The Middle East is full of artists that are pushing musical boundaries, and if you're not in the know, then it's time to get acquainted with some of the best musicians coming out of the region.
We've put together a few of our favourite Middle Eastern Artists to explain what makes them so great, and why you should check out what music they've been making.
Chyno With A Why?
Syrian/Filipino rapper/producer Chyno With A Why? has made waves with his recent album, Mamluk, which is an exploration of migrant communities across the globe. He infuses historical themes, the issues around the Lebanese revolution, as well as his experiences living as a bi-racial person in an Arab world.
Initially studying financial management, the transition to hip-hop is one that's been well-received by his family (except by his father - but they don't really speak about it). His uncle had a music shop in Damascus in the 1980s, and that's partly where his love of music came from, helping out in his uncle's store.
Speaking to Qantara, he says he raps in both English and Arabic based on what the project he's working on requires. "I think in English most of the time, but when I write in Arabic it’s as if the ideas flow from my memory. I feel more comfortable in English than in Arabic, that’s for sure.
"It’s natural for me because it is both the language I speak and the one I have chosen for myself. I would be better at freestyling in English than in Arabic. But, of course, when I rap, I can do it in both languages."
Ali Gatie is an Iraqi-Canadian singer, and growing up as a Muslim in Canada has helped to influence the themes of his music. Speaking to Variety, he says, "Being an immigrant in general in any country is always a challenge.
"It’s an interesting thing because you have your own culture that your family’s bringing you up with, then you simulate with whatever country you’re in. Where I grew up was multicultural –many Muslims and Asian people — and now that have fans all over the world, I have an appreciation for all their cultures. It’s been a positive thing for sure."
He's worked with artists like Alessia Cara, Tate McRae and more, and while he might be known for his sadder songs, there's another side of him, too. He's looking to leave a legacy behind, too, telling Complex that he wants to inspire other "immigrant kids" to make music. "I want to be that example that first Muslim Arab artist to have a No. 1 single or album. I think it’s a statement for that community. So my hope once I make it big commercially is that the next kid would be able to tell their parents about pursuing music.
"Like, “Damn, Ali was just another immigrant kid with no connections or anything." It doesn't even have to be an immigrant kid, but even the average Joe who just loves music and wants to work hard."
Flamingods are a four-piece alternative rock band formed in 2010, hailing from both London and Bahrain. They blend Western psychedelia with Eastern musical influences. They've released four albums so far, with number five currently in the works.
Speaking to Indeflagration, the band says they got their start after a jam session. "We were jamming at ATP Festival in the UK, a big jam. Many strangers joined us, forming a communal jam which gave birth to great melodies. And then, we knew what we wanted to do. It was a good jumpstart."
Their latest album, Levitation, was the first once they've written all together - speaking to Source, band member Charles Prest described the process. "This was the first time we’d all been together since we started the band back in 2010. Our lead singer, Kamal (Rasool), had to leave the UK due to new visa laws, so a lot of our previous pieces were us writing music from abroad – Kamal and I used to live in Dubai and we’d send music across the internet and make a patchwork album with the band members in the UK.
"So, this time around was the first time in a long time that we were able to get together in one room and actually write the music together in a single space. Being together to make the album made everything more cohesive and we could gather our ideas a lot quicker. It was a lot less writing online about what we want to do, and actually just doing it. It was really freeing for us." The album was inspired by a lot of 70s disco funk, so you'll want to get the disco ball out when you're listening to Flamingods.
Going from medical school to becoming a rapper is a big jump, but if you're The Synaptik, then it's paid off. Graduating from medical school in 2018, aged 25, the Palestinian-Jordanian rapper has been making music since he was 17 - and medicine was his way of supporting his rap career.
While studying for med-school, he built himself a computer to make beats. It was his way of getting around the cost of equipment, something that can be prohibitive. He's now a practicing physician, which allows him to continue growing his music career.
He primarily raps in Arabic (as seen on his debut album Om Al Mawjat), though he originally learnt to rap in English. His music discusses travel, migration and being able to move freely - as an artist, he's found himself being restricted by where he can travel. However, that hasn't stopped his popularity, and he's now often considered the Arab world's 'Trap King'.
After writing her debut album, Between City Walls, as part of a university project, Maysa Daw released the album in 2017. It's a guitar-driven album, and the Palestinian musician touches on topics like equality, politics, and the search for freedom under occupation.
Speaking about how her music and politics intertwine, she tells About Her she feels a responsibility to make her voice heard. "I do talk about politics, but only because it’s a big part of my life, whether I want it to be or not. And believe me, I don’t. But it is a part of my life. I started loving music way before I even understood what politics is. I only wanted to make music.
"But with time I understood more about the responsibility that I could accept to have – not exactly a responsibility, but a sort of a privilege. I have this voice that I can use and it has the potential to reach a lot of people. It made me realise that I can use this to talk about things that many other people can’t talk about.”
Her music combines sounds like samples of classical Arabic songs, Spanish Guitar, and voice recordings of people in the West Bank. She's intent on using her platform to continue spreading the message of how Palestinians are treated under Israeli rule, and she's doing it her way.