Music has long been an integral part of Ramadan celebrations, with traditional folk songs and anthems resonating in almost every Arab household for decades. It’s also been playing a pivotal role as a powerful form of storytelling in the Ramadan series over the past few years. Beyond its spiritual significance as a month of tranquillity and contemplation, where Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, Ramadan brings about a shift in the cultural fabric of the MENA region. Intrigued to find out how this month of restraint and reflection affects music consumption within the Middle East and North Africa region, we got in touch with our friends at Spotify Arabia to uncover Arab listeners’ behaviours on online music streaming platforms during Ramadan.

According to data released by Spotify Arabia in 2023, Arabs’ listening habits during Ramadan tend to shift away from entertainment, pop and hip-hop music in favour of more mindful practices, gravitating towards Quran readings, spiritual hymns (aka nasheeds) and chill lofi tunes. The data showcased that Spotify witnessed a 130% surge in Quran streaming in MENA during Ramadan 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, with a substantial increase of 56% in the streaming of religious and spiritual podcasts.

During Ramadan 2023, podcasts stood as the most popular format streamed on Spotify Arabia, with the most popular of which revolving around self-reflection, and social and cultural content, with the exception of few crime-related podcasts. Notably, the most streamed podcast in Egypt was ‘ Finjan with Abdulrahman Abumalih’ hosted by Saudi journalist and TV presenter Abdulrahman Abumalih, which covers a wide range of spiritual topics relevant to MENA audiences. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, ‘Areeka’,  a podcast hosted by Bibi Al Abdulmohsen and Talal Sam which covers social topics from psychology to common myths, emerged as the most streamed podcast throughout the holy month in 2023.According to Spotify Arabia, music consumers across the MENA region tend to gravitate more to artists associated with spirituality and religion during Ramadan. Based on data from their Ramadan Hub - a collection of Ramadan-themed curated playlists and podcasts - last year, the top streamed artists were Lebanese Swedish R&B singer Maher Zain, British Muslim artist Sami Yusuf, and Kuwaiti Islamic preacher Mishary Rashid Alafasy.

Unsurprisingly enough, since the beginning of Ramadan 2024, these artists have witnessed a surge in their streams, with Maher Zain’s streams increasing by nearly 150% with the English version of his popular Islamic hit ‘Ramadan’, while Sami Yusuf’s streams surged by 140% and Imam Alafasy’s by 100%.

Streaming activity seems to fluctuate based on the time of the day as well, whether it’s pre-iftar, post-iftar or near suhoor time. Spotify Arabia revealed that streaming activity in Ramadan primarily occurs during the early hours, reaching its peak at 5:00 PM in Egypt, and 8:00 AM in Saudi Arabia. As for the UAE, streaming chill music and Ramadan-themed playlists peaks at 8 AM.

With Ramadan being Egypt’s biggest, and most lucrative TV season of the year, attracting a vast viewership both locally and regionally, Spotify playlists like ‘Titrat Ramadan’ - a compilation of Ramadan series’ soundtracks -proved to be the most streamed playlist in Egypt on the online music platform. The playlist includes tracks like ‘Robaa’yat El Ma’alem’ by Abdel Basset Hamouda for ‘El Ma’alem’ series, ‘Embratoryet Meem’ by Medhat Saleh for ‘Embratoryet Meem’, ‘Ibn Abouh’ by Ahmed Shebah for ‘Haa’ Arab’, and ‘Mekhabeylna Eh Ya Donia’ by Tarek El Sheikh and Masar Egbari, which serves as the intro soundtrack for ‘Masar Egbari’.Among these songs, ‘Etnen B Maqam Malayeen’ by Egyptian Mahraganat artist Essam Sasa, which was featured as a soundtrack in the popular 15-episode Ramadan series ‘Masar Egbari’, secured number one in the 50 most streamed songs in Egypt during Ramadan. According to Spotify Arabia, the track’s streams increased by more than 285% during the period from March 13th to March 16th.

Whilst many artists choose not to release music in Ramadan the data shows that there are still big targeted opportunities for exposure during the month but it just might mean chilling-out, dropping the bass and amplifying the deen. And if you’re lucky maybe secure a licensing deal with a big Ramadan series.