Here's a trip down memory lane for fans of both Arab and western music. How many of these do you remember?
Nour El Ain – Amr Diab
Released: January 10, 1996
Back in the 1990s – when he looked older than he does now – Egyptian superstar Amr Diab was considered the pioneer of music videos. To this day, ‘Nour El Ain’ remains one of the singer’s most popular singles of all-time.
Dodgy D&G belt and slicked back hair aside, the ‘Nour El Ain’ music video showed us that camera wizardry was possible (whoa – did he just shatter the screen’s glass?), not to mention that Diab was probably the first to introduce video clip models to the Arab world.
Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
Released: February 19, 1996
They’d already released ‘Wonderwall’ the year before, and with ‘Don’t Look back In Anger’, Oasis cemented themselves as one of the coolest bands of the decade.
“For a while my party piece was singing ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ in the style of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, complete with ‘eye’ mime stolen from the ‘Common People’ video, performed to the ‘slip inside the EYE of your mind’ section of the song,” says Rachel Ball de Silvestri. “My parents thought it was hilarious, as I'm cringingly sure it was!”
Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion
Released: 20 February 1996
Celine Dion was massive in the region, and her album ‘Fallin' Into You’ was pretty much sold by the bucket load at every cassette shop.
“’Because You Loved Me’ was memorised by every single girl at school,” says Ahmed Sherif of his time in Cairo. “Celine Dion was the Adele of our generation.”
Coming Home Now – Boyzone
Released: February 26, 1996
Arguably quite different from their other tracks, ‘Coming Home Now’ was Boyzone’s sixth single from their debut album, ‘Said and Done’.
“My sister bought ‘Said and Done’ and being younger than her I liked everything she did,” explains Dubai resident Nina Ross. “She also got the accompanying VHS which showed what we thought were hilarious behind-the-scenes shenanigans of their life on the road. ‘Coming Home Now’ was the song that played out the last clip on the tape, then we used to rewind it all and watch it again. Not even ashamed... well, only slightly.”
Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey
Released: March 9, 1996
1996’s Mariah Carey was defined by one hit – the anthem that is ‘Always Be My Baby’.
Dubai resident Stacey Siebritz tells us: “This is the first song I remember singing into a hairbrush-microphone. In the 90s, there was no one I wanted to be more than Mariah Carey – she was beautiful, talented, and rocked cut-off denim shorts and flannel shirts. She also had perfect ‘bronde’ hair before that was a thing.”
Coco Jamboo – Mr President
Released: March 29, 1996
If you grew up in the region – particularly Egypt – in the 90s, chances are you remember this song very well. We don’t know what it is about this track, but it’s just a very happy song… even if we still have no idea what ‘Coco Jamboo’ means.
“I remember this little 'koshk' selling cassettes in Batal Ahmed Abdel Aziz, playing 'Coco Jumboo' five summers in a row,” says Shaima Abd Alghafoor.
They Don't Care About Us – Michael Jackson
Released: March 31, 1996
Possibly one of the most politically charged anthems of the mid-90s, ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ remains one of the most controversial songs the late Michael Jackson ever composed.
Don’t Speak – No Doubt
Released: April 15, 1996
Anyone who has suffered heartbreak would have listened to this at some point.
Dalia Gamal says: “Gwen Stefani was my tomboy grunge rock icon, and ‘Don't Speak’ was an outpouring of boyfriend angst that I could emotionally wail along to. Would you judge me if I said this song got me through heartache well into my late twenties?”
Get Down (You’re the One For Me) – Backstreet Boys
Released: April 30, 1996
Arguably the best boy band to come out of the United States in that decade, the Backstreet Boys was what New Kids on the Block were to our older siblings or cousins.
And for Egyptian-Danish Mea Elerkessousi, ‘Get Down’ introduced her to a certain fella.
“[It featured] my first celebrity crush ever… ah Nick Carter.”
Where Do You Go – No Mercy
Released: May 13, 1996
Not only was ‘Where Do You Go’ immensely catchy, the video introduced us to the dreamboats who were singer Marty Cintron and twins Ariel and Gabriel Hernández.
“What I would have given to hang out with them on a sandy beach somewhere,” says Sherry Mohamed from Cairo. “I had their posters on my wall. Remember how difficult it was to find Smash Hits [magazine] in Egypt?”
Fun fact: ‘Where Do You Go’ was actually first recorded by La Bouche in 1995.
Mysterious Girl – Peter Andre
Released: May 24, 1996
Say what you will, but ‘Mysterious Girl’ could be released now and still sound good. And funnily enough, Peter Andre has kind of made a career out of a single catchy tune.
Wannabe – Spice Girls
Released: July 8, 1996
1996 marked the birth of Posh, Baby, Ginger, Scary and Sporty, and of course, girl power! This music video was everything and more… finally, us teenage girls had a band that was relatable on so many levels. And let’s face it – we all knew that staircase dance routine.
But that doesn’t mean the boys didn’t jump on the bandwagon… “I bought this as a single on cassette,” says Brit Matt Chambers. “My first ever music purchase – that I recall. Not sure if that reflects well!”
Virtual Insanity – Jamiroquai
Released: August 19, 1996
The second single from Jamiroquai’s third studio album, ‘Virtual Insanity’ had one of the best music videos of the year. And we all wanted that room with the moving floors.
Radio presenter Annah Jacob, who grew up in Dubai tells us: “Back in the day, Deira City Centre had a long white corridor that led to the bathrooms and when no-one else was around, my friends and I would pretend to be Jay Kay and ‘bounce’ off the walls just like he did in the video.”
Mohamed Sabe adds: “I thought the guy was so cool I was contemplating buying a hat just like his!”
Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix) – Los Del Rio
Released: Mid-August 1996
Although Los Del Rio’s ‘Macarena’ originally came out in 1995, it was only after it was remixed with English lyrics that it became a worldwide hit.
“There wasn’t a party in town where you didn’t get up and do the ‘Macarena’,” Lebanese-Egyptian Jailan Ahmed tells us. “We used to think we were so cool.”
Un-Break My Heart – Toni Braxton
Released: October 7, 1996
According to Megha Merani, who grew up in Dubai, “A lot of these songs, ‘Mysterious Girl’, ‘Always Be My Baby... the boys would dedicate to the girls they had crushes on for Valentine’s Day. They also made mixed tapes for them with these songs on there.
“But if anyone broke up with their girlfriend or boyfriend of one week, then of course ‘Un-Break My Heart’ played on loop.”
Aicha – Cheb Khaled
Released: December 3, 1996
Another Arabic song that shaped 1996 (well kind of) is Rai artist Cheb Khaled’s ‘Aicha’.
“Remember the music channel MCM? I used to keep it on, as they would regularly play ‘Aicha’,” says Sofia Daoudi. “It was nice to see a singer from the region go global.”