In the last one or two decades, the music scene in the MENA region has seen a lot of changes. Probably due to the world turning into a small village, making every aspect of life from different cultures something to either adapt, copy, or get inspired by. Granted it’s a double-edged sword but when it comes to music, especially in our region, it is a great thing. Why is it such a great thing? Well, all the alternative bands from across the region perfectly mix the west and the east, the past and the future, to give us authentic modern works of art and entertainment that speak to our young, heavily culturally blended generations. So here’s a list of 10 of the best alternative MENA region bands, seasoned and up-and-coming, that you need to keep an ear out for!
Starting light with the Lebanese indie-pop band, formed in 2011 consisting of four members, Anthony Khoury (vocals, keys) and Joey Abou Jawdeh (guitar), Nicola Hakim on drums and Gio Fikany on bass guitar.
Renowned for its signature Arabic lyrics and blistering live performances, Adonis performed at major venues and independent festivals across the Arab world, such as the Amman Roman Amphitheater, Most recently, the band celebrated its 10-years anniversary on Dubai Expo 2020’s Jubilee Stage. They also hosted the first Covid-free large-scale event in Lebanon since the start of the pandemic, where 7,000 devoted fans gathered at the Beirut Hippodrome to sing along their Adonis favorites.
Still, in the Levantine region with Akher Zapheer, a grunge rock band formed in 2007, they had their ups and downs with switching and replacing members but the now active members are Basem Sayej as the frontman, Rami Alqasem basset, Amr Abukhlif guitarist, Masis Mardirossian on drums.
The band is widely successful across the region with live performances all over the Arab world and headlining music festivals in Egypt and Jordan.
Their music is highly relatable, with lyrics discussing modern issues of culture and intersectionality rapped in the coolest modern rock tunes.
The most favorite in the region, yet the most controversial, which makes a lot of sense don’t you think? Controversy aside, this Lebanese indie rock band consists of the one and only vocalist/lyricist Hamed Sinno, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Firas Abou Fakher, violinist Haig Papazian, and drummer Carl Gerges.
They formed back in their university days, in 2008 as a group project. They’re one of the few bands that made waves not just in the region but internationally too, so much so that they have been described as “The voice of their generation’ (CNN), ’the most successful Arabic-language band internationally’ (The Guardian), and “the new face of Middle Eastern pop music” (Dazed).
Even though they are banned from performing in Egypt, the good news is that Mashrou’ Leila is currently working on their fifth studio album. And all of us fans can’t wait.
Back to Jordan with one of the region’s most favorite bands, Jadal is an alt-rock band formed in 2003 by multi-talented frontman Mahmoud Radaideh. The band had many members over the years playing many instruments to create their unique authentic sound.
With four albums under their belt, many live shows, and headlining in many music festivals, Jadal is and hopefully will always be a pillar and one of the founding groups of the “Independent Arabic Music Scene”, they have been described as transforming the barren desert into a musical jungle” by Cairo Scene.
Egypt’s first entry in the list, a beloved, chill, rock band from Alexandria. With a solid fan base in the entire Arab world. They officially launched in 2005, consisting of 4 musicians back then Ayman Massoud, Hany El Dakkak, Ahmed Hafez, and Tamer Attallah. Then Mahmoud Siam joined the band in 2008.
With notable performances across the MENA region and three full-length albums under their belt, this band is one of a kind and a healing soft rock sound that makes listeners and fans always reminisce for simpler more beautiful past times.
Formed in 2009, the Jordanian rock band gained huge popularity with their self-titled debut album, and with a growing fan base both in the Arab world and internationally they were able to release their sophomore album in 2015.
The band sound is a perfect mix of west and east with a focus on topics like love, self-loathing, and modern social problems.
Egypt’s elicit rock band that needs no introduction, formed in 2003 and blew up in 2011 due to their political songs, they made a huge genre shift musically and lyrically while still dominating the independent Arabic music scene both locally and regionally.
Also with a solid fan base and the forever funny and relatable frontman Amir Eid, the band is not showing any sign of stopping or slowing down.
This Jordanian indie band was formed in 2007, with four studio albums under their belt and a music sound that is really unique to them. Sonically inspired by different western genres like reggae, rock, and funk. Lyrically though they sing about everyday life and struggles in Jordan and the MENA region.
The funky, funny, laid-back reggae band from Egypt is a staple in all trips and sea-side campings. With their scat style of lyrics and funk. Sometimes a jazzy sound. This band was a must in every ad in every product in Egypt. Of course, up until trap music took the scene by storm.
A Jordanian band formed in 2011, a debut album in 2013, and a sophomore album in 2019.
The band members are always changing and through utilizing different instruments to blend between rock and pop, the band ensures a truly special sound that moves the feelings as much as the body, their song Wen El Kalaam is a must-listen for its nostalgic, tranquil vibe.
A fresh hard rock band with an interesting tone, different from any other Egyptian band. They recently formed in March 2018 with six members starting with keyboardist and songwriter Nour Eldeen Khaled, rhythm guitarist Hassan Araby, and lead guitarist Mohammed Selim. The three worked on original material. Then joined by lead singer Sherif Tantawy, drummer Marwan Khalil, and bassist Mostafa Nazir.
Even though they’re fairly new on the scene, their style of rock is familiar yet truly unique to them at the same time. With that distinctive sound, they are just starting to make their way to producing a rock sound that feels native to the region.
Alternative rock band from Cairo, Egypt. Formed in 2014 aiming to introduce rock music to the Arabic musical scene using Arabic lyrics, and a more Americanized sound and tone.
The band members are Mohamed Abdelrazik Guitarist, Songwriter, and Composer. Amr Beshr Lead Guitarist. Maged Amer Vocalist. Moataz El-Nashar Bassist and Backing Vocals. AJ El-Gohary Drummer.
The band has two full-length albums, their self-titled debut album in 2016, and sophomore album “Al Sad3” in 2018. They’ve done many live shows in many venues and rock festivals in Egypt.
Kato Hafez Project
The idea of forming the band came to the frontman Kato Hafez, after the high demand from listeners of his mini-album, so to play his music live the band came to be in 2019 and started practicing in 2021.
Band members are Kato Hafez (lead vocalist and electric guitarist), Hossam Mashaly (electric guitarist), Gasser Helal (bass guitarist), and Ahmed El-Kholy (drummer).
They are generating a huge reaction with their live shows, all their small concerts are sold-out in minutes, and honestly, if the future holds a full-length album for them it will dominate the scene.
All the way from UAE, the trio consists of singer and guitarist Saif Sami, Drummer Samier Sami, and Bassist Marwan El Messeery. They joined YouTube in August 2012.
There are only 6 singles released from the band until now with their debut single called “Killing Me Psycho” released in Dec. 2019 and their latest single released in Oct. 2021 called “Atone.” Their sound is really unique, wavers between heavy rock with some elements of classic rock and even a hint of swag.
Metarust is getting quite the support locally and internationally, playing small gigs at different venues in Dubai, gaining hundreds of thousands of streams on music streaming platforms.
Be sure to add these bands to your playlists!