Music is an important way of expressing culture, identity and individuality. There are many talented Arab singers and artists who are known across the Middle East, some of them even worldwide.
What I love most about Arabic music is its diversity. Arabic music has a large variety of genres and musical instruments. There is traditional Arabic music, modern Arab pop music, rai, Arab hip hop music and much more. Most songs focus on love and longing, some carry societal or political messages as well.
Many of the most famous Arab singers are from Lebanon or Egypt. However, almost all Arab countries have produced artists that have left a footprint in Arabic music. Please note that this list isn’t about who is the most famous or successful singer of all. I’m listing singers from across the Arab world, from the Levant to the Gulf region to North Africa, from really famous stars to newcomers.
Let’s take a look at 10 popular Arabic singers from across the Arab world that you should know about.
The Lebanese singer Fairuz is definitely one of the most celebrated singers in the Arab world. Although she’s considered from an older era, her songs are timeless and still played widely today across the Arab countries. What’s special about Fairuz is her distinctive voice. She is known to be the voice Arabs want to listen to in the morning over coffee to start their day in the right spirit.
While her music is truly legendary, there are more things that contributed to the fame of Fairuz. She collaborated with the Rahbani brothers (Lebanese composers and songwriters), one of whom she later married. Their songs have received wide appeal not only in Lebanon but the entire Arab region.
Besides, Fairuz is known for her political stance to which she dedicated several songs such as Al Quds al Atiqah (Old Jerusalem) and Raji’un (We shall return).
2. Amr Diab
Amr Diab is a famous Arab singer, actor and composer from Egypt. He’s probably the most globally known Arabic singer. His song Nour El Ain (light of my eyes) was an international hit in the 2000’s.
Amr Diab holds a Guinness World Record for being the highest best selling Middle Eastern artist. Besides, he has won the World Music Awards seven times and the Platinum Records five times.
What distinguishes Amr Diab from other Arab singers is his unique and modern music style. His rhythms are a blend of western and Egyptian. That not only makes him famous in the Middle East but also internationally. In fact, his songs have been translated to seven languages and are performed by international artists worldwide. He was also the first Arab singer to make high-tech music videos.
3. Nancy Ajram
Nancy Ajram is a Lebanese singer, television host and businesswoman. She is known as the “Queen of Arab Pop”. What makes her stand out are her sweet voice and demeanor.
With the support of her father, Nancy Ajram began performing as a child and appeared on several television shows in her early years. She was able to catch the eye of the Arab audience. At the age of 15, she already had a record deal and was slated to release her own debut album.
Although she has been successful from a young age, her real fame began when she collaborated with the famous Lebanese producer Jiji Lamara. Her song “Akhasmak Ah” was her breakthrough single which helped her to totally reinvent her music style and image. Nancy Ajram soon lost her childlike image and became one of the most famous Arab singers worldwide. She is the youngest Arab artist to win a World Music Award.
Elissar Zakaria Khoury, or better known as just Elissa, is one of Lebanon’s most proclaimed music artists. Elissa has been working in the music industry since the early 1990’s. In fact, she first came onto the music scene in 1992 when she won second place in a music competition. In 1999, she released the song Bassi Doub (I want to melt) which helped her to climb the ladder to stardom. Fast forward today, she has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Elissa is known to be only the richest and most famous Lebanese artists.
Singing is not the only thing Elissa is good at. She has a business mindset which helped her become one of the most successful Arab stars. She’s appeared in various TV shows and collaborated with major fashion brands. Graduating with a degree in political science, she is known for her engagement in women’s rights and peace campaigns.
Sherine is an Egyptian singer with an interesting story. She was born into a middle class family in Egypt. Sherine’s music teacher discovered her vocal talent when she was still a young girl. She convinced Sherine’s mother to take her to the Cairo Opera House to meet an Egyptian classical music conductor. When Sherine sang for him, he was so impressed by her voice that he gave her the opportunity to sing at the Cairo Opera House. Her appearances there have initiated her success.
At the age of 18, she met with famous director and music producer Nasr Mahrous who paired her with Tamer Hosny, another upcoming talent. The two created duet songs and a joint debut album together that became a huge hit in the Middle East. Some of Sherine’s most famous songs are Kolly Melkak (I’m All Yours) and Mashaer (Feelings).
Born in Damascus (Syria) to a middle class family, Assala started her music career at the age of four. With the support of her father, she sang religious, patriotic and children’s songs.
Her actual music debut started with the release of her first album. The album was characterized by the so called tarab style, which means an emotional music style. The best known songs of that album are “Ya Sabra Yana” and “Samehtak Ketir.”
Over the years, Assala has proven that her voice can be sweet and strong. She’s released various songs with stronger tones. Through her music, she shows support for the Syrian people and expressed her position on the civil war in her country. In 2022, she sang at the International Peace day as the ambassador for “Peace Building Through Music.”
7. Kadim Al Sahir
Kadim Al Sahir (originally Kadim Jabbar Al Samarai) is a famous Iraqi composer and singer. In the Arab world, he is known as a singer who still holds onto old traditions and music styles. Kadim Al Sahir usually performs with an orchestra of 20-30 musicians. Besides, he uses classic Arabic music instruments such as the oud (a short neck lute type pear shaped instrument) and the qanun (also a string instrument.) He rarely uses electronic musical sounds or synthesizers to duplicate acoustic instruments. His music style is strongly influenced by Iraqi folk melodies and instruments.
Unfortunately, Kadim Al Sahir did not have the support from his parents which other Arab singers had. On the contrary, his family was against the idea of him becoming a musician. Their reasoning was that being a musician wasn’t considered a respectable profession in Iraq.
Nevertheless, Kadim Al Sahir followed his path. He moved to Lebanon where he entered a collaboration with the famous Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani. From that time, his career flourished. The combination of Qabbani’s lyrics and Kadim’s compositions resulted in countless famous hits that were celebrated across the Arab world.
Let’s move on from the Levant to the Gulf region. While most Arabic singers are Egyptian or Lebanese, there are some famous artists from the Gulf countries too.
One example is the Emirati singer Ahlam. Ahlam was born to an Emirati folk singer and a Bahraini mother.
Ahlam’s singing voice and style is purely Khaleeji (meaning her style is specifically from the Gulf region). Nevertheless, her distinct and powerful voice allowed her to claim her spot amongst the top Arabic singers in the Middle East.
Ahlam is known for hits such as Goul Ani Ma Tigoul (Say What You Say About Me) and Tedri Lesh (You Know Why). Besides, she regularly participates in festivals around the world and recently joined the panel at Arab Idol.
Another important region that has many famous Arabic singers is North Africa (Maghreb). While most Moroccan and Algerian singers aren’t as famous as some Egyptian and Lebanese artists, they shouldn’t be missing on this list. One of the most popular Moroccan singers is Douzi.
The famous Moroccan pop singer was interested in music from a very young age. Since he was three years old, Douzi had his family’s full support in regards to his passion for music. He started to sing in public and participated in TV programs.
Douzi was lucky to have his brother Kader who was a former singer, songwriter and composer as his manager and a strong factor in his success. Kader composed Douzi’s first hit “La lil Harb” (no to war) that catapulted him into the music scene. Douzi then went on to make hits such as “Laayoun Ainiya”, “Douni Lebladi”, “Lmouja”, and “Dina”. Douzi also sets himself apart by being able to sing in several languages such as French, English, Spanish, Turkish and even Hindi.
10. Mok Saib
Let’s end this list with one of many talented newcomers that are continuing the success of Arabic music.
Mok Saib is an Algerian music artist currently living in the UK. He originally started his career with breakdancing. He then learned to play the guitar, joined numerous bands and performed Arabic covers of popular English-speaking songs.
Mok Saib grew a large following on his YouTube channel by posting dance and music videos. His popular video “Tal Ghayabek Ya Ghazali – Hasni,” earned a whopping 6 million views in 2016. What makes Mok Saib special is the personal touch that he integrated into his songs. His wife figures in some of his songs, while another one is dedicated to his grandmother.
Celebrate the Diversity of Arab Singers
From Fairuz, Nancy Ajram to Mok Saib – this list is to demonstrate the diversity and versatility of Arab singers. Each of these singers has their own unique style and message to communicate through their music. Thanks to YouTube and social media, Arabic music has become famous far beyond the Arab countries.
In addition to these 10 Arabic singers, there are many more that totally deserve being mentioned and listened to. Egyptian singers Tamer Hosny, Mohamed Hamaki or Mohmed Ramadan have landed many hits throughout the past decade. Moroccan Saad Lamjarred spreads joy throughout his vibrant and modern music style.
Explore Arab Culture & Traditions
Are you interested in Arab culture? You’ve come to the right place! This blog is about all things Middle Eastern. You’ll find plenty of useful articles here to immerse yourself in the Arabic language, culture and cuisine.
Any questions or feedback? Leave me a comment in the comment section down the page. I’d love to hear from you!