10 Best Middle Eastern Artists You Probably Never Heard Of


This list of artists made me realize how our region's music originates from various yet very similar roots: from Sudan’s jazz, to the traditional and amazing music of the Levant, the Moroccan rap and punk scene, Algerian reggae, Iranian blues and some acoustic artists from all over. Many of these artists may not be still active to this day, but they sure are worth listening to. They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm sure whatever your taste is, you'll find this a very interesting ride. 

1. Soomood – Yemen

Can't say I expected this from Yemen. Soomood is a jazz/rock-ish band currently located in Poland, but their musical roots, vocalist and lyrical theme are thoroughly Yemeni, and they perform in both Arabic and English. 

2. The Wanton Bishops - Lebanon 

The Wanton Bishops is an English-speaking band. If you like the modern old-American raw blues rock, then you'll love this band. And if you're a filmmaker, their music will inspire a 100 scenes to flash through your head.


3. Betweenatna – Morocco

Think Misfits, The Offspring and a dash of influences by a who's-who of punk rock. Ever since I came by “Heavy Metal Islam”, I've been wondering about the punk scene in Morocco, and Betweenatna gave me a very good insight into it. It’s unfortunate that such a talented country in many fields is more connected to its European and couple of North African neighbors than our part of the region. If you're into punk, this band is worthy of a spot on your playlist.

4. Mazhott – Syria

 Punk is not dead- it's still alive and well in Syria! Mazhott is simply a band with punk’s attitude at its best, so check out their music and unleash the punk kid inside you.

5. Khalas – Palestine

There is a reason why you haven’t heard of Khalas even though they've been active for a long time - and I mean a long time. So long that this band had an actual MySpace account! That reason is a song called “El Malek Aryian/The Naked King”. Because of it, the band couldn’t play in Jordan, even though the song didn’t necessarily point fingers at Jordanian royalty. Being banned from Jordan, one of the few nearby countries they could play in, the band's fanbase started to grow more outside the region than inside it. As one of the first bands to do rock covers of Arabic classics, such as “Inta Omri”, they made a good name for themselves even with the obstacles they faced due to their occasional political themes.

6. Salam – Jordan

This band is just something else. One of the oldest rock/alternative bands from Jordan, they're beloved for their amazing violin sounds and their heart-breaking rock music and vocals. Songs of theirs you must give a try are "Meen" and "Khabani".  Don’t bother looking for the band's Facebook page, because they sadly stopped being active a few years ago.

7. Majd al Hamwi -- Syria

To me there are two kinds of political music: one that is filled with rage, power and anger, and the other which is just as powerful yet more sarcastic and hopeless than angry. Majd is the second type. Listening to his project album“Ya Latief” sure gave me mixed feelings about having hope for our region.

8. Meen – Lebanon

Meen is a band with a great sense of humor. Their lyrical theme varies from political to social to sometimes just joyful, lively songs. A couple of songs to get you started: "Wizarat" and "Imm George (JJ Cale Cover)".

9. Abdi Behravanfar – Iran

Iran's got the blues. Iran, as usual, proves again that it’s a country full of surprises, and Abdi isn’t like the other blues bands I mentioned earlier, but more of acoustic harmonica blues. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song is worth a thousand stories, and here is one... 

10. Munir Khauli – Lebanon  

If you are a blues fan, you are in luck. This blues rock artist, the Lebanese Munir Khauli, reminds me a lot of Eric Clapton. I recommend you start with song titled Naam  from his album Tannin Al Tarab.  

This list should keep you busy till the next 10 bands list comes out, and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and if there are any bands/artists you think I should have mentioned please do let me know in the comment section below.