Hanine El Alam is a violinist from Lebanon. Her debut original composition, Nostalgia, 2014, was sufficiently successful to establish her career as a popular performing musician in the Middle East. In 2017, Hanine was awarded Best Lebanese Violinist at the Arab Satellite Festival in Cairo.
Commenting on the award, Hanine said, "It was amazing being honoured in Egypt, the country we as Lebanese consider number one when it comes to art". While Hanine's music is rooted in the Middle East, she mixes in techno beats and Latin and European flavours. This eclectic mixture underlies Hanine's hugely popular breakout hit video, Arabia.
Released in 2017, Arabia now has over 117m views on YouTube. Incredible! Hanine's next most popular video, Nostalgia has 10m views, which is impressive. Hanine may not be a one hit wonder, yet clearly Arabia hits the sweet spot and appeals to a much broader international audience than her other songs. Arabia was built on a dance track that was written for a dancer at a club where Hanine played the violin. Hanine saw the opportunity to add Arab melodies to the western-influenced dance beats.
For Hanine, the "livelier, happier" beats leaven the forlorn and sombre associations of Arabic violin, thereby broadening the appeal of music. Of course it is not just the upbeat, joyous take on Arab music that explains the success of Arabia. The video – an extravagant spectacle, complete with dancers and costume changes – adds to the appeal. None of Hanine's subsequent releases have matched the success of Arabia and Nostalgia, yet they still tend to get over 2m views. Hanine's latest is Jordan:
Jordan was released in November 2022, after the recording of the composition and the preparation of the video were delayed by Covid19. Written at the request of a Jordanian friend, Hanine sees the track as embodying "her love and passion for Jordan and to represent the patient, strong, and educated Jordanian woman".
The video was shot on location in Jordan and features Hanine wearing traditional costumes, climbing mountains, and astride a thoroughbred Jordanian horse. Not surprisingly, the video was supported by The Tourism Regulatory Authority of Jordan. It is sure to appeal to those who responded to upbeat yet sensuous sound of Arabia.
Encouraged by her father, Hanine El Alam started playing the violin at the age of 9. She went on to earn a diploma from Lebanese Superior Conservatory of Music & a masters degree in music teaching from the Lebanese University. After her studies, Hanine set about establishing her impressive stage show, complete with dancers and band.
As Cairo's Scene Noise put it in 2017, "Her performances are hardly just that; they are dazzling, larger than life spectacles, featuring adorned dancers, magnetic collaborations and a full band blending techno, Latin and Arabic flavours – not to mention the razzle-dazzle wardrobes. Her music videos are equally as dramatic and extravagant".
Hanine has a respect for the Arabic music tradition, yet she has always tried to expand on it. On one level this can be seen in her fusion of Arabic music with outside influences. On another level, it is reflected in her desire to move beyond what she sees as the parochial limitations of her environment.
With regards to the latter, Hanine's official website states: "What Hanine seeks to convey through her music, as well as her dancing (for dance and music cannot but be brought into unison), is freedom and emancipation from mental, societal, and traditional shackles. Her ultimate purpose is for her performances to prompt her audience, especially the women who have been brought up in a prim society, to understand and work towards evolving into the crucial element they were born to be".
The massive success of Arabia demonstrates that there is a large audience for Hanine's more open approach to Arabic music and culture.