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Editor’s Letter: On the Healing Power of Music, and Spotlighting Arab Musicians in Our Latest Issue

Umm Kulthum

We live in a region where music is a fundamental part of the culture, literally uniting people from all corners of the Arab world. In a territory that is so diverse and full of layers, I would even say that music is one of the few topics that all Arabs agree on, with names such Fairuz, Warda, and Sabah being celebrated from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.

One of my favorite stories, which my Egyptian friends always repeat when I visit Cairo, is of when Oum Kalthoum used to give her live concerts on the radio. While she was performing, the city would be empty and silent (imagine Cairo silent!) as all families would be at home – their ears glued to the radio, listening to the iconic voice of the diva coloring songs brilliantly orchestrated and running for more than 45 minutes. This is exactly the power of Arabic music: it tells us a story, pulls us in, and commands our full attention.

In a moment when we need music more than ever as a symbol of hope and union in the region, we decided to put together an issue fully dedicated to this industry. On the cover, you will find nine promising stars from across Arabia who are already breaking records and winning awards. We selected DJs, pop performers, rappers, and classical singers to showcase the range of regional female talent.

While I was in Milan during fashion week, I arrived at the Prada show at the same time as K-pop phenomenon Enhypen, who we are also featuring on our second cover. Although I didn’t really know the band, I was intrigued by the spotlight the group captured, and the impact they had even among our audience. Our Instagram post featuring the arrival of Enhypen at Prada was our most engaged with, liked, and shared piece from all our social media coverage of the season. As I returned to Dubai, upon further investigation I realized that K-pop is an obsession also among the Middle Eastern youth, with the younger generations studying Korean, forming dance groups, investing in Korean beauty, and learning how to cook the food. This December, we are publishing a full portfolio that gathers some of the most active K-pop fans in the region. It was one of the projects our team had the most fun compiling, as the Vogue Arabia headquarters is also bursting with K-pop fans.

We could not do a music issue without including Latin beats, as this type of song has been dominating airwaves for decades. Hailing from Brazil, Anitta is the new queen of sound from that part of the world, with serious plans for a global takeover. Singing in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, and acting too, the star is also fashion’s new darling, performing for Dolce & Gabbana, wearing Michael Kors on the Met Gala red carpet, and featuring in a multitude of covers for international fashion publications.

One of the things all these artists have in common – including names such as Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Taylor Swift – is that they all love Arab designers, wearing on stage and on red carpets Nicolas Jebran, Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, and Georges Hobeika. The rise of Arab stage couture is a topic that we are always proud of, and that you can read more about on page 162.

Lastly, one of the projects I’m extremely excited to feature this December is the all-female Firdaus Orchestra. In the Eurocentric and male-dominated world of classical music, this ensemble founded by HE Reem Al Hashimy in Dubai is a symphony of diversity. Fusing time-honored rhythms with Arab instruments, the group has shared the stage with Yo-Yo Ma, Andrea Bocelli, and Christina Aguilera, proving that the region is ready for applause at a global level. And that’s music to my ears…

Originally published in the December 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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