Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Revolutionary Road: Music From Carthage To Cairo

A woman walks the narrow streets of the old city in Kairouan.
John W. Poole
A woman walks the narrow streets of the old city in Kairouan.

The audio for this feature is no longer available.

Join NPR's Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep as he travels this month to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt to tell the stories of North Africans one year after the Arab Spring. As Steve makes this journey, NPR Music will feature some of the music he is hearing along his travels — in cafes, clubs and on local radio stations.

I suggested that perhaps Umm Kathoum was the Bruce Springsteen of classic Egyptian music. This proposal was neither accepted nor rejected.

The music of this region is as diverse as its culture. Don't be surprised when a song by Rihanna or Bruno Mars pops up alongside Egyptian pop stars Mohamed Hamaki and Amr Diab — that's the model for Tunisia's first privately owned radio station, Mosaïque FM, which divides its airtime between Arabic and international hits. Similarly, Cairo's largest English-speaking radio station, NileFM (its Arabic counterpart is NogoumFM), programs heavily from the same Billboard charts we do here.


Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have a thriving underground music scene as well, though you'd be hard-pressed to hear much of it on air. People share this music — which ranges from death metal to hip-hop — primarily through YouTube, flash drives and social media. Since the revolution, political and socially minded hip-hop has experienced an explosive awakening through acts like Egypt's Arabian Knightz and Libya's MC Swat. In Benghazi, rapper Malik L. sees a rise in artists who rap in English (learning English had been banned under Moammar Gadhafi), though Malik, a native English-speaker, prefers to rhyme in Arabic.

Elsewhere in this mix, you'll hear sounds that make up the extensive tapestry of popular music in North Africa. Rock and hip-hop artists incorporate the traditionalist sounds of Oum Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez; Libyan reggae bands in Derna model themselves after Bob Marley; and Cairo's historic street singing — sha'aby -- is mixed with hip-hop, dubstep and electronic beats to create Egypt's current dance craze.

Songs In This Mix

  • Abdel Halim Hafez, "Bahlam Beek"
  • Advertisement
  • Abdel Halim Hafez, "Zay El Hawa (Live)"
  • Aicha Redouane, "Kathir An-Nifar"
  • Ali Hassan Kuban, "Habibi"
  • Ali Riahi, "Tikuit (Tikuit)"
  • Amal Maher, "Rayeh Beya Feen"
  • Amina, "Dis-Moi Pourquoi"
  • Amr Diab, "Ma'ak Bartaah"
  • Anouar Brahem, "Parfum de Gitane"
  • Arab League feat. Ameer Yousef, MC Gaza, Yasser, "Eed F Eed"
  • Arabian Knightz feat. Mahmoud Leithy, "Mooled"
  • Arabian Knightz feat. Issam Outlandish, Shadia Mansour, "Sisters"
  • Arabian Knightz feat. Shadia Mansour, Fredwreck, "Prisoner"
  • B'Net Marrakech, "Leilaa Lill"
  • Balti, "Jey Mel Rif Lel Assima"
  • Balti feat. R2M, "Layam"
  • Balti feat. Rock Bottom & Masta Ace, "Sacrifice"
  • Bee Gees, "How Deep Is Your Love"
  • Bee Gees, "Stayin' Alive"
  • Blackwise feat. Midnight Fort, "We're Riding"
  • Bob Marley, "One Love/People Get Ready"
  • Bruno Mars, "It Will Rain"
  • Cairokee, "Lahma"
  • Cairokee feat. Aida El Ayouby, "Ya El Medan"
  • Cheb i Sabbah, "Esh 'Dani, Alash Mshit"
  • Cheb i Sabbah, "Toura Toura"
  • Cheb Mami, "Omri Omri"
  • Cheikha Remitti, "Fatima (Algeria)"
  • Cyrine Abdul Noor, "Bahlam Beek"
  • DJ HaHa (Amr 7a7a), Untitled
  • DJ Islam Chipsy, "Track 1"
  • Ehab Tawfiq feat. Wael Jassar, "Fi Hadret El Mahboub"
  • El General, "Bledi Matebkich"
  • El Sadat Ft. Fifty, Dj Weza, "El Wesada El Khalia (Amr 7a7a Remix)"
  • El Tanbura, "Lally"
  • Emel Mathlouthi, "Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free)"
  • Farid el-Atrache, "Habeena Hebeena"
  • Filastine feat. Nova, "Gendjer 2"
  • Flo Rida feat. Sia, "Wild Ones"
  • Fouso, "Bel Mazboot"
  • Fugees, "Killing Me Softly"
  • Girls' Generation, "Twinkle"
  • Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"
  • Haifa Wehbe, "Sama'ani"
  • Hakim, "El Salam"
  • Hakim feat. Don Omar, "Tigi Tigi"
  • Hédi Jouini, "Tah Tel Yassmina"
  • Jason Derulo, "Breathing"
  • Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull, "Dance Again"
  • Jil Jilala, "Ila Dak El Hale"
  • Justin Bieber, "Boyfriend"
  • Kelly Clarkson, "Mr. Know It All"
  • Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler"
  • Khaled, "Aicha"
  • Latifa, "Jai Yekahilha Amaha"
  • Lotfi Bouchnak, "Ritek"
  • Magic System and Khaled, "Même Pas Fatiguer"
  • Mahmoud El Husseiny, "Yabn El Tarabateet"
  • Mahmoud El Leithy, "Madad El Desougi"
  • Malik L., "Towa Kayf Kint M3ah"
  • Malik L., "Long Live L Freestyle"
  • Malik L., "Salute Libya"
  • The Master Musicians Of Jajouk, "Up To The Sky, Down To The Ear"
  • MC Amin, "El Thawra Mostamera"
  • MC Amin, Rush, Ho$$, "Gyoosh El Wo7oosh (Army Of Monsters)"
  • MC Amin, Sphinx and Qusai, "The End OF The World"
  • MC Swat, "Freedom of Expression"
  • MC Swat & DJ Ezzo, "We Don't Want"
  • Metallica, "Enter Sandman"
  • Michel Teló, "Ai Se Eu Te Pego"
  • Mohamed Abdel Wahab, "Gafnuhu A'allamal Ghazal"
  • Mohamed Hamaki, "Weftakart"
  • Mohamed Mounir, "Ya Hamam"
  • Najat Aâtabou, "Ça Va Pas Du Tout"
  • Nass El Ghiwane, "Fine Ghadi Biya Khouya"
  • Nawal El Zoghbi, "Ma'rafsh Leih"
  • Neobyrd, "With You Again"
  • Omar Offendum, "#Syria"
  • Oum Kalthoum, "Inta Omri"
  • Rachid Taha, "Ya Rayah"
  • Ramsi Lehner, "Lady of Night"
  • Ramy Essam, "Tribute To Syria "Breaking News"
  • Ray Charles, "Georgia On My Mind"
  • Rihanna, "Where Have You Been"
  • Saber El Rebai, "'edd Habaybak"
  • Saber El Rebai, "Sedi Mansour Ya Baba"
  • Scarab, "Blinding the Masses"
  • Shadia Mansour feat. M1 of Dead Prez, "El Kofeyye Arabeyye"
  • Simplexity, "A Complex Outcome: Diaries From Turah"
  • Souad Massi, "Talit el Bir"
  • Tamer Hosny feat. Shaggy, "Smile"
  • Tunisiano, "Ma3lich"
  • UB40, "Red, Red Wine"
  • Usher, "Climax"
  • Wael Jassar, "Khalini Zekra"
  • Wama, "Sabina"
  • Warda, "Batwannis Beek Pt 3 End"
  • Wust El Balad, "Antika"
  • Youssou N'Dour feat. Fathy Salama, "Touba - Daru Salaam"
  • Zaho feat. Tunisiano, "Citoyen du Monde"
  • 2PM, "Hands Up"
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit