Among the pop synths and vocals of Western world music, a new whispery sound of oud, violin and mawwāl can be heard as a new wave of Arabic artists paves the way into mainstream media.
Marwan Abdelhamid “Saint Levant”, a Jerusalem-born musician, is making his voice in the music industry loud and proud as he ‘leads[s] a global movement for Arabic Music’ [Buchanan, NME, 2023].
Diversity Checked Off!
Fusing both English, Arabic and French lyrics in his music to bring create a melody of modern globalism, Saint Levant has been able to capture the ears and attention of different backgrounds to bring worldwide heed to his mission.
Abdelhamid uses his music to pursue his mission to dismantle the prejudiced notions that exist beyond the Arab world by reclaiming the ‘orientalist fantasies’ of his childhood that have been tarnished by politically hostile regimes.
Abdelhamid’s latest EP, “From Gaza, With Love” focuses on just that. Exploring the realities of leaving your homeland, life at refugee camps and being given a second chance to succeed in the first world– semantics that resonates with the audience.
A politically motivated EP, fuelled with the hope of his mission, it acts as the voice for millions, with the opening track “Tell Me I’m Dreaming” introducing the idea of “refugees with a privilege to dream. Abdelhamid’s viral success outside of the MENA region highlights how not only has he resonated with Arab listeners but has been understood by the global stage; paving the way for future artists to be able to continue the narrative.
Levant’s Lyrics: Breaking The Norm
Not only has Saint Levant introduced a new voice in the West, he has also introduced a new approach to lyrics within the Arab world. Dubbed “Lover Boy Levant”, Abdelhamid plays into the lover boy genre in a way that has not popularly existed in the Middle Eastern music industry. With explicitly raunchy lyrics, Abdelhamid breaks the barriers by going against the taboo that exists in the Arab world. The explicit nature and vulnerability of his lyrics are an attempt to
‘normalize taboo discussions around sex and mental health in the Middle East and North Africa’.
While there are many in the Arab world who believe that Saint Levant is “overhyped”, we should negatively connote it. His viral success isn’t for no reason. With such an intersectional background from around the Middle East, Abdelhamid has been able to introduce a new positive light on the region.
With his effortless flow between Arabic, French and English lyrics, Abdelhamid invited the global stage to listen, understand and embrace Middle Eastern culture.
BY: Shereen Allahdad