In a year where musical trends have been rapidly shifting from trap and hip-hop to electro-pop and RnB, afro-beats, amapiano and a variety of shaabi-inspired genres, it is no surprise that the region’s music scene is undergoing fundamental changes. With these shifts come a fresh generation of artists paving the way for new genres, lyrical styles and stories to emerge from within the MENA region, challenging our understanding of popular music and commercial aptitude. To celebrate the artists making progress in 2023, we’ve compiled a list of those who have made significant strides during the year through viral releases, memorable performances, and region-wide hits.

Here are our picks for Breakthrough Artists of 2023:


After releasing her bedroom pop EP ‘Daydreamer’ in early 2023, Egyptian singer-songwriter Nour catapulted into public attention with her single ‘Wana’, where she delivered a seamless blend of UK grime and neo-soul and jazz instrumentation. Paired with personal and contemplative songwriting, Nour has reached a wide audience in a short time, and is set to continue refreshing sonic trends in the region with her keen ear and striking visual style.


Rising 23-year-old Sudanese rapper/singer Mvndila is an artist whose adaptable sound has taken him through the realms of RnB, hip-hop and soul, and his genre-bending tendencies have already seen him collaborating with heavyweight regional producers such as 77, Sammany, Swish, Khayyat, and MarwanOnTheMoon. The artist also channels themes of melancholy both in his music and his colourful visuals, as seen in the music video for his track ‘Bako’.

Gharam Electric

Gharam Electric is a project out of Beirut, Lebanon, that started with the vision of offering a new take on Arabic music that does not resort to exoticism or folkloric aesthetics typically associated with the region. Founded by Wassim Bou Malham, the project aims to make music that could be heard at a club, music that’s easy to dance to and that puts you in a good mood. As a proactive and pioneering voice in the music industry with a seasoned DJ career, and as co-founder of Lebanese nightlife giants Factory People, Bou Malham’s insight on the industry and dance music at large have helped guide the direction of the project since its debut in late 2022.

Rita L'Oujdia

Continually exploring the overlap between traditional rhythms and contemporary pop production, Rita L'Oujdia has been adding a refreshing hue of Moroccan music to the MENA music industry. Beginning as a cover artist and uploading her music to YouTube, Rita soon took to music production, which she learned by using GarageBand on her iPad, and eventually started directing her own music videos as her vision developed. Today, her interests have taken her into the world of audio engineering and music video directing, and the self-taught singer/producer is well positioned to further expand her reach in the new year to come.


This year, British-Lebanese artist Laughta has been on a journey of embracing her Lebanese heritage. Previously avoiding writing in Arabic for fear of judgement, her latest work sees her venturing into the language with full confidence after being inspired by the female rappers who have been making waves in the MENA region. Striking a record deal with MDLBeast Records, the stage is set for her upcoming 2024 EP which will highlight Laughta's ability to blend various musical styles into a cohesive fusion.


Palestinian-Egyptian multi-disciplinary artist Mariam Ramy, aka Ma-Beyn, seized our attention with her futuristic visual style and genre-bending releases that saw her frolicking between a plethora of sonics, from experimental hip-hop to laid-back funk. With her thought-provoking lyricism and dreamy vocals, Ma-Beyn managed to carve out a space for her distinctive style in the MENA music scene. In 2023, her ever-changing discography featured various releases and collaborations such as ‘OPTION’, ‘Garage Al Qahera’, ‘Malahy’, and ‘Fekrak Betnawar’, in which she collaborated with Egyptian Grammy-nominated rapper Hady Moamer, along with ‘Khaleni A’om El Sobh’, featuring Egyptian producer 200 Shams.


Palestinian-Jordanian pop sensation Bader Khatib, aka Llunr, recognized for his engaging and fun musical TikTok videos, made his breakthrough into the global sonic scene with his anthemic hit ‘Rocketship’, which was charted in Spotify’s Viral 50 lists in North America, Europe and Asia in May 2023. Earlier this November, in solidarity with Palestine, the artist released his latest track ‘Wake Up’, which serves as a poignant message for the world to take action against the atrocities unfolding in Gaza.

Karim Osama

This year, Egyptian rapper Karim Osama has catapulted to notoriety with his infectious releases, weaving elements of traditional shaabi music with contemporary hip-hop beats and introspective lyricism. On his debut EP ‘Awdet El Ebn El Dal’, the young artist ventured into various musical styles while navigating themes of tedious daily life, as well as tumultuous feelings of love, loss and pain in tracks like ‘Yemken Ala Bali’ ft. Riff. The album also saw Karim collaborating with esteemed names from the regional music scene such as El Waili and Molotof.


Ever since her emergence in the MENA region’s music scene, Saudi-based indie-pop artist Nadine Lingawi, aka Fulana, has been serenading global audiences with her distinctive and powerful vocals, melancholic productions and raw emotive lyrics. She started 2023 by indulging in her electronic music inclinations with ‘Reprobate’, which saw her touching on the nuanced inflections of human emotion that speak to the troubled emotions in each of us. Fulana continued to showcase her musical prowess through other releases such as ‘Seventeen’ and ‘Venus’, the latter of which she released through her VHS session with Saudi Arabian indie record label, Wall Of Sound.

Sabine Salamé

Lebanese rapper and poet Sabine Salamé offers a distinct style of Arabic Hip Hop that blends old-school and contemporary influences while delving into the emotional stages of immigration, reflecting on her own experiences and inviting listeners to engage in conversations about identity and human connection. Through her honest storytelling, Salamé's artistry transcends boundaries and touches on universal themes, resonating with anyone who has faced similar challenges.


Having gone through major career changes on multiple occasions throughout his life, Saudi Arabian rapper Moayad’s journey has taken him from studying medicine, to becoming a comedian, and ultimately finding his true passion in music. Throughout his young career, the rapper has emerged as a trailblazer in the Saudi music industry by integrating his charming sense of humour into his musical identity, and developing a versatile take on Hip Hop that stands out in a local landscape dominated by electronic music.


Hailing from the heart of historic Cairo, Sulisizer draws inspiration from the rich Egyptian and Sufi cultures that surround him. Combined with an electronic and techno-inspired essence, these influences shape his unique musical style that reflects both the historical context and modernity of his point of view. Performing anonymously behind a cyberpunk mask and eye-catching attire, his presence never fails to capture the imagination of audiences, and with a year full to the brim with electrifying releases, Sulisizer’s trajectory seems to only be going upward.


Saliah, a British-Lebanese multi-genre music producer and DJ, has rapidly risen to prominence with a dynamic and eclectic musical palette. Making waves with her debut Boiler Room and Glastonbury sets, Saliah has become renowned for her high-energy performances and genre-bending sets, seamlessly blending club sounds with notable remixes of Arabic classics. Her stage presence exudes the kind of energy that captivates crowds, and beyond her performances, Saliah actively contributes to the community by supporting grassroots organisations and conducting DJ workshops.


MINOVA, an indie composer, musician, performer and producer hailing from Abu Dhabi, has etched her name in the music industry with captivating vocals and a distinctive sound. Embracing a fusion of pop and indie sonics, MINOVA draws inspiration from a diverse array of musicians, including Lana Del Rey, Florence and The Machine, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. MINOVA's songs are characterised by evocative lyrics and powerful vocals, offering a personal and vulnerable listening experience. Having made her mark at the age of 15 with singles like ‘Inner Us'’ and ‘Sanity’ featured on Austria's FM4 Radio, MINOVA has been developing her own sound while gracing stages as a solo artist at several large events.


Cosmicat, also known as Nouf Sufyani, has been emerging as a superstar DJ and producer in Saudi Arabia. Defying societal expectations placed on women, she embarked on a remarkable journey, veering from her initial path towards dentistry to claim her spot as a leading figure in the electronic music scene. Cosmicat secured her inaugural gig in 2018, paving the way for the release of her debut EP ‘Dilemma’ in 2020, and has since performed in international festivals around the globe. Her signature style weaves house-based sounds into a harmonious blend of melody and progressiveness. Today, Cosmicat continues her ascent, crafting music that resonates with her unwavering fan base.

Bader Shashit

Having spent his childhood between Benghazi and Damascus, Bader Shashit has absorbed the essence of Syrian classical music and the pulsating rhythms of Libyan tagaza majrouda, shaping a sonic duality that he skillfully incorporates into his musical persona. His relocation to Belgium in his youth proved to be a transformative experience, with Bader immersing himself in the local club scene, exploring various venues and spaces. Drawing on his extensive background in visual arts, he contributed to several collectives, brands and artists. Bader's engagement with Yalla Soundsystem marked a pivotal chapter, where he curated events featuring Arab artists such as Toumba, Muskila, Cheb Runner, and more. Inspired by this exposure, Bader began experimenting with his own sound, skillfully blending robust bass patterns with traditional music from the MENA region, thereby forging a distinctive rhythmic identity of his own.


Kouz1, a young and multi-talented hip-hop artist, producer and songwriter hailing from Morocco, has carved a unique niche in the music scene through his enticing fusion of indie hip hop and R&B, while also showcasing captivating melodies and thoughtful lyricism. In his music, the artist explores themes of love and self-reflection, and his latest album ‘Afroboy’ exemplifies his distinctive style. With hits like ‘Trap Roumi’, ‘Il est là’ and ‘Story Insta’ under his belt, Kouz1's unique voice lends itself to exceptionally melodious toplines.


Rising through the ranks of the regional music scene, Egyptian producer Riff has had a massively successful year in 2023, merging his distinct electronic sound with that of regional pioneers such as Ziad Zaza, Idreesi, Husayn and Ramy Gamal. Through his numerous collaborations, Riff has been able to embellish the voices of artists around the region while simultaneously diversifying his own sound and showcasing his flexibility as a producer.

Dzel Uzi

Earlier this year, Egyptian rapper Dzel Uzi went viral with his music video ‘Guardiola’, where he laid down his infectious flows on eastern drums and a playful electronic melody. Since then, the rapper released his album ‘Manchester City'’, which is centred around the English Premier League football team, naming each track in the album after a player in the team in a quirky manner that speaks to the Egyptian youth, who - of course - are mostly football fanatics.


A new sound emerges from within the heart of Cairo and through the work of rising rapper Tul8te. After a slow and steady start in 2022, during which he released four singles, 2023 saw the masked rapper coming into his own on his EP, ‘Maghool’, where he seamlessly fuses Jersey club and reggae with hits of jazz, funk and afro-beats. It is evident how much time and effort was poured into each track, as the EP delivers a refreshing change of pace from the sounds dominating the regional rap scene.


Though Tunisian rapper/songwriter Defame has been actively involved in the regional music scene as one half of the beloved duo Dabl De, the rapper only began his solo journey back in 2022. Known for his quirky rhymes and fresh flows, this year has seen the rapper making significant strides, releasing more than a dozen tracks, along with his EP ‘El ’Andalib’, in which he highlights his artistry and ability to move away from his usual sound and collaboration-based releases. In his solo career, Defame’s penmanship looks more towards his personal life than ever before, giving us fruitful insights on life in Tunis, and his identity as an Arab living as a citizen of the world.