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'Ramy': a musical guide to the second season

The latest season utilises a mix of instantly recognisable classics alongside some more obscure tracks

The second season of 'Ramy' features plenty of music from around the region. AP
The second season of 'Ramy' features plenty of music from around the region. AP

The second season of Ramy is now out, and it’s even better than the first.

The show, which premiered in April 2019, earned its creator Ramy Youssef a Golden Globe earlier this year for it’s down-to-earth humour and refreshing take on what it’s like to be a practicing Muslim in America.

The show does well to introduce western audiences to varied perspectives from those with roots in the Middle East, but it’s the soundtrack that we’re here to talk about.

The show’s first season featured an eclectic mix of old and new Arabic songs. From tracks by the Egyptian funk band Al Massrieen to a disco song by the Egyptian-Libyan singer Hamid El Shaeri.

The latest season utilises a mix of instantly recognisable classics by Abdel Halim Hafez and Warda, alongside some more obscure tracks like Hilwa Ya Amoora by the Sudanese jazz group The Scorpions and Saif Abu Bakr.

We’ve combed through the second season of Ramy to see which songs from the region feature in the latest ten episodes.

'Hikayti Maa El Zaman' – Warda

The Algerian superstar Warda Fatouki was just 11 when she began singing in 1951. Within a decade, her music career started gaining traction after she received regional attention for her patriotic Arabic songs.

However, Warda found stardom only after moving to Egypt in the early 1970s, performing with a number of Egyptian composers and releasing several albums a year. She died aged 72 in Cairo in 2012 after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Her 11-minute classic, Hikayati Maa El Zaman – which plays as the first episode of Ramy’s second season comes to a close – begins with sweeping somnambulistic synths and a flamenco-esque guitar melody before blooming to an orchestral ballad.

'Ghariba' – Hanan

In the nineties, Hanan was a household name throughout the Arab world.

The Egyptian singer launched her career as a member of the pop group Al Asdiqa in 1980, before breaking off to start her solo project. She released eight cassettes between 1987 and 1996, before retiring from her music career in 1997.

The song Ghariba – from her 1995 album Helwa – is featured across a number of episodes on the second season of Ramy. With wistful vocals layered on arpeggiated synths and a drum machine, the song sounds as fresh today as it did 25 years ago.

'Khobs' – Issam Hajali

Issam Hajali’s music has been making a much-deserved resurgence in recent years.

This is mostly thanks to the label Habibi Funk Records, which re-released Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard in 2019.

The debut solo album by the Lebanese musician was recorded in 1976 after Hajali travelled to Paris following the start of Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. Recording the album was not an easy task for Hajali, who played guitar at the Paris metro stations to make ends meet.

He collected just enough money to afford renting a single day at a studio, where he recorded the album with a group of musicians from France, Algeria, Iran and Lebanon.

Hajali composed the music himself, drawing inspiration from Arabic and jazz traditions. The lyrics to most of the songs are made up of the poetry of the Palestinian writer Samih al-Qasim.

The song Khobs is heard on the fourth episode of the new season, just as Ramy is scrolling through his cousin Amani’s Instagram.

'Ya habibi taala elhaani' – Asmahan

It’s sad to think how far Asmahan’s career could have progressed had the Syrian singer not died in a car accident in 1944 at the age of 31.

Asmahan, whose real name was Amal al-Atrash, began her music career at an early age. She was in her early teens when she made her debut to the public at the renowned Cairo Opera House.

It was in Egypt where Asmahan rose to fame, but her family in Syria thought that a career in entertainment for a woman was disgraceful. Asmahan’s music career came to a standstill in 1933 after she married her cousin, Hassan Al Atrash – who insisted that she abandon her career as a singer – and the couple moved to Syria.

However, Asmahan grew to miss her life in Egypt, divorcing her husband in 1939 and returning to Cairo to resume her music career.

Asmahan’s life was replete with heartbreak and controversy, but she has become one of the most distinguished and important singers of the 20th century.

'Nouh Al Hamam' – Maryam Saleh

Maryam Saleh was born into a family of artists and academics.

Her father was a historian and theatre critic, whereas her mother is a singer and actress.

In an interview with The National in 2017, she recalled how her parents frequently hosted gatherings in their home with some of Egypt’s most esteemed actors, writers and musicians. One of these guests was Sheikh Imam, who is hailed as one of Egypt’s first underground artists and whose work has left a lasting impression on Saleh.

Saleh formed the band Gawaz Safar at the age of 16 to perform rock versions of Sheikh Imam’s favourites and introduce his work to a new generation.

The positive response gave Saleh the confidence to go out on her own and release her debut solo album, 2012’s Ana Mesh Baghany.

Since then, the Egyptian singer-songwriter has shown no signs of slowing down, maintaining a well-regarded solo career alongside her work as a stage and screen actress.

Her song Nouh Al Hamam is used in the final scene of the 3rianna Grande episode of Ramy.

'Ana Lak Ala Toul' - Abdel Halim Hafez

Considered to be one of the greatest Egyptian musicians of all time, Abdel Halim Hafez was known in Egypt by a litany of epithets, including the King of Music, the Son of the Nile, and the Voice of the People.

The Egyptian crooner, who died in 1977, frequently performed in sold-out arenas and stadiums in his lifetime. He has sold more than 80 million records to date, most of which are live recordings.

One of his classic tunes, Ana Lak Ala Toul, is used in the end credits of the eighth episode of Ramy’s second season.

'Hilwa ya Amoora' – The Scorpions and Saif Abu Bakr

Another addition courtesy of Habibi Funk Records.

Hilwa ya Amoora is played on the end credits scene of the sixth episode of the new Ramy season. The upbeat, brassy track is taken from the 1980 album Jazz, Jazz, Jazz by the Sudanese group The Scorpions and Saif Abu Bakr.

Before Habibi Funk reissued the album, original copies of the LP were said to be sold for up to $1,000 (Dh3,673). The record company described the work as “an almost-lost scroll in Sudanese music and an essential exhibition of the northeast Africa nation’s pop ingenuity.”

Updated: June 1, 2020 05:31 PM

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