While I was in Lebanon I became familiar with Fairuz, a Lebanese singer who is a huge musical icon in the Arab world.
She was born in a rural mountain village and consequently had a sort of “country girl” image. In 1969 the Lebanese government banned her music from radio stations for 6 months because she refused to sing a private concert for a visiting dignitary, but the ban only made her more popular. She insisted that she sang for the people, not individuals.
This song (Kifak Inta) is one of my favorites. The instrumental part is kinda cheesy and 70s, but it’s a really beautiful song. It will grow on you.
It’s about a couple who used to be in love but went their separate ways; in the song they are seeing each other for the first time in years and are reminiscing.
Here is Fairuz singing a more traditional-sounding song.
Another figure you should be familiar with if you want to be able to profess knowledge of modern Arab culture is the “Star of the East,” Egyptian Umm Kulthum.
Umm Kulthum is probably the #1 icon of modern Arabic music. When she died in 1975, four million people attended her funeral. Four million.
Please note that despite being backed by an orchestra, she is not using a mic. Her voice was that strong. She’s also celebrated for her flawless enunciation of Arabic.