC and Rotana, reflecting the influential Dubai-Riyadh axis of soft power.7 Furthermore, in the 21st century, YouTube has emerged as a vital platform for nurturing regional talent, providing a pathway for aspiring artists to integrate into the music, film, and television industries both within the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. This digital landscape has contributed to the proliferation of diverse voices and artistic expressions in the Arab music scene.8

  • 9 Several recent publications on the impact of pan-Arab TV and on the use and representations of Arab (...)
  • 10 Sadek 2009.
  • 11 While not writing exclusively on music, Amr Kamal explores Cairo’s reduced centrality in the media (...)

3In this essay I examine “Pluri-Arabism” in modern Arab pop music through the analysis of three case studies: (1) the transnational Arab diva singer, Assala Nasri [Aṣāla Naṣrī]; (2) the Khaleeji lahja bayḍā (“white dialect”) exemplified by the singer Balqees Fathi [Balqīs Fatḥī]; and (3) recent multi-dialect songs performed by various singers from all over the Arab world. Each of these examples demonstrates the reconfiguring of cultural centers in the Arab world.9 This essay expands on Sadek's exploration of Cairo's former supremacy as a “global/regional” cultural capital, challenging the formerly dominant notion that only Egyptian music resonates across the Arab world.10 Instead, I will present a counternarrative that reveals the diverse styles and regional contexts that redefine the contemporary Arab music landscape on the linguistic level.11

The decline of the Egyptian centrality

  • 12 Sadek 2009. It could have been added that Cairo also sang, danced and acted. This may have been tru (...)
  • 13 Hourani 1991.  Albert Hourani, however, never used the term Nahḍa, nor did the first generation of (...)
  • 14 Hanssen & 2016.

4“Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, and Baghdad reads” was the traditional division of cultural labor in the literary field, spread between the regional capitals of the Arab Middle East.12 However, today, in the contemporary world of Arab performance arts: Beirut and Cairo sing (in Egyptian and Gulf dialects), Dubai and Riyadh produce and subsidize (everyone), and the Gulf states consume (it all.) In the late 19th century, the Middle East experienced a multitude of dynamics that brought together nationalism, increased literacy, liberalization, and cultural production. Commercial cultural production was dominated by Cairo and Beirut whose media dominance has origins in the Nahḍa, the intellectual, educational, and technological Arab renaissance. This flourishing was described by eminent historian Albert Hourani as the “liberal age,” periodized from 1798–1939.13 Hanssen and Weiss elaborate on how this period functioned as the foundational development of Arab modernity and “bedrock of cultural self-reflection.”14

  • 15 Holt 2013, p. 236. Cairo was simultaneously monocultured towards cotton production by the British c (...)
  • 16 Anderson 1991. 
  • 17 Fahmy 2010. 

5For both Cairo and Beirut, political upheaval within the Ottoman Empire, attempts at political reform, and social change created space and opportunity to experiment with new forms of mass media. In Cairo, the flourishing of salons and newspapers provided space to digest the myriad political fluctuations that occurred. Beirut’s rise as an industrial silk hub and the tumult of the 1850s and 1860s, helped to stimulate similar conversations.15 Ziad Fahmy has emphasized how Benedict Anderson’s interpretation of the revolution created by “print capitalism” has minimized the importance of the spoken word and the disseminating power of performance and sound media.16 Therefore, Fahmy has coined the term “media capitalism” to describe the commodification of mass media, including print, and their function as part of a media market in Egypt.17 This print and media capitalism both vernacularized the language of communication and standardized it into the specific variant of Modern Standard Arabic, championed by the intelligentsia, which still forms the basis of formal Arabic knowledge today. In parallel, the Egyptian dialect by means of Cairo’s monopoly on transnational Arab radio, cinema and later television evolved into a vernacular lingua franca from Morocco in the West to Iraq in the East. Cairo dominated the Arab performative art space in the 20th century and was widely touted as the “Hollywood of the Middle East”, whereas Beirut invested in other literary and creative arts and was christened the “Paris of the Middle East.”

  • 18 A movement heralded by “the dangers of imperialism, the hopes of a postcolonial project, and the ‘w (...)
  • 19 A noteworthy counter-example of Egyptian linguistic hegemony is the only commercially released non- (...)

6Artists from all over the world migrated to Egypt seeking fame and fortune. In the mid-20th century, the politics of the day was defined by Nasserism.18 Nasser’s cultural Pan-Arabism was fundamentally “Egyptocentric,” placing Egypt, and specifically Cairo, as the center, with the rest of the Arab World as the periphery. Musical trends forced artists to subordinate their national identities and become Egyptian in order to become leading figures in popular culture and to contribute to the cultural Pan-Arabism of the day. Cairo was not an inclusive melting pot, but rather a hub that focused on transforming all ”foreigners” into pseudo-Egyptians through the Egyptian dialect, while Egyptian performers would never themselves sing, lest speak, in another dialect.19

  • 20 Danielson, 1997,  Lohman 2013. 
  • 21 Personal communication by Noha Forster, 14 Sept 2020. Born Jeanette Jirjis Fighālī to a Maronite Ca (...)

7The pinnacle of Umm Kulthūm’s career ran parallel to the rise of Nasserist Pan-Arabism. Egyptocentricism admittedly started decades before the 1952 revolution, but was notably strengthened by the new regime. Umm Kulthūm (1900-1975) and other artists of her generation had everything to offer Nasser as a cultural symbol, and republican Egypt used this soft power to reinforce its legitimacy and fire up the masses with its rhetoric. Umm Kulthūm’s role as the ultimate Nasserian cultural symbol is intrinsically linked to her exclusive use of either Classical Arabic or Egyptian dialect to capitalize on Egypt and Cairo’s cultural dominance.20 Although Umm Kulthūm and the main male star of the 1950s to 1970s period, ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ (1929-1977) both came from poor, rural, Sunni Muslim backgrounds, many “Egyptian” stars came from diverse backgrounds around the Arab world. This included the Syro-Lebanese Druze siblings Farīd al-Aṭrash (1910-1974) and Asmahān (1912-1944) who started their careers in the 1930s, Lebanese singer-actress Sabah (1925-2014) who joined the Egyptian cinema industry in the 1940s, the Algerian-Lebanese Warda (1939-2012) who tried her luck in the late 1950s then rebooted her Egyptian career in 1972 after a ten-year gap spent in Algeria, and many others all of whom became famous singing in Egyptian dialect. It has been said that Ṣabāḥ only “became Shāmī (Levantine) in the 70s,” returning to her roots, after appearing in Egyptian films speaking and singing in Egyptian dialect for more than two decades.21

  • 22 Farīd al-Aṭrash’s career lasted almost five decades as he performed in over thirty films, was a mus (...)
  • 23 Zuhur 2001, pp. 12-13.
  • 24 Farīd Al-Aṭrash referenced the Pan-Arab dream of unity that was prevalent at the time during an int (...)
  • 25 Ibid, 12–13.

8Sherifa Zuhur recalls that when in Syria, the Syro-Lebanese Druze siblings, Farīd al-Aṭrash22 and Asmahān were constantly referred to as “those Egyptian singers,”23 because they always performed in the Egyptian dialect.24Not only did these artists sing and act in Cairo Arabic, but they also began to speak only Egyptian dialect as well. This greatly altered how people perceived them.25 Cairo Arabic became the key to stardom and an important marker of the Pan-Arabism of the day, simultaneously stripping singers and actors of their Lebanese-ness, Syrian-ness or Algerian-ness.

  • 26 The album entitled “Arab Ambassador” has 7 tracks: one for the United Arab Emirates, two for Lebano (...)
  • 27 Stone 2008, p. 90.
  • 28 23 Ibid,139.
  • 29 Ibid, 139.

9The only major artist who did not embrace by Egyptocentricism, is the famed Lebanese singer, Fairouz (1934-) who sang in Lebanese dialect and Standard Arabic.26 Fairouz sought to create a sense of Arab unity that was rooted in the diversity of the region and its particularities. She became a voice for populism in the Arab World as her songs addressed each city or countries’ (often former) greatness. Stone writes that: “At Baalbek they would enact the Lebanese mountain village, to Syria they would sing of the Umayyad Empire and the famous Damascene gardens, to Egypt of its long civilizational history and the Nile, to Iraq of its poets, to Palestine of the scared waters of the Jordan River and to Jordan they would sing of the hills of Amman.”27 Nasser himself was rumored to have expressed regret that “Fairouz was not born Egyptian.”28 Stone claims that as the father of revolutionary postcolonial Arab nationalism, “it should not have mattered to Nasser whether Fairouz was Egyptian, Lebanese or Iraqi,” and that Nasser’s desire points to the tension between individual state and pan-Arab nationalisms in the region.29

10However, a decline of Egyptian centrality in the Arab cultural landscape started even before the 1967 naksa. This was not a sudden shift, but rather a gradual process that spanned several decades. Between the 1960s and the 2020s, there were numerous intermediary stations that played a significant role in shaping the evolving musical scene. The last cohort of Egyptianized performers comprises Moroccan singer Samīra Saʿīd (1958-), who suppressed the “bin” part of her family name, since Binsaʿīd would have had an unpleasant ring to the Egyptian ear, the Syrian artist Mayyāda al-Ḥinnāwī (1959-), Tunisian singer Laṭīfa ʿArfāwi (1961-), and Moroccan vocalist ʿAzīza Jalāl/Galāl (1958-), along with Syrian musician George Wassūf (1961-), who incorporates Egyptian elements solely in his music rather than in his speech. Among these performers, Samīra Saʿīd stands out as the only one who has managed to maintain her relevance until this day, while the others have experienced decline, retired from the musical scene, or faded into obscurity. This highlights that the 1990s and 2000s mark the acceleration of Egyptian centrality's decline: Cairo remains an obligatory stop in a performer’s career, but now shares this status with the Gulf region. In the 21st century, the political and social forces that forced performers to adopt Egyptian dialect and/or fuṣḥā in the past have weakened considerably and a new linguistic dynamic is re-shaping contemporary Arabic performing arts and engendering new forms of Arab identity.

The Transnational Diva: Assala

11In contrast to the Pan-Arab icons who had to suppress or at least tone down their national identities during the Nasserist and Post-Nasserist era of Pan-Arabism, Assala embodies a transnational Arab identity. She does not represent her home country, Syria, the way Umm Kulthūm represented Egypt or Fairouz represents Lebanon, but instead represents conflicting identities simultaneously. Her Bahraini citizenship, Cairo residency, mixed children with ex-husband Egyptian-Palestinian director Ṭāriq al-ʿAryān, new husband Iraqi poet Fāʾiq Ḥasan, role as host of the older talk show Soula and her forthcoming appearance on the newly announced Saudi Idol, all complicate her composite identity that transcends any one origin or nationality.

12Arguably one of the greatest Arab voices of this generation, Aṣāla Muṣṭafā Ḥātim Naṣrī was born on May 15, 1969, in Damascus, Syria. She began her musical career by performing patriotic, religious, and children’s songs at the age of four. Assala’s commercial debut was in 1991 with the Egyptian hit, Law Ti‘rafū (If Only You Knew). She began to sing in different eclectic styles, most notably the Egyptian-flamenco fusion hit, Yā Magnūn (You Crazy One) in 1999.30 It is precisely at the turn of the millennium, however, that she began her flourishing career in Khaleeji music, hallmarking the new dynamics of regional influence in Arab pop music. She now has a very wide fan base in the Gulf and has been producing exclusively Gulf-style albums, almost every other year, in line with her Egyptian albums since the early 2000s.

  • 31 Kraidy 2016. Questions of national loyalty and patriotism were directed at Assala after the announc (...)
  • 32 Ibid, p. 151.
  • 33 Biographical elements from the artist’s official site http://www.assala.ws/biography, accessed 25 O (...)
  • 34 Racy 2004. 

13Following the Arab Spring, Marwan Kraidy argues that Assala used her body as a vessel of creative insurgency in support of the Syrian Revolution against President Bashar al-Asad.31 Efforts to “curry favor with the Arab world’s most populous market (Egypt) and its richest country (Saudi Arabia)” provoked criticism for threatening the Syrian body politic.32 The fact that Assala never presented herself as an image of Syria appears to have irritated Syrian pride and patriotism. She began her career singing in the Egyptian dialect in the ‘oriental operatic ṭarab style.’33 Often translated as ‘musical ecstasy,’ ṭarab is the feeling of rapture conveyed to the listener through a traditional style of singing associated with the greats of the 20th century such as Umm Kulthūm and, after her demise, Warda.34

  • 35 It is worth noting that Assala initially had a shaky mastery of the Egyptian accent, as evident in (...)
  • 36 Most notably Nizār Qabbānī’s Hādhī Dimashq, “Assala | Hazi Dimashq 2018”, accessed 18 January 2024 (...)
  • 37 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FHZXvR7EYY, accessed 18 January 2024.
  • 38 Ibid. 2:14-2:33. She then states that “I know very well how to sing in Khaleeji too as if I am a Kh (...)
  • 39 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avMtvc9OSk4&t=28s, 2021, accessed 18 January 2024. 
  • 40 Interview style TV program on LBC presented by leading presenter Lebanese-Armenian Nīshān
  • 41 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nDFG7eH8g4, 11 July 2013, accessed 18 January 2024. Shām can d (...)
  • 42 Shortly after she declares her love for Lebanon and sings Fairouz’s “Bḥebbak yā Lebnān.” Assala has (...)
  • 43 She mentions that despite having friends she considers “family in Bahrain, friends in Qatar and a g (...)

14During the early 1990s, there was a notable musical transition from ṭarab-oriented music to Arab pop. Compositions by poets and musicians who had worked for the previous generation started incorporating electronically duplicated instruments (such as violins) and echo, giving them a distinct hybrid genre feel. Singers like Mayyādī al-Ḥinnāwī, Warda, and Samīra Saʿīd performed songs in this style during the early to mid-1990s, which later gave way to contemporary Arab pop. Among these artists, Samīra Saʿīd and Assala successfully made the transition from ṭarab to pop.35 Assala’s career only later prospered by singing in Khaleeji Arabic. It is puzzling that none of her own songs have been strictly in the Syrian dialect (although some are in a sort of Levantine white dialect), and when she has sung patriotic poems for Syria, they have usually been in Standard Arabic.36 However, in interviews and in daily life, she always speaks in heavily accented Damascus dialect. When asked in an interview on Egyptian TV why she does not speak Egyptian dialect after years of singing it, she responded that “I could if I wanted, but I would feel like a liar.”37 She then attempted to speak in Egyptian, but only moments later gave up and admitted “Khalāṣ! [I give up!] I can’t do it. I can only sing in Egyptian.”38 In 2021, she joked that she sounds silly when she tries to speak Egyptian dialect.39 During the 2013 season of the LBC produced Anā wa-l-‘asal (The Honey & I),40 Assala was introduced as “The daughter of Shām [Greater Syria], the mother of Shām and the icon of Shām.”41 On this program she expressed her Syrian national identity more than her Pan-Arab identity, contrary to her self-presentation on the Egyptian program cited above. She at times calls herself an “ambassador” for Syria and insists that her statements in support of the revolution were purely humanitarian and based on her love for her fellow Syrians, and not political. Her evidence for her patriotism is that she speaks in Syrian dialect.42 She then had to systematically deny that any sort of state sponsored Khaleeji largesse had influenced her pro-revolutionary position in Syria.43

15In 2018, aligned with Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, Assala inaugurated the first of many public mixed gender concerts in the Kingdom.44 With her hair uncovered, but otherwise modestly dressed, she sang a series of Khaleeji and Egyptian hits. She repeated these performances twelve times in a little over 18 months, in almost immediately sold-out concerts, which came to an abrupt stop due to the Covid-19 pandemic.45 Assala’s stardom is therefore the antithesis of the “Egypt only” model seen in the 20th century: unlike Levantine performers of the former generations, she is not seen as representing either Egypt or Syria.

  • 46 The title of this modern ode, “The Remains,” references one of the most ancient tropes of Arabic po (...)

16In 2022, standing gracefully in a cerulean sea-inspired dress, Aṣāla ended her hour-long performance at the Saudi sponsored “Festival of Music Sung in Classical Arabic”, by singing a four-minute mash-up of two short sections of the renowned neo-classical ode made famous in 1966 by Umm Kulthūm: al-Aṭlāl.46 Before she burst into song with the famous verse “hal ra’ā al-ḥubbu sukārā mithlanā” (has love ever seen two lovers as ecstatically [lit. drunkenly] in love as we are?), she gave a brief speech to conclude her performance in her typically Damascene accent:

  • 47 She declares the following : أحب الرياض. أسعد لحظات لما اكون معكم. بفرح لما اقابلكم، قمة الفخر! كل (...)

“I love Riyadh. The happiest moments of my life are when I am with you all. I am very pleased when I meet with you. The pinnacle of pride. I feel a great deal of pride that I am one of you, in that my beginnings were with you and as if Saudi (Arabia) and I synchronized and created a life plan together, it has all been happy, you have always been supporters and darlings and always (the) security. I enjoyed being with you all today.”47

17This short interjection epitomizes the cultural direction the Arab world is moving towards and Assala’s embodiment of this new Pluri-Arab reality. A Syrian born woman, living in Cairo, with Bahraini citizenship, and an Iraqi husband, ending a concert exclusively in Standard Arabic with the most quintessential of Umm Kulthūm’s songs, while praising Saudi Arabia in Syrian dialect. She is not the icon or representative of one Arab nation-state, but rather exemplifies a new pluri-Arab culture that is rapidly taking hold in the world of the performing arts.

The ‘White Dialect’: Balqees

  • 48 Van Kampen 2023.
  • 49 Al-Rojaie 2020.
  • 50 Hachimi 2013 draws attention to the hierarchies among the regional varieties of vernacular Arabic.  (...)

18A phenomenon related to the multiplicity of identities exemplified by Assala as a “transnational diva”, is the emergence of a Khaleeji ‘white’ or ‘blank’ dialect – al-lahja al-bayḍā’ –exemplified by the singer Balqees Fathi. Nina Van Kampen has identified three different linguistic phenomena that are covered by the Arabic expression “lahja bayḍāʾ.” Firstly, it can denote a form of mixed Arabic. Secondly, it can refer to an urban or national koine, effectively erasing regional, communal, or ethnic specificities, presenting itself as linguistically "neutral." Thirdly, it encompasses levelling and accommodation strategies employed by speakers from diverse regions.48 For example, in the framework of Al-Roujaie's study on the emerging Saudi national koine, interlocutors associated the white dialect with being "accent-free" and devoid of stigmatized linguistic features, rendering it challenging to pinpoint the speaker's origin.49 Notably, "lahja bayḍāʾ" is not a precise etic concept formulated by linguists but rather an emic one used by everyday Arabic speakers, and as such, it may encompass any of these three distinct phenomena. In this present analysis, it encompasses a combination of all three categories, with a primary focus on the second and third.50 I argue that the use of a regional white dialect in pop music productions designed to appeal to all Arabic-speakers represents a resounding rejection of the Cairene “mono-dialecticism” that held sway during the 20th century.

  • 51 Code-switching within the same sentence, a common feature of the Khaleeji white dialect’s use of Sa (...)

19This Khaleeji “white dialect” is best exemplified in performances by Balqees Fathi. Balqees is Emirati born to an Emirati mother and famous Yemeni singer father, Ahmed Fathi. She has recorded hit songs in exclusively Lebanese, Egyptian, Saudi, and Iraqi dialects. Her most famous songs – “Majnūn (Crazy),“ Hādhā Minū” (Who’s That?), and “Wyāk Khidnī (Take Me with You)—are excellent illustrations of Myers-Scotton’s definition of both “intrasentential” and intersentential code-switching.”51 In her debut album of the same name, Majnūn, Balqees fuses the main song with the second single Hādhā Minū, into one music video. The opening stanza in Majnūn is a prime example of Khaleeji white dialect and intersentential code switching, being easily understood across the whole Arab region.

مجنون أحب غيرك أنا / majnūn aḥibb ghērik anā?

Am I crazy to love someone other than you?

إشفيني صايبني عمى / ish-fīnī ṣāyibnī ʿamā

What’s wrong with me! Have I become blind?

حبيبي شايف هالبشر؟ / ḥabībī shāyif ha-l-bashar?

My darling, do you see all of these people?

تسواهم عندي أنا. / tiswāhum ʿandī anā

To me, you are worth all of them

  • 52 In contrast to Saudi wish-fīnī and Iraqi ish-bīnī.

20This verse is in “khaleeji white dialect,” apart from ish-fīnī which is characteristically Kuwaiti.52 The second stanza is also entirely in “white dialect,” easily understood not only in the Gulf region, but across the Arab world:

ما مثلك أبد مخلوق / mā mithlik abad makhlūg,

There’s never been anyone like you

بالإحساس وبالذوق؟ / bi-l-iḥsās wa-bi-l-dhōg?

In feelings and politeness?

تخليني معك أروق / tkhallīnī maʿāk arōg

You make me feel comfortable with you

  • 53 I classify mābī (I don’t want) as exclusively Kuwaiti here, while it is used in other Gulf dialects (...)

21The chorus, however, is dialect specific, employing the Kuwaiti phrase for ‘I don’t want’ anā mābī:53

أنا مابي، أنا مابي أحب غيرك / anā mābī, anā mābī aḥibb ghērik

I don’t want, I don’t want to love anyone else

22The following verse can be understood by all Arab speakers:

أنا يا روحي من أشوفك أنسى نفسي معك / anā yā rūḥī min ashūfik ansā nafsī maʿāk,

Whenever I see you, my darling, I lose myself in you

أضيع أنا داخل عيونك وأتنفس أنا هواك / aḍīʿ anā dākhil ʿoyūnik wa-atnaffas anā hawāk

I get lost in your eyes, and I breathe your love

23Whereas the next verse is more typically characteristic of Khaleeji white dialect:

مين قاللك أنا مابيك أصلاً أنا أموت فيك؟ / Min gāl-lik anā mābīk aṣlan anā amūt fīk?

Who said I don’t want you? I actually die for you

لو تطلع إنت للقمر أجيك أنا والله أجيك / Law tiṭlaʿ inta li-l-gomar ajīk anā wallāh ajīk

If you go up to the moon, I’ll come to you. I swear, I’ll come to you”54

  • 55 See Holes 1995, 2006, 2011.

24The qāf is pronounced [g] in gāl-lik (he told you) and gomar [< qamar, moon], common across all Gulf dialects. What is particularly of note here is the Saudi/Bedouin pronunciation [j] of the letter jīm in the verb ajīk, in contrast to its more common pronunciation as [y], a [j] > [y] shift common among the sedentary (i.e., non-Bedouin) population [ḥaḍar] in the rest of the Gulf region. Balqees thus sings ajīk and not *ayīk. Pronouncing the letter jīm as [y] is rare in musical recordings, unless a very local and folk flavor is sought, as opposed to television serials in which a more realistic approach to the standard urban colloquial pronunciation can be observed. This scarcity of the [j] > [y] shift in songs is yet another example of the speech levelling operation performed by songwriters and performers that creates this “white dialect” of sentimental songs, and also contributes to enable Khaleeji pop to reach audiences in other regions of the Arab world, in which this consonantal shift might make a common pan-dialectal word unrecognizable.55

  • 56 See Bassiouney 2009, p. 30. 

25The second song in the video, Hādha minū, on the other hand, exemplifies a different technique of dialect mixing, one that Myers-Scotton terms ‘intrasentential code-switching.’56 Here the dialect switching takes place within the same sentence, rather between sentences, as we saw in Majnūn above. The first verse:

هذا منو؟ هذا الحلو؟ /Hādha minū? Hādha l-ḥilw?

Who’s that? That handsome guy?

من نظرة دوخني وعلقني بشباكه/ Min naẓra dawwakhnī wa-‘allagnī bi-shibākah.

I fell for him at a single glance, and he caught me in his net.

أبي أكلمه، وكيف أوصله؟ /Abī akillimoh, wa-kēf awṣaloh?

I want to speak to him; how do I reach him?

خايف أقربله ويطلع ما يتحاكى/Khāyif agarrebloh wa-yiṭla‘ mā yitǝḥākā

I’m afraid if I get closer, he’ll turn out to be unfriendly (literally: “he won’t talk to me”).

26The overwhelming majority of the vocabulary here is in the Kuwaiti dialect, but with Saudi pronunciation. This includes, on the morphological level, the possessive pronoun in akillimoh and awṣaloh, which in Kuwaiti would be akallmah and awṣalah, with suffix -ah rather than -oh — while shibākah is pronounced with the “right” Kuwaiti suffix pronoun. This incoherence will only be noticed by linguists, but remains unremarkable for listeners —. On the phonological level, one hears in the verb yitḥākā the etymological kāf pronounced [k] in lieu of the Kuwaiti (and more generally Gulf region) fronted and affricated [č] (yitḥāčā). The paired songs, Majnūn and Hādha Minū, offer a remarkable example of how the Khaleeji white dialect can combine national, regional, and standard Arabic dialectical features into a single, coherent video clip. Although we can unpack and analyze the various linguistic details, as I have done here, the songs cannot be labelled, and are not understood, as belonging to any one region, nation or social group.

27In addition to the white dialect, another song, Wyāk Khidnī (Take Me with You), combines several countries’ popular and traditional cultures visually in a single clip. In this video, Balqees, appears in six scenes representing the most important Arab cultural stereotypes. The first stop in this dream sequence is Egypt, where Balqees works as the sassy Bint al-balad (popular neighborhood girl) in a street café, followed by a sudden shift to Moroccan style dress and decor. Next, she is in the Gulf, wearing a Kuwaiti-style burgaʿ (face veil), preparing Arabic coffee over a coal fire, before breaking into a short eight-count of Khaleeji style footwork and hair flips. Between short interludes of Khaleeji and Egyptian Stick dancing, she appears in a Levantine-style BBQ. Balqees is then dressed in drag as a young Iraqi boy sipping tea and cheering on a sports match at a Baghdadi tea house. Finally, in an homage to her Yemeni descent, she is a Yemeni bride, complete with Yemeni dress, jewelry, and male dagger dance.

  • 57 “Balqees - Wayyak Khedni”, 26 October 2016, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch (...)
  • 58 Majnūn, Majnūn inta ishjāk, ish-bīk majnūn, ishlūn ishlūn, nāwi ta‘ūfnī ishlūn (Hey crazy, what’s w (...)
  • 59 Mārūḥ mārūḥ illā ḥabībī wyāy mārūḥ, yā rūḥ yā rūḥ mā baʿd jurūḥī arūḥ (I won’t go, I won’t go, with (...)

28Linguistically, Wayyāk Khidhnī could be Saudi, Kuwaiti, or Iraqi.57 The only region-specific terms used in the song is the Iraqi for ‘what’s with you,’ ish-bīk (in contrast to to the Saudi-Kuwaiti ish-fīk) and ta‘ūfnī for ‘to leave me.”58 But the lines sung by the chorus are overwhelmingly in white dialect.59 This relatively short clip is another representation of the current state of cultural pluri-Arabism. Here Balqees, a pan-Gulf style singer is honoring the six major Arabic sub-cultures singing in the Iraqi-inflected white dialect of the Khaleej, fostering pan-Arab cultural sentiments, reaching a wider audience, and exposing the sub-cultures to each other. It is hard not to see this as a declaration that we are all Arabs, despite, or perhaps because of, our diverse regional cultures.

  • 60 “Balqees ft. Queen G - Hala Jdeeda (Dodom)”, 2 February 2021, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://you (...)

29Balqees’ 2021 album added a layer of Standard Arabic to her mix of lahja bayḍā style songs. In the clip for “Ḥāla jadīda,” (New Feeling) she adds a verse of intrasentential code-switching between generic lahja bayḍā and Standard Arabic, playing with the rhythm and pronunciation between the two registers.60 Today, dialects are manipulated to reach larger audiences while still representing national pride. Everyone is singing everything, touring all over, reaching wider audiences, and promoting mass cross-cultural exchange within the Arab world. Further investigation on this form of linguistic leveling in songs and other cultural productions is more than ever necessary.

The Multi-Dialectical Song

30A third example demonstrates a different impulse among contemporary trends in cultural pluri-Arabism. Rather than singing different songs in different dialects, as Assala does, or singing songs in a “white dialect” that is not identifiable as a specific national dialect, as Balqees does, songwriters and artists are producing songs that incorporate multiple dialects. This new trend combines various regional dialects and sub-cultural tropes within a single musical composition.

  • 61 Bassiouney 1993, p. 30.
  • 62 اغنية اللي شايف نفسه الأصلية- أحلام”, 7 December 2012, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtu (...)
  • 63 This is perhaps due to Kuwait’s role as Hollywood of the Gulf, and because Jeddah is the most progr (...)

31Examples of this include Hind al-Bahrainiyya’s “Lahjāt al- ‘Arab,” quoted in the introduction of this paper, as well as Ahlam al-Shamsi’s “Hādha -llī shāyif nafsah” (That Guy Who’s Full of Himself) and Tamer Hosni’s “Kull al-lahgāt” (All of the Dialects.) These songs also include ‘intersentential code-switching61 Ahlam’s “Hādha -llī shāyif nafsah,” does lyrically what Balqees’s “Wayyāk Khidhnī” does visually. The lines sung by the chorus are in white dialect.62 Each verse, however, describes a different Arab metropolis: Beirut, Jeddah, Cairo, Kuwait, Morocco, and Dubai. The verses utilize specific cultural tropes for each locality, like Beirut’s infamous nightlife and Cairo’s Nile promenade, and more importantly, region-specific colloquial terms and pronunciations, such as the verb yirmis (to speak) in Emirati and adverb ḥdāya (next to me) in Moroccan Arabic. The lyrics employ five of the six dialects’ words for “now”: hallaʾ in Lebanese, dilwaʾtī in Egyptian, al-ḥīn in both Kuwaiti and Emirati and dāba in Moroccan. The choices of locations and their order of appearance in the song are however intriguing: Beirut, Cairo, and Dubai are obviously Arab cultural centers, but why Kuwait? Why Jeddah, out of all the Saudi cities? Why Morocco as a whole and not a specific city?63 Nonetheless, this song brings together diverse Arabic dialects and Arab cultural tropes in a single song.

32As for the Egyptian pop star Tamer Hosni, he recorded a similar video clip where he references the many dialectal expressions for “a lot.” The chorus goes as follows: halba halba (Libyan,) barsha barsha (Tunisian,) marra marra (Saudi,) ktīr ktīr (Levantine,) bez-zāf (Moroccan/Algerian,) wāyid (Khaleeji,) ʾawī ʾawī (Egyptian.)64 Each verse of the song is in a distinctive dialect before the refrain of the chorus mentioned above. The importance of this clip is that Tamer is an Egyptian artist and not a Khaleeji citizen like Balqees, Ahlam or Hind, proving that this new cultural trend in pluri-Arabism is not exclusive to the Gulf or even the Levant, but is becoming firmly established even in the former center of Arab culture: Cairo. Not surprising, however, is his confused mishmash between feminine and masculine suffix pronouns, his wrongly un-affricated jīm pronounced [ž] instead of [j] and qāf wrongly pronounced [g] instead of correct [q] in qātilnī:65

shlōn ḥubbī, ishtag-lak galbī, yā damī w-čebdī, gātilnī žifāk

[instead of the correct: shlōn ḥubbī ishtag-lič galbī yā damī w-čebdī qātilnī jifāč]

How are you, my love? I miss you, my heart.

O my blood and my liver, your rejection is killing me.

  • 66 Lagrange 2018 explores the significance of considering the specificity of love songs and their voca (...)

33It is noteworthy that Hind al-Baḥrayniyya’s song quoted at the beginning of this article is also full of “mistakes,” from a purist’s perspective, in the lyrics as well as in her pronunciation of non-Gulfic dialects (“bǝddī yāk” for “bǝddī yēk,” confusion between singular and plural in the Moroccan section, etc.), and Aḥlām’s “Hādha -llī shāyif nafsah” is similarly replete with linguistic inconsistencies. For instance, in the first verse, “nesī layālī Bayrūt lammaʾallī baḥebbik mōt” (He forgot the nights of Beirut when he told me I adore you), Aḥlām’s “baḥebbik” is Egyptian, Palestinian, or Jordanian but not Lebanese, in which the correct form would be “bḥebbik” without the /a/ sound between /b/ and /ḥ/. In the following couplet, “fī l-qāhira ʿal-kurnīsh ʾallī min ghērik mā aʾdar aʿīsh” (In Cairo on the corniche, he told me I can't live without you), we can notice similar linguistic inaccuracies: the negation in Cairene Arabic should be “mā aʾdarsh aʿīsh” instead of “mā aʾdar aʿīsh” — however, incorporating the correct form might have been challenging within the constraints of the musical phrase —. Lyricists and artists might consider such observations as nitpicking, but they actually highlight an important aspect of such songs: their aim is not to precisely emulate a specific dialect, but rather to evoke it through phonological, morphological, or lexical markers, even if they are imprecisely placed. They are supposed to be recognized by all Arabic speakers, and to be appreciated as a tribute by native speakers of a given dialect, even if slightly erroneous.66 Singers and songwriters may have varying proficiency in dialects that are not their own, and they are obviously not academic dialectologists, nor are they expected to be. This is in sharp contrast to the past expectations of the 20th century Egyptian music industry, where there was an insistence that foreign singers perfectly master the Cairene dialect if they wanted to succeed. Examples can be seen in artists like the late Warda and Samira Said, who demonstrate pitch-perfect Cairo Arabic not only in their songs but also in interviews.

Conclusion

34This article has explored the transformative dynamics of Arab pop music in the context of cultural Pluri-Arabism, highlighting the shifting centers of Arab culture and identity. Emulating Egyptian legends like Umm Kulthūm and ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ, stars from other Arab countries were during the 20th century compelled to partly suppress their national identities and dialects to succeed in the cultural hub that was Cairo. However, the landscape of Arab pop music has evolved, and “Egyptianness” and Cairo are no longer the sole focal points. Instead, Dubai and the Gulf have emerged as leaders, exemplified by the phenomenon of the “white dialect” and the rise of artists who embrace their own dialects rather than solely relying on Egyptian Arabic. This transformation has been facilitated by the rise of satellite broadcasting, the internet, and the contributions of various artists, which have increased awareness among Arab youth of one another's cultures and dialects, fostering a sense of cultural Pluri-Arabism.

35However, it is crucial to acknowledge the role of financial support and the Dubai-Riyadh axis of soft power in shaping the financing and dissemination of contemporary Arab pop culture. Influential channels like MBC and Rotana reflect this influential axis, indicating the shifting centers of cultural influence within the region. Looking ahead, it is intriguing to consider the potential future developments in the Arab music and media industries. The emergence of Riyadh as a contender to challenge Dubai's supremacy and establish itself as a financial, touristic, and cultural leader highlights Saudi Arabia's efforts to transition its economy away from oil dependency and recenter its cultural influence afar from ultra conservative Islam. By attracting outside investment and keeping Saudi consumer dollars within the domestic economy, Riyadh aims to shape its own narrative as a dynamic and influential hub in the Middle East. The music and media industries are poised to play a pivotal role in this transformative process.

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Notes

1 “Hind AlBahrainya - Lahjat AlArab (Music Video),” https://youtu.be/2CVtPVITa-4, 16 April 2017, accessed 17 January 2024.

2 Special thanks to the editors and anonymous reviewers of this issue of Arabian Humanities for their valuable editorial guidance and support in the preparation of this article. Their insights and feedback greatly contributed to the refinement of my paper.

3 Lagrange 2022.

4 As suggested by an anonymous peer reviewer for this paper, Dubai and therefore the Dubai effect, is used here as “a portmanteau term actually meant to designate the pan-Arab cosmopolitan city where Arabic speakers of all regions meet and are forced to use various means to understand each other.”

5 Term coined with my doctoral advisor Dwight Reynolds.

6 Brettany 2012. 

7 Arab media studies scholar Marwan Kraidy studies and lays out the major trends Kraidy 2017. 

8 Lagrange & Chaveneau 2020. 

9 Several recent publications on the impact of pan-Arab TV and on the use and representations of Arabic vernaculars within those programs include Schulthies 2015, Farrag 2019, and Bassiouney 2015.

10 Sadek 2009.

11 While not writing exclusively on music, Amr Kamal explores Cairo’s reduced centrality in the media sphere in Kamal 2019.

12 Sadek 2009. It could have been added that Cairo also sang, danced and acted. This may have been true until the last quarter of the 20th century, when the balance started to change, and new players appeared.

13 Hourani 1991.  Albert Hourani, however, never used the term Nahḍa, nor did the first generation of “Nahḍāwīs” identify with such a term, see Hanssen & Weiss 2016.

14 Hanssen & 2016.

15 Holt 2013, p. 236. Cairo was simultaneously monocultured towards cotton production by the British colonial authorities.

16 Anderson 1991. 

17 Fahmy 2010. 

18 A movement heralded by “the dangers of imperialism, the hopes of a postcolonial project, and the ‘white heat’ of decolonization,” Nasserism was also, however, an articulation of an elitist state-led project of decolonization that centered the military, the state, and capitalism, leaving powerful legacies that would haunt Egypt’s future, see Salem 2020.

19 A noteworthy counter-example of Egyptian linguistic hegemony is the only commercially released non-Egyptian recordings of ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ, specifically his Kuwaiti recordings of 1965 (referenced in Fatḥī 2019, pp. 158-162). During private evenings, ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ also recorded excerpts of songs in other dialects, including Lebanese (Wadīʿ al-Ṣāfī’s “Wa-law”) and Moroccan (ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Dukkālī’s “Lā tas’anī” and “Ka-teʿjebnī”), which are now available on the internet However, it is important to note that his Kuwaiti songs were intended for commercial distribution, highlighting a significant difference.

20 Danielson, 1997,  Lohman 2013. 

21 Personal communication by Noha Forster, 14 Sept 2020. Born Jeanette Jirjis Fighālī to a Maronite Catholic family in a small-town north of Beirut in 1927, she married seven times and carried four passports, including Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian, and American. She took the stage name Ṣabāḥ (morning) when she launched her career. She began singing and acting in Egyptian films in the 1940s, and co-starred with many of the era's leading men, most notably Farīd al-Atrash and ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ.

22 Farīd al-Aṭrash’s career lasted almost five decades as he performed in over thirty films, was a musical composer, producer, oud virtuoso, and male musical.

23 Zuhur 2001, pp. 12-13.

24 Farīd Al-Aṭrash referenced the Pan-Arab dream of unity that was prevalent at the time during an interview in 1967. Speaking in the Egyptian dialect on Lebanese television he said, “I feel that we are one country (balad)” and how it has been his dream to reach this goal that we are one Arab people and not “Egyptian, Palestinian, Kuwaiti, Saudi or Lebanese, I can say that I am Arab! It makes me happy that this happened while I am alive.”. This quote proves that the cinema was able to create a cultural united Arab pop culture through the Egyptian dialect, despite its erasure of other lesser dialects.

25 Ibid, 12–13.

26 The album entitled “Arab Ambassador” has 7 tracks: one for the United Arab Emirates, two for Lebanon in the Lebanese dialect, two for Syria specifically Damascus, one for Jordan and one for Kuwait. She had also sung for Baghdad during a concert in the 1970’s not included in this album. The application Anghami dates the release of the album to 1998.

27 Stone 2008, p. 90.

28 23 Ibid,139.

29 Ibid, 139.

30 “Ya Magnon – Asala”, 21 November 2011, accessed 17 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RJgiPCCH38).

31 Kraidy 2016. Questions of national loyalty and patriotism were directed at Assala after the announcement in 2011 of a song that was biting towards Bashar al-Assad. The song “If Only This Chair Could Speak” was never officially released, and “only some lyrics were leaked online, and as a song’s lyrics performed to a melody, never existed.” Instead, in 2016, she released “ʿĒsh, Sukkar, Waṭan” (Bread, Sugar, Homeland), which took a more emotional direction towards the Syrian conflict, albeit in the Egyptian dialect.

32 Ibid, p. 151.

33 Biographical elements from the artist’s official site http://www.assala.ws/biography, accessed 25 October 2020, now offline.

34 Racy 2004. 

35 It is worth noting that Assala initially had a shaky mastery of the Egyptian accent, as evident in her pronunciation of certain words like “aḥwāl” in the phrase “el-ḥobb-e luh aḥwāl ketīr” (love induces many different states), where her Damascene accent differed from the standard Cairene pronunciation. However, her accent significantly improved as her career progressed.

36 Most notably Nizār Qabbānī’s Hādhī Dimashq, “Assala | Hazi Dimashq 2018”, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sph9MY63Qg). She has recorded and performed one Syrian “Bedouin” style single, Yā Khālī (O my uncle), “Assala - Ya khali”, 24 August 2013, accessed 18 January 2014. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKQA0wF8EFk).

37 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FHZXvR7EYY, accessed 18 January 2024.

38 Ibid. 2:14-2:33. She then states that “I know very well how to sing in Khaleeji too as if I am a Khaleejiyya.” She claimed that her knowledge came from her experiences with many dear friends from the Gulf where she would spend a great deal of her time to the point that she came to sing in the dialect well. The host then asked her to speak in Khaleeji, at which she completely failed with a charming smile.

39 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avMtvc9OSk4&t=28s, 2021, accessed 18 January 2024. 

40 Interview style TV program on LBC presented by leading presenter Lebanese-Armenian Nīshān

41 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nDFG7eH8g4, 11 July 2013, accessed 18 January 2024. Shām can designate, according to context, Damascus or Greater Syria (The Levant). In this case it is used in its local capacity, referring to Assala’s Damascene roots.

42 Shortly after she declares her love for Lebanon and sings Fairouz’s “Bḥebbak yā Lebnān.” Assala has sung this nationalistic classic of Fairouz’s several times before: with Egyptian pop star Sherine [Shirin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb] at the Murex d’Or ceremony in 2006 and on Star Academy in 2014.

43 She mentions that despite having friends she considers “family in Bahrain, friends in Qatar and a great deal of respect for many friends in Saudi”, it is not true that she has ever been paid or backed by any Arab state, other than for concerts or anything related to her work.

44 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh2PfSHP8Dg, 21 June 2018, accessed 18 January 2024.

45 Between her first concert for Eid al-Fitr in Riyadh in 2018 until her last concert in 2020 in the city of Qassim, I counted a total of 12 musical events.

46 The title of this modern ode, “The Remains,” references one of the most ancient tropes of Arabic poetry, the remains of an encampment after the Beloved has departed. The motif is repurposed in this poem to indicate the remnants of love. The performance of “al-Aṭlāl” is followed by another short excerpt of ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Ḥāfiẓ’s 1976 classic “Qāriʾat al-fingān.”

47 She declares the following : أحب الرياض. أسعد لحظات لما اكون معكم. بفرح لما اقابلكم، قمة الفخر! كل الفخر بحسه إني واحده منكم. ان بدايتي معكم وكأني انا وسعودية نسجنا خطة لحياتي كلها كانت سعيدة. دائما كنتوا انتو السند ودائما انتو المحبة ودائما كنتوا الأمان. انبسطت إني اليوم معكم. on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHwnjmg6wd4 1 October 2022, accessed 18 January 2024.

48 Van Kampen 2023.

49 Al-Rojaie 2020.

50 Hachimi 2013 draws attention to the hierarchies among the regional varieties of vernacular Arabic. In her article ‘The Maghreb-Mashreq Language Ideology and the Politics of Identity in a Globalized Arab World’ she explores the de/authentication of linguistic Arabness through a detailed analysis of a transnational pan‐Arab reality/talent TV shows.

51 Code-switching within the same sentence, a common feature of the Khaleeji white dialect’s use of Saudi, Kuwaiti and Iraqi.

52 In contrast to Saudi wish-fīnī and Iraqi ish-bīnī.

53 I classify mābī (I don’t want) as exclusively Kuwaiti here, while it is used in other Gulf dialects but with less national unity. Bahrainis use mābī but with a different stress on long vowel /ā/. In the UAE, māba is most common, while in KSA, mabghī or mabghā are most common.

54 “Balqees | Majnoun Video Clip”, 24 October 2013, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-zrhvMN0rA) 2:07-2:44.

55 See Holes 1995, 2006, 2011.

56 See Bassiouney 2009, p. 30. 

57 “Balqees - Wayyak Khedni”, 26 October 2016, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0Srp-n6C88).

58 Majnūn, Majnūn inta ishjāk, ish-bīk majnūn, ishlūn ishlūn, nāwi ta‘ūfnī ishlūn (Hey crazy, what’s with you, you crazy! How do you want to leave me? How!)

59 Mārūḥ mārūḥ illā ḥabībī wyāy mārūḥ, yā rūḥ yā rūḥ mā baʿd jurūḥī arūḥ (I won’t go, I won’t go, without my darling with me, I won’t go. Oh soul oh soul, not after being hurt, I won’t go). The lyrics indicated in Arabic script on the Youtube page (referenced in note 57) are faulty: the singer clearly pronounces baʿd jurūḥī and not ما بعدج روح.

60 “Balqees ft. Queen G - Hala Jdeeda (Dodom)”, 2 February 2021, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://youtu.be/hFHnAmxyYTw). Example of mixed lahja bayḍāʾ and Modern Standard Arabic lyrics: Idhā māhū gharām idhā mū ḥubb hādhā, idhā māhū al-hawā idhā mū ‘ishg, mādhā yakūnu qad aṣābanī anā wa-qalbī? limādhā kullamā ra’ītuhu limādhā? (If this is not passion, if this is not love, if this is not infatuation, if this is not devouring flames, then what is this that touched me and my hear, every time I see him, why?)

61 Bassiouney 1993, p. 30.

62 اغنية اللي شايف نفسه الأصلية- أحلام”, 7 December 2012, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPpawr3x6u4), 0:09-0:28 Hadhā illī shāyif nafsah, māshī walā mʿabbirnī yitlaffat hinā wa-hināk walā kinnah shāyifnī (He who is too full of himself walking by and not noticing me. He looks here and there as if he doesn’t see me.)

63 This is perhaps due to Kuwait’s role as Hollywood of the Gulf, and because Jeddah is the most progressive city in Saudi Arabia.

64 “Kol Al Lahgat - Tamer Hosny,” 16 August 2014, accessed 18 January 2024 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9Bs29m8vGk), 0:12-0:20.

65 Ibid, 2:43-2:54

66 Lagrange 2018 explores the significance of considering the specificity of love songs and their vocabulary, as referenced in the main text. The paper draws attention to the distance that separates the “language of songs” from everyday language practice in dialectal Arabic, and to the mutually reflective effects between this practice and its literary representation in song.

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Richard Nedjat-Haiem, « The Dubai Effect: From Egyptocentricism to Gulf-based Pan-Arabism in Arab Pop Songs », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 18 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2023, consulté le 17 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cy/11395 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cy.11395

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Richard Nedjat-Haiem

University of California, Santa Barbara

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