The surprising success of Arab pop on TikTok in Israel

The surprising success of Arab pop on TikTok in Israel

“Arabic music is increasingly popular on TikTok in Israel”, tells the Israeli daily ha’aretz. Evidenced by the success, last summer, on the Israeli networks of the Chinese platform of the title Wesh Jabak by Libyan singer Joudy Alhouti. Or, the more recent one, of the song Baby by Lebanese-Syrian artist Sara Al-Zakaria.

For several weeks, writes Ha’Aretz, abound on TikTok the videos of “young Israeli men and women, including female soldiers” singing Baby, to the lively oriental rhythm.

Video posted on the @yael__a account on TikTok.

“TikTok breaks down prejudice”

How to explain this success ? Political communications expert Ronit Kampf offers an explanation:

“Unlike social networks like Instagram – where the user feed is shaped more by personal preferences – TikTok is affected more by geography. As a result, Israelis find themselves exposed to more content from the Middle East there.”

“TikTok is breaking down prejudice against Arabs and changing the rules of the game”, adds journalist Sheren Falah Saab, specialist in Arab culture for the Israeli newspaper. A “welcome development”, she continues, given the tensions between Arabs and Jews.

Video posted on the @yonatan.nachmias account on TikTok.

The Arabs, as Israel loves them

The journalist offers another explanation. The song Baby by Sara Al-Zakaria does not come from traditional Arabic music, that of the great divas Oum Kalthoum or Fayrouz who have, in particular, “sang the liberation of Palestine”, she explains.

Al-Zakaria “sings a forbidden love” on “modern pop music freed from the chains of Arab tradition”, thus reflecting “the voice of the younger generation”.

Young Israelis, a third of whom use social networks, and 54% of them are active on TikTok, are learning about Arabic music without any intermediary.

“Al-Zakaria represents Arabs who do not pose a security threat or take a strong political stance. […] Al-Zakaria’s image perfectly mirrors that of Israel’s beloved Arab: superficial, funny, cool, and devoid of any political opinion.”

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