Playlist #31: Songs for Mothers

Click here for the full playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

Continuing this month’s female focus, this playlist is  celebrating women as mothers and creators. As the Arabic-speaking world celebrates Mother’s Day this coming Sunday 21st March, we dedicate this playlist to all women and mothers who have been bearing the brunt and weight that life has been bringing our way especially during the pandemic. The melodies are also in memory of the mothers who are no longer with us in this life, but remain with us in our hearts. 

Mother’s Day has been celebrated in the Arabic-speaking world since the 1950s when it is said that acclaimed Egyptian journalist Ali Amin and founder of Akhbar Al-Yawm newspaper suggested the idea to readers in 1955. Touched by the story of a widowed mother who raised her children on her own, Ali Amin suggested the celebration of the efforts of women and mothers to the readers, a suggestion that was hugely welcomed, and the practice was then adopted in the rest of the Arabic-speaking countries. The date of the 21st of March also coincides with the beginning of Spring and the regeneration of nature, a celebration that can also be traced to ancient Greece and ancient Persian traditions related to the Spring equinox.  

The theme gained popularity amongst singers and musicians who wished to express their unconditional love to their mothers through a colourful array of genres. In this playlist, enjoy songs chosen from various corners of the Arabic-speaking world and varied periods of time. 

Starting with the 1958 ‘Set El-Habayeb – ست الحبايب’ sung by Syrian singer and actress Fayza Ahmad and composed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab is considered one of the most famous songs dedicated to maternity, and is regularly broadcast on radio and TV on Mother’s Day. We have included the same song sung by Abdel Wahab himself in this playlist.

Acclaimed Syrian actor Duraid Lahham introduced another ageless hymn to motherhood ‘Ya Mo – يا مو’ during 1973 Syrian comedy series Melh w Sukkar ملح وسكر.

Music giants like Marcel Khalife and Fayrouz have also paid tribute to their mothers. Marcel’s ‘Ahennu ila Khobzi Ummi – أحن إلى خبز أمي’ (I Yearn for my Mother’s Bread) is a musical adaptation of a poem by the iconic Palestinian poet Mahmood Darwish. The story goes that Darwish, who had a complicated relationship with his mother, was imprisoned in 1965 due to reciting poetry at Al-Quds University. When his mother came to visit him in prison, she brought with her freshly baked bread and coffee, which the Israeli soldier prevented her from delivering to her son, spilling the coffee on the ground. That incident was recorded through his poem, which later Marcel Khalife put to music in his home confinement during the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980,  due to his political inclinations. The song was widely popular and remains so to this day.

Lebanese icon Fayrouz in collaboration with the Rahbani Brothers sang several songs for mothers. Her song ‘Ummi Ya Malaki – امي يا ملكي’ (My Mother, My Angel) was based on a poem by prominent Lebanese poet and philosopher Said Akl.

We also bring you the 1999 song ‘Ummi – امي‘ by Bahraini-Saudi singer, musician, and record producer Rashed Al-Majed, and “Ummi thumma Ummi – امي ثم امي” by a group of artists including Haytham Shaker and Rami Ayyash composed by Libyan-Egyptian singer, songwriter and composer Hamid El-Shaeri. Lebanese icon Sabah made a children’s album in 1990 in which she dedicated a song to her mother on Mother’s Day. Recently deceased Syrian singer Mayada Basilis who championed Syrian folklore also paid respect to mothers through her song “Ya Ummi – يا امي”.

This playlist marks three years since the passing of Rim Banna. In memory of the influential and inspirational Palestinian singer and songwriter, and her contributions to Palestinian music that remain audible to this day, take a listen to “Mum you are the Dearest” from her 2010 album April Blossoms نوار نيسان.

Dive into our selection, and celebrate with these songs the mothers around you who have been there for and with you through the good and the bad that life throws your way.


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What are MARSM Playlists?

Marsm’s bi-weekly playlists take on the musical history, trends and upcoming productions from the music scene in the Arabic-speaking countries. Each playlist focuses on a new theme, showcasing both underground and established artists – from the more dance-able to the most experimental – and everything in between.