Read the first part of this posting.
I remember one day at a hotel in Jeddah, there was a group of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims chatting and sitting in a lounge. I was walking towards the lounge, when suddenly Haifa Wehbe‘s video clip Ya Hayat Alby was shown on TV (watch it! so you know what I’m talking about 😛 ). I saw everyone watching the clip with a SURPRISE look. One of the men commented, “Oh my God! Do Arabs really dress like that?!?” I smiled and said to myself, “Ooohh yeah!” A lot of people think that the Arabs always dress modestly (i.e. conforms to Islamic rules). Some even think that they wear hijab and abaya all the time. Well, it really depends on which country you’re talking about. If you go to the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut, don’t be surprised that people dress like Hollywood stars over there hehe :D. It’s worth knowing that hijab and abaya are no longer compulsory in the Middle East, except in Saudi Arabia and Iran. And I have to say that most of the time, Arabs do dress much “extreme” than the Indonesians.
Anyway, let’s get on to the main topic! For those of you who have never heard of Haifa Wehbe: she’s regarded as Marilyn Monroe of the Middle East. She is known as a sex symbol along with Egyptian singer Ruby, whose video clip was criticised. She was even named as one of the Most Desirable Women by AskMen.com. Due to her sensual and seductive image, she has been criticised for many times — was blamed recently by the Egyptian Musician Association for the increase of divorce and drug abuse rates (!?). It’s also reported that Haifa was once banned from entering Egypt and rejected by officials to hold a concert in Morocco.
Appearance. Looks. Sex appeal. Skimpy dress. That’s how the “new generation singers” appear on their video clips nowadays. Yes, true; such videos are no longer uncommon in the West — but NOT in the Arab world. Honestly, I have no idea who started making those “surprising” videos, but I remember that Elissa, a popular Lebanese singer, was one of few celebrities who took a bold step introducing this new look. Her first Spanish-Arabic single titled Baddi Doub, which was released in 1998 was a shocked for many people (the clip is nothing compared to Haifa’s clip — but since no one had done it before, it became a hot topic). Although her video clip drew criticism from the public audience, the album was proved to be successful. Up until now, she has released 5 albums and received two World Music Awards for best-selling Middle Eastern artist in 2005 and 2006. Several new artists emerged after Elissa’s surprising success; among them were Nancy Ajram, Haifa Wehbe, and Ruby.
How different have these new generation singers changed compared to those who rose to fame in the early 1990’s? Honestly, I saw quite a huge different. The style of Arabic music has obviously become more and more westernised — perhaps this is what we call pop music 🙂 — and not to mention the R&B and Hip-Hop influence is added as well. To become a famous singer, one should not be worried about her voice anymore; as appearance and looks are much more important. None of the female singers I mention above has a voice that meets Arabic music’s standard. Nancy Ajram perhaps has the best voice out of the 3 pop diva, but her voice is not THAT great compared to the singers of an earlier generation, such as Asalah Nasri, Nawal El Zoughby, and Najwa Karam. During this period (and the period before that), beautiful voice and great songs were important assets to become a successful musician, otherwise, failure was a guaranteed outcome. Appearance was not a big issue; no one really cared about your ugly face or fat body LOL (yes, I’m serious). Singers dressed modestly on the video clips and at the concerts. They wore short sleeved dresses at the most. None of them revealed their sexy legs, shoulder, and definitely not boobs.
As the competition between the old- and new-generation increases, the former unfortunately tries to imitate the latter. Let’s take an example of Asalah Nasri, a famous Syrian singer who rose to fame in the early 1990’s and has a really AMAZING voice. She used to be one of my mom’s favourite singers. She is one of VERY FEW musicians who can actually sing Uum Kulthum‘s songs — as it requires a high vocal range to sing them. But my mom is no longer a fan of Asalah. Mom argued that her music style has changed over the past few years, imitating the style of the new generation singers. She changed her image too. This is the picture of her taken from her old video clip:
… and this is her recent picture:
Woow… she’s almost 40 years old, you know? 😀 Do you think she had a plastic surgery? Hehehe. By the way, plastic surgery becomes increasingly popular in the Arab society. Elissa, Nancy, and Haifa DEFINITELY 100% had done that before, either to their lips, nose, or perhaps boobs. Not convince? Look at this pic:
… to be continued.
YouTube videos to watch:
- Asalah Nasri: Alli Gara — This is a classic song she sang with Saber Al Robaey. Great song, powerful voice — one of the best duets ever! Both Asalah’s and Saber’s voice is just amazing!!!! 🙂 The video is not a complete version. It supposed to run for more than 10 minutes. Yes, one song for 10+ minutes!!
- Nancy Ajram: Ya Tabtab… Wa Dalla — funny video clip and great song. She looks cute too 🙂 — and Ehsas Jedid — one of Nancy’s most successful songs. I looooveee it!
- Elissa: Ayshalak — famous song.
- Nawal El Zoughby: Dal’ouna — released in 1999 and Einek Kaddabin — released in 2004. She changed dramatically!
Pictures were taken from various sources: