We, Arabs, are notorious for drawing inspiration from foreign bands and singers. When our mainstream artists do it, it mostly ends in comedic disaster. Think of that time Hamada Helal decided to be Spongebob and that other time Amr Diab decided to make an Arabic version of “Sway” and you’ll get where I’m going with this.
But when indie artists decide to add their own spin on popular foreign tracks, they simply dazzle. They take their own distinctive sound and adapt it to an already well-known track producing a hybrid of both that leaves us blissfully musically tipsy and yearning for more.
Here are my favourite picks from a pool of truly impressive covers:
Hassan Ramzy – “Wicked Games”
A young, soulful, Egyptian voice so versatile that it can immaculately cover starkly different tunes, from “Hallelujah” to “Somebody that I Used to Know”. My all-time favourite cover of his, however, definitely has to be “Wicked Games”, originally sung by The Weeknd.
Hayajan – “Comfortably Numb”
One surely has to have pretty unshakeable guts, not to mention an enormous amount of talent, to cover musical giants like Pink Floyd, and the members of the Jordanian band Hayajan seem to have been blessed with both.
Mashrou’ Leila – “Toxic”
How can an Arab rock band cover American pop’s own national anthem? Well, they do it with as much confidence as Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila’s by completely Arabizing the lyrics, while still cheekily keeping them risqué, and adding that irresistible rock flare to Britney Spear’s coveted song.
Malak – “Sweater Weather”
Malak’s infectious free spirited vibe took an already laid back song to an even calmer, more relaxing place. The Neighbourhood created an amazing tune and Malak did them justice with her easy-on-the-ears vocals.
Ahmed Safi – “Fly Me to the Moon”
One would think that anyone attempting to cover Frank Sinatra is helplessly delusional, but just a few seconds into Safi’s beautiful cover and that opinion is pretty much reversed. His deep vocals are right on point and I’m confident Mr. Sinatra would be proud.
Luciana Zoghbi – “All Of Me”
When the Lebanese/Brazilian crooner decided to take on John Legend’s beloved single, she literally left us all awestruck. Her cover, which went viral on YouTube, is pretty simple yet haunting.
Alaa Wardi – “Royals”
This Jordanian gem’s cover can only be described as a delightful quirk-fest; from hilarious silly faces to a background seemingly made of post-its, Alaa is as endearing as ever. Musically, the cover is truly remarkable.
Hana Malhas – “Skinny Love”
With her tender voice, Jordanian singer Hana Malhas covers Bon Iver’s most popular song to date. She seems to effortlessly and flawlessly belt out the admittedly hard to perfect tune live.
Covering songs can be quite a slippery slope, for if not done well, covers can truly backfire in the face of the unfortunate artists. Managing to faultlessly cover such hugely popular songs, the Arab artists above have certainly established themselves as musically malleable performers, whose unique sounds are not just limited to their original tracks.
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