Playlist #34: Ramadan Songs

Click here for the full playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

This month has been a month of fasting, reflection, and sharing joy through food with family and loved ones. As Ramadan is coming to an end, we’ve put together  a special playlist to mark the  joyful gatherings and traditions associated with this period. Whilst some may argue that music and Ramadan don’t go together, there is a rich musical history associated with this religious occasion.

Starting off with Sayyed Mekkawi’s famous “Al-Musaharati – المسحراتي” this piece is sung throughout Ramadan by the musaharati who is the awakener of dawn, beating his drum and calling on the sleepers for shuhoor (the early dawn meal before the fast starts). In this timeless piece Sayyed Mekkawi, one of the leading singers and composers of the early 20th century, relives the role of the musaharati as he awakens our ears and senses with the beautiful drumming accompanying his melodious voice. The song was popularized through an Egyptian TV series made for Ramadan in the late 1960s.

From 1953 comes the soft voice of hugely talented Lebanese singer and actress Hiyam Younes who sang “Wahawi ya wahawi” in the film “Qalbi Ala Walad – قلبي على ولدي” (My heart is with my son). The song goes back to the Fatimid period according to Arabic musicological texts (i.e. 10th to the 12th century).

Replacing the musahharati came Fawazeer (Riddles), the TV series that became highly popular  from the 1970s and  were closely tied with appropriately themed music productions. Before the popularization of Fawazeer though, there were the musical Ramadan series  in which singers and musicians like the wonderful Egyptian Sheikh Imam sang his “Ahlan Ramadan hal hlalak – أهلا رمضان هل هلالك” in 1968. Probably one the most famous Ramadan songs of all times “Ramadan Gana” by Mohammad Abdul Mutalleb first broadcast in 1965, it was written by poet Hussein Tantawi and composed by Mahmood Eshsharif (who was briefly married to Om Kolthoum).

From 1972, we have included Sheikh Naqshbandi (also known as Sayyed Naqashbandi), one of the most renowned Egyptian religious chanters known for his powerful voice and ibtihalat (liturgical and sufi chants). His “Mawlay Inni Bi Babika  – مولاي إني ببابك” was composed by Baligh Hamdi. It is said that the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, himself ordered the prominent composer to compose for Naqashbandi. Baligh Hamdi was famed for composing for popular hits, and there was a hesitancy by the Sheikh to accept. However, he could not disobey the president’s order. The composition and song came out to be one of the most loved Ramadan songs of the 20th century.

In the 1980s came the iconic Fawazeer performed by the prodigious Sherihan, who cemented her role within the decade’s most loved Ramadan series through her colourful dresses, acrobatic dance movements and skilful singing. It would be sinful not to see her singing and dancing in the opening of the Fawazeer episode 86, where the music was composed by aforementioned Sayyed Mekkawi.

From the mid 1980s comes Lebanese singer, composer and songwriter Ahmad Kabour’s “Allou El Bayarek”. Famous for his songs supporting Palestinian resistance, Kabour composed this piece, reviving it  at a time when it was needed most. From the midst of a war-torn Beirut, covered in grey skies, shines the angelic voices of the city’s Islamic orphanage singing not only of Ramadan, but also of hope, the opening of new opportunities and brightening the dark skies.

Another Ramadan staple is “Halo ya Halo – حالو يا حالو” which has been sung over the years by many different musicians. We have included  two versions; one from 1961 sung by Lebanese diva Sabah touching on nationalistic and Arabic implications, and another from 1969 sung by prominent Egyptian singer and actress Laila Nazmy who sings to  electric guitars and an upbeat composition.

We end this Ramadan special with songs that are sung towards the end of Ramadan, welcoming Eid and the festivities that mark the end of the holy month. Sharifa Fadel’s “Tamm El-Badr Badri- تم البدر بدري” from the 1960s remains a Ramadan classic until today. The song bids farewell to the month of Ramadan with its joyful melodies. Enjoy Om Kolthoum’s “Ya Leilet El Eid – يا ليلة العيد” composed by the icon of Egyptian music Riad Al-Sunbati, and to break out of the prominently Egyptian line up, take a listen to  Bahraini-Saudi singer and producer Rashed Al-Majed for a taste of Gulf rhythms that ring with the celebrations of Eid.

As you fill your oven trays with ma’moul, and hunt through your wardrobe for your special Eid outfit, or as you reminisce these Eid traditions (potentially) miles away from home, revel in it all to the backdrop of this very special playlist, from MARSM to you. 

Wishing you the most blessed end to Ramadan, and a joyous Eid to all who are celebrating. 


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.