Arts and Literature

Saudi-Emarati digital artist chiptunes popular Saudi and Arab songs

Written by The Frontier Post

JEDDAH (Arabnews): Ever wanted to know what Abdulmajeed Abdullah, Dalida, Amr Diyab, Fairuz or other Arab artists’ songs would sound like if they were in a video game?

The answer? Watch Saudi Emarati digital artist and music producer Moath Bin Hafez’ creations, who reimagines popular Arabic songs into video game settings.

For UAE’s 50th National Day, Hafez had an idea to make an 8-bit chiptune version of the UAE’s national anthem, which was his pilot project.

“Since Instagram is primarily a visual platform, I made a simple animation of the UAE flag being raised in the Super Mario universe,” he told Arab News.

“To my surprise, the video game garnered a lot of attention and within days became my most viewed video,” he said.

Following its success, he decided to focus on making chiptune remixes of Arab pop music since there was clearly an “appetite” for that kind of content.

“With modern software, you can emulate the way those old chips sounded, but without having to learn anything about programming, so you only focus on the creative side like instrumentation, arrangement and such,” he said.

“I am an Eighties kid, so I played a lot on my Sakhr (MSX) and NES. To me, the music has always been the most memorable part of these old games.”

He said the sound chips on those old consoles were very primitive, so the composers worked around the limits by being really creative with the composition and techniques they used.

“The idea of working with limited tools to fuel your creativity resonates with me a lot,” he said.

In terms of music, Hafez said that the electronic bands Daft Punk and Justice are his biggest inspirations.

Video games have changed so much with time yet his favorite is “Donkey Kong Country 2” from the classic generation and the “Fallout series” from the modern generation.

“I have been juxtaposing the singers with mostly backgrounds from fighting games such as Street Fighter II and King of Fighters series. They are very vibrant and often have lively characters spectating,” he said.

“I try to match the background with how the music sounds and with how the singer comes across to me,” he said.

He explained that for one of his works for the 2000s game show “Man Sayarbah Al-Malyoon” (Who Will Win the Million), he used the famous Las Vegas stage from Street Fighter II.

“It’s really crazy and over-the-top level with dancers and betting spectators because I feel like it matches how grand that show was in the Arab World,” he said.

Pointing to his work on Lebanese singer Fairuz, he chiptuned her song “Habaytak Bisayf” (I Loved You in the Summer), which is about loneliness and longing.

“It made sense to cycle Fairuz through empty scenery through different seasons to match the lyrics and to emphasize loneliness and isolation,” he said.

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The Frontier Post