With every decade, there are always a collection of songs that are timeless, adored, and remembered by every generation. In the Arab world, classics like Sayid Darwish’s 20’s hit “Zorouny Kol Sana Marra” would come to mind, or the 40’s adored tune “Ana Alby Daleely” sung by the gorgeous Laila Mourad.
If that is too big a step back in time and instead you are craving some 90s nostalgia, we have got you covered with a specially curated playlist of the biggest hits that are still adored to this day.
“Nour El Ain” -Amr Diab
A timeless legend, Amr Diab has been with us from the start whether it’s gracing our radios in the 80s, swooning our hearts in the 2000s, or pumping us with energy at his live concerts during the 2010s. He is a global star, loved worldwide, and even has a Guinness world record to boot.
In the 90s, the artist did not disappoint dropping one of his biggest hits in 1996, “Nour El Ain.” With his signature slick-backed hairstyle and khaki outfit, the artist takes us on a journey to a village akin to rural Spain with women donned in multi-colored dresses and flowing scarves. Joined by an upbeat accordion and guitar ensemble, Diab sings his heart out, uttering his infamous ‘habibi’ (my love) to his hypothetical lover in the bright courtyard.
Ever since its release, the song was not only a smash hit in the Arab world, but it was also an instant international sensation where several crossovers of the song were made in countries like Pakistan, Argentina, and South Africa.
“Ya Magnon” – Assala
Known for her strong, melodious vocals and emotionally fueled music videos, the Syrian star known to everyone as Assala has been rising in popularity since releasing her first album in 1991. Two years later, she became an instant sensation with her album Law Terafo. Today, she continues to release hit after hit, with her latest being La Testaslem and Shayfa Feek.
To this day, the one song that is so well-loved that it has become intrinsically associated with the singer is her classic 1999 hit “Ya Magnon.” Shot in a picturesque and rustic setting with a majestic waterfall in the background and a horse galloping through a stable, Assala taps into her powerful vocals to express her frustration and longing for her handsome lover. Throughout the video, the camera would alternate between Assala and the male protagonist as she passionately sings while he gracefully strums on his guitar. So, if you are also in the midst of a relentless crush and can’t seem to get out of that sickening love spell, then add this song to your playlist.
“Abdel Kader” – Faudel, Khaled, and Rachid Taha
Cheb Khaled also known as “King of Raï” is probably the most famous Algerian singer to hit the stage. His biggest hits “C’est La Vie” and “Didi” topped the charts in countries like France, Belgium, and Spain and were even featured in Bollywood films. Peaking in the 80s and 90s, the artist blossomed after revolutionizing the Algerian desert blues genre of Rai by using drum machines, syncs, and guitars to modernize the genre.
When it came to his 1993 single “Abdel Kader”, a song about the 12th-century Sufi saint Shaikh Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, the song became an instant hit after it was performed live at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy that brought together the Algerian trio of Khaled, Faudel and Rachid Taha on one stage. Donned in 70s-style patterned shirts and long flowy hair, together, the trio was dynamic, each one belting out the song in a state of vigor and intensity that brought the power of the song to the forefront. That is why, to this day, it is an unforgotten masterpiece.
“Al Sood Oyouno” – Mostafa Amar
With Mostafa Amar, the dreamy green-eyed singer known for upbeat romantic ballads, it was all about the 1990s as that was when he dropped the infamous album, Wassuf and from there, his career only skyrocketed. The 90s were also a time when the artist released his special song “Al Sood Oyouno” in 1998, an ode to a beautiful woman with black pearl eyes.
Just like Amr Diab’s Nour El Ain, Al Sood Oyouno is a song that lives and breathes the essence of a typical 90s hit from the themed dance number with Mostafa Amar in the center to the upbeat, catchy music that you can’t help but dance to. A fun tip would be to make sure you are listening to this song during rush hour so you have your very own safe, accident-free dance party.
“Mandam A’leyk” – Nawal Al Zoghbi
The Lebanese singer whose career took off in the 90s is an eclectic gem of rich talent. She started off by dancing and singing traditional Arabic music immersed with traces of pop then made a complete 360 shift when she began singing songs in a Gulf dialect. Emotion and passion are distilled in every song she belts out just like Assala.
When it came to the 90s, the artist put out a song that rose to popular acclaim known as Mandam A’leyk. The song in itself was a smash hit while the video added another layer to the entire flavor of the classic tune. Tapping into the black-and-white Noir feel of the 1930s, we follow Al Zoghbi in a music video that alternates from scene to scene in the beat of the song’s quick tempo, giving off a dramatic and cinematic feel to the song. It all mirrors the singer’s inner turmoil as she regrets the love she has for the main protagonist and is battling it internally. Whenever you’re in a similar pent-up emotional state and feeling distressed over your lover, this is a great song to tap into.
“Qoulee Ouhibbouka” – Kazem El Saher
Known as a charming, poetic singer who dips into the beauty and power of the Arabic language with his enchanting ballads, El Sahar is one of the most popular Iraqi singers who has been adored both regionally and globally. Always accompanied by an orchestra of at least 20 musicians, his songs give off high-spirited and powerful energy.
The same can be said for his ultimate 90s classic, “Qoulee Ouhibbouka” packed with rich poetic lyrics that communicate how much he yearns to be loved by the woman of his dreams. He would sing out that just by receiving her love, he would literally light up or that his fingers would turn into literal gold. Every word he would sing would beautifully communicate his love and that is why, to many, the song was the true exemplification of a pure confession of love. Put this song on if you are feeling an extra tinge of romance and want to go into an imaginary montage with your dream lover.
Now with your next car ride, you have a playlist ready that will bring out your emotional side while tapping into some much-needed nostalgia. Let us know which songs made it to your very own 90s playlist.