Nari, narien… These are the words that were being sung at the hafli I attended. What is a hafli? Translated into English, it means “party,” but to a bunch of Arabs it sounds much more inviting than party because it promises a mix of Arabic mazika (music) and American music. As I watched the change between belly dancing and dubkes to grinding and two-stepping, I saw a difference in the way countries express themselves through music.
Arab countries (mostly Egypt and Lebanon) all sing about one thing: love. It is always about love for someone, love for a country, or love for no reason. American music on the other hand is mostly about partying, teenage issues, and nonsense. As a teen I appreciate some songs but don’t feel like they apply exclusively to me. When I listen to Arabic music I feel like they sing with their soul and the lyrics are their life stories. They do not spit out words just because they have a nice flow or rhyme, instead it is because it has a true meaning. I am not worried to listen to these songs with my mom unlike some pop songs that make her look at me with one eyebrow raised.
The way music sounds is the way people react to it. When you watch a belly dancer, it is evident that they are free in their movements. Everything flows together and the movements convey emotion. When I watch people dance to American hip-hop or pop songs I feel like half of the movements are forced and are trying to provoke an emotion.
I’m not the only one who noticed that Arabic music provokes emotion. A prominent American pop artist tried an experiment that, in my opinion, failed. What if I tell you that this American rapper has stolen a classic Egyptian singers song? When I say he stole it I mean it’s as if this rapper (who shall remain nameless for about one more sentence) listened to this song, decided he liked it, stripped the words from the song, added his own lyrics, and put it under his name. This rapper is named. . . Jay Z. The song that has the stolen material is one that is familiar to most people. It is called “Big Pimpin”. The song it’s stolen from? Khosara (Loss) by Abdel Halim Hafez who is known as the king of old Arabic music.
As a huge fan of Mr. Hafez, I think it is offensive that musicians can sue others because of copyright laws but since this singer is dead and of another culture nothing will be done about it. How does that make America look in the eyes of the world? Let me tell you. It makes America seem like they cut corners and that all they want is the fame. As an American, I know that is not true. As an Arab-American I see it as they see it.
Let’s show the world that we are creative and respect the genius of other cultures without taking the credit of a fellow musician. Until those things happen, ma as-salaama.