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How are Jordanian musicians adapting Western pop songs into Arabic?

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Kalamesque is a group made up of Jordanian musicians, and they’re adapting Western pop music into classical Arabic songs.

Ayyoub Tam is a member and founder of the musical group. He speaks seven languages, and it was his passion for his mother tongue, Arabic, which inspired him to establish the organization.

Despite some 420 million Arabic speakers worldwide, he believes the use of classical Arabic in pop music is declining.

He hopes to highlight the language in his band and restore the youth’s faith in Arabic.

“What makes the Arabic language important in the music industry is its own musicality, the rhythms, the rhymes, the flow, sometimes it feels like its sung without even a melody to it,” says the musician.

Translating hits

Kalamesque in the recording studio

Kalamesque’s first single, a translated version of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”, was released in 2016.

The song went viral with over 5.8 million views as of November on YouTube.

Tam has continued to work with local musicians, translating and producing more than 20 covers from artists such as the Backstreet Boys and Selena Gomez.

Despite their popularity, funding has been a challenging issue.

“The first couple of songs were produced by me and a friend of mine, then the process turned out to be quite costly,” Tam told Euronews.

Everlasting melodies

Bait al Nai is another institution attempting to save the traditional Arabic nay flute, present in the works of famous Arabic singers such as Uum Kalthoum and Fairuz.

The group was established in 2018 by four flautists who had an interest in the instrument.

Rabee Zureikat is a partner of Bait al Nai and she believes investing in her passion of the nay flute is a matter of cultural heritage.

Rabee Zureikat prepares to make a ney flute

“My interest in this tool began when I found out that it's one of the oldest instruments, and goes back to the times of Pharaohs 7,000 years ago. And how it was an essential instrument and is considered the ‘Mother of all wind instruments,” says the partner.

The centre also hosts performances, lessons, and nay crafting sessions.

Rabee Zureikat is a teacher at the music house who made his own nay after struggling to find a supplier for the instrument.

Zureikat now handpicks bamboo at a farm in Eastern Jordan to help supply the instrument for eager flautists, such as student Heba Ayyadi.

“I started learning at Bait al Nai not that long ago, just a month [ago] or so. I had some free time, and decided to fill it up with something useful,” says the student.

“I’m studying for a PhD in Islamic studies and figured that learning the nay would help me to reduce my stress, and it’s been a really good decision so far.”

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