As 2023 comes to a close, the SceneNoise team takes a look at the most prominent albums and EPs released in the MENA region during the year. From pounding post-Shaabi rhythms to free-form Jazz compositions and speaker-rattling Trap and Drill, the year was full of artists taking risks with their sonic identities, as the regional music scene as a whole has begun to embrace change and development when it comes to the styles that shape our sound.

Here are our picks for the top 50 albums and EPs of 2023:

Marwan Moussa - Import / Export

A prominent figure in Egypt's rap scene and winner of the Best African Rapper award, Marwan Mousa’s 2023 album 'IMPORT//EXPORT' delved into two distinct styles. The first half, aptly titled 'IMPORT', showcases a fusion of western-influenced trap and drill, while the second half, 'EXPORT', embraces the rich sonics of Shaabi music in collaboration with multi-platinum Grammy-nominated producer Khaled Rohaim.

3Phaz - Ends Meet

3Phaz’s distinctive approach to Egyptian and electronic music in his latest album, "Ends Meet," has garnered widespread acclaim for its innovative take on deconstructing Shaabi rhythms and Arabic melodies with a blend of traditional sounds from Shaabi and Mahraganat, as well as intersections with Grime, Techno, and Bass-heavy subcultures.

‘Ends Meet’ captures a world that may not be utopian but exudes a sense of liberation and joy through seven percussion-driven compositions, featuring hard-hitting kicks, dynamic rhythmic excursions, and traditional flute-like synth melodies.

Grande Toto - 27

ElGrandeToto leaves his mark once again on the global music scene with his latest release, ‘27’. The album showcases Toto's journey from the streets of Casablanca to a sold-out concert at the legendary Olympia in Paris, solidifying his position as the most streamed Arabophone artist on Spotify.

The Wanton Bishops - Under the Sun

The Wanton Bishops' album 'Under the Sun' defies genre categorization, encompassing Oriental, Electronic, Blues, Rock and Roll, Psychedelic, Surf, Synth-pop and Dance influences. The album serves as an ode to Beirut, uniting the city's divided polarity and bridging the gap between the post-war generation and internet millennials.

Hady Moamer - Zekrayat ElMostabal

Hady Moamer, known under the pseudonym Jean Bleu, has been steadily rising in Egypt's music scene. After making his mark as both a producer and rapper with the eclectic EP 'Darbt Bar2', Moamer unveiled his second EP, 'Zekrayat Elmostabal' ('The Memories of The Future'), a captivating collection of tracks that blend Upper Egyptian folklore with modern British sounds, exploring a range of human emotions.

Pink Seasalt - Out of Luck

Egyptian indie rock band Pink Seasalt took us on a trip with their dreamy and eclectic tunes on their album ‘Out of Luck’. Led by guitarist and songwriter Mahmoud Hafez, the band's mesmerising live performance at Memphis Records' Tidal Dream Festival earlier this year showcased their talent and won the hearts of a crowd of fans.

El Mokh - El Magzar

Egyptian music producer El Mokh, took a new direction to Mahraganat music in his debut album 'El Magzar.' Seamlessly blending influences from Lofi, Shaabi, Mahraganat, and Hip-hop, the album features seven tracks that artfully divide into two distinct halves.

Xander Ghost - Fayadan

Cairo-born, UK-based rapper and producer Xander Ghost’s ten year long career with music has led him to develop a unique blend of electronic music, pop, and rap music that maintains accessibility in his EP 'Fayadan', a fusion of experimental mixes, Synth-Trap beats, and unexpected sounds rarely heard in Arabic rap.

Noel Kharman - Mouthakerti

Rising to regional notoriety through her viral mash-ups of Arabic classics and modern pop songs, followed by a successful run of original releases, Palestinian artist Noel Kharman finally released her long awaited debut EP ‘Mouthakerti’ (My Diary), where she channels a blend of Arabic Pop influences while tackling love, loss, hope and ambition.

Taymour Khajah - Barren Land

In music, it’s said that you need to know all the rules before you can break them. On ‘Barren Land’, Kuwaiti multi-instrumentalist, composer, and music producer Taymour Khajah takes this statement to heart as he deftly blurs the lines between technical prowess and rebellious cacophony in his blend of spoken word vocals and free-thinking Jazz instrumentals.

Dina El Wedidi - Five Seasons

On her latest EP ‘Five Seasons’, Egyptian artist Dina El Wedidi effortlessly laces dense melodic and rhythmic ideas into an accessible fusion of Jazz, Pop, and traditional Arabic music in one of her most intricately arranged releases to date.

Hamza Namira - Raye2

‘Raye2’ serves as a glimpse into current-day Egyptian Pop music, as the album embraces elements from emerging global trends such as Afrobeats, while still maintaining the quintessential feel-good energy of a Pop record. With artists around the region experimenting with similar sonics, this album stands out for the sheer effort and attention to detail found in its thoughtful production and songwriting.

Husayn - Switch

After his success with the Egyptian rap group Maadi Town Mafia, Husayn took the opportunity to explore his own personal sound with his album ‘Switch’, where he touches on genres like Pop, EDM, old-school Hip-hop, and Trap, while tying everything together under the concept of making the switch between different personas to interact with different people.

Muhab - Ya Kahera

Having made a name for himself in the Egyptian rap scene in the last year with the release of two full-length albums, ‘Bye’, and ‘Ya Kahera’, Muhab struck a chord with Rap fans due to some similarities with Egyptian Rap pioneer Marwan Pablo. However, in ‘Ya Kahera’, the artist began developing a sound that he could truly call his own, where he adopts elements of Egyptian Trap and Shaabi instrumentals, while veering further from typical Rap flows and looking more to RnB inspired vocals.

Assyouti - The Disintegration of Eric Omelette

Considered a pioneering figure in Cairo’s underground electronic music scene, Egyptian producer Assyouti has established himself over the years through his high-octane releases and unmatched energy. On his latest release ‘The Disintegration of Eric Omelette’, Assyouti outdoes himself yet again with a collection of no-nonsense jungle and his personal spin on breakcore.

Saint Levant - From Gaza With Love

After being propelled into the global mainstream with the success of his 2022 single ‘Very Few Friends’, Palestinian artist Saint Levant took on the task of developing his new-found style of sultry trilingual RnB on his sophomore EP ‘From Gaza, with Love’, where he revisits a series of tumultuous love affairs, funnelled through the melodies that shaped his upbringing.

Shobee - HOWLS

Moroccan artist Shobee has been consistently rising through the ranks of the kingdom’s rap scene, showcasing smooth flows and an underlying musicality throughout his spontaneous releases. Having released his debut album ‘HOWLS’ earlier this year, the rapper made a point to display his versatile and experimental instrumentals in the concise full-length project, while retaining his low-key energy that he has become highly regarded for.

Wingii - Magnesto

Much like fellow rapper and Maadi Town Mafia member Husayn, Egyptian rapper Wingii also uses his debut album to explore his own sound with a mix of Jersey Club, Trap, and Drill beats, along with some Alt-rock and piano-based instrumentals in the introspective album named after, and heavily inspired by, the life of his uncle Mangesto.

Rasha Nahas - Amrat

Departing from big-band arrangements and opting instead for a more minimalistic pallet, Rasha Nahas’ ‘Amrat’ is a story of two chapters; the first driven by loneliness and alienation, written during the pandemic while suffering a hand injury, and the second driven by a longing for home. In the process of writing the album, Nahas’ injury limited her usual guitar-based workflow, leading her to experiment with new sounds and electronic instruments, marking the album as a transformative point in the artist’s career.

Ouella - Yak Labas

‘Yak Labbas’ is a 6-track EP in which Moroccan artist Ouella expresses his longing for his Moroccan heritage. Born and raised in Egypt, Ouella’s experience has been that of feeling like an outsider in either culture, and in this EP, he dives into his constant need to connect with his roots.

Maurice Louca & Elephantine - Moonshine

Forming a musical family of sorts while recording the album, Egyptian experimentalist Maurice Louca and the band of free-form Jazz musicians, Elephantine, have developed a close interpersonal connection that sits at the core of ‘Moonshine’. With two drummers, expansive arrangements, and an underlying sense of melancholic expression, the album delivers a sonic experience that is both organic and intoxicating.

Tardast - Leave to Remain

Speaking on his struggles as a refugee in the UK, Iranian grime MC Tardast’s Farsi flows, signature production style, and traditional influences give ‘Leave to Remain’ its distinct sound, coined as ‘Farsi Grime’ by the artist himself. In this album, Tardast refines this sound even further as he recounts his growth as an artist in the diaspora.

SANAM - Aykathani Malakon

Lebanese free-rock sextet SANAM’s debut album is an otherworldly exploration of spacious textures, poignant poetry, and visceral instrumentation. Having decided to record the album live with no overdubs, the six seasoned musicians’ varied backgrounds blended together in the undirected harmony that arose from their improvisation.

Laï - Digital

In her debut EP ‘Digital’, Lebanese singer-songwriter Laï ventures into a dark interpretation of Pop music, full of moody textures and ominous atmospheres, in a style she describes as Anti-pop. The ambitious concept of the album, along with the animated visualizers, present Laï as a digital version of herself, adding to the nuance of emotional exploration found on the release.

QOW - EL Mosameh Sherine

By sampling and rearranging some of Sherine Abdel-Wahab’s most memorable ballads, Egyptian producer QOW, also known as Omar El Sadek, takes listeners on an unfolding ambient odyssey, where evolving textures and soft melodies draw listeners into the project’s hypnotic draw.

Baskot Lel Baltageyya - Baskot

While listening through this album, you may pick up on elements from genres such as Alternative Rock, Electronica, or Post-shaabi, but when fused together, the sound of ‘Baskot’ defies categorization, as it does not lean too heavily on any one influence. Instead, the album only weaves these familiar elements within the surreal soundscapes that give the album its character, brought to life through Adham Zidan’s experimental compositions and Anwar Dabbour’s uncanny songwriting.

ZULI - Komy

While legendary Egyptian producer ZULI’s latest EP ‘Komy’ is full of hard-hitting club bangers, it is only a taste of what the artist has in store for the future, as he explains that the EP is a collection of tracks that have been sitting around for years, with some dating back to as early as 2016 which he wanted to “get out of the way” before releasing his newer material. The EP still stands out as an innovative release, in which the producer looks to collaborators around the region to expand his sonic influence. The producer, along with his collaborators, also made the commendable decision to donate all proceeds to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

Zenobia - Warriors Never Die

Musical duo Zenobia ventures into the realm of Palestinian folk songs, specifically those associated with women's melodies. Zenobia carefully selected four emblematic folk songs traditionally sung by women, originally intertwined with moments in everyday life such as weddings, celebrations, and funerals, amplifying the voices of marginalised individuals, becoming a conduit for the narratives of the unheard.

Shkoon - Masrahiya

Delving into the Arabic rendition of "theatre" or "a play," Shkoon’s latest album, 'Masrahiya,' explores the intricacies of performances and the masks we wear in our daily existence. 'Masrahiya' unfolds as a masterful tapestry within the framework of a three-chaptered album, where themes of tragedy, politics, and irony seamlessly intertwine. The duo characterises their music as a perpetual rebellion against traditional sonic norms, ardently endeavouring to surpass cross-cultural boundaries and reflect on the multifaceted nature of the human condition.

Mishaal Tamer - The Deep

Mishaal Tamer’s enchanting voice transformed the Saudi singer into the Middle East’s loverboy. Each song on the album casts a spotlight on pivotal moments that have shaped Mishaal's life and career. The album is a poignant exploration of the artist's fears and anxieties, and reflects his willingness to confront and share the most intimate chapters of his personal narrative through the medium of music.

Lana Lubany - The Holy Land

Palestinian Pop artist Lana Lubany’s ‘The Holy Land’ is an introspective, eight-song musical exposé, examining themes of homeland and belonging. Connecting Western and Middle Eastern sounds, Lana Lubany's distinct, alluring, and rhythmically bilingual music resonates loudly in her latest release. ‘The Holy Land’ presents the narrative of her personal odyssey from self-loss to self-discovery with each song functioning as a distinct chapter representing negativity, temptation, mental turmoil, reaching a point of no return, and ultimately reclaiming personal strength.

El Kontessa - Nos Habet Caramel

El Kontessa's inaugural album, ‘Nos Habet Caramel’, unites seven sample-rich, rhythm-infused tracks characterised by percussions, impactful vocal hits, synths, and sounds sourced from Cairo's environments. Seamlessly merging her production skills with DJ expertise, El Kontessa crafts each track into a condensed and dynamic structure reminiscent of a DJ's set.

Tinariwen - Amatssou

‘Amatssou’ is the ninth album by the Tuareg band Tinariwen, with the album's title meaning "beyond the fear" in Tamasheq, a Berber dialect. The Tuareg band intertwines their trademark winding guitar melodies and mesmerising rhythms with contributions from guest musicians, including Daniel Lanois on pedal steel, piano and strings. The enriched arrangements give the songs a grand and universally resonant quality. Infused with poetic allegory, the lyrics advocate for unity and freedom. Within the songs, themes of struggle and resistance emerge, subtly alluding to recent political turmoil in Mali.

Youmna Saba - Wishah

‘Wishah’, which translates to 'Veil' in Arabic, is a musical composition composed by Youmna Saba featuring voice, oud, and electronic sounds. Structured into five distinct chapters, the composition unfolds to reveal a process of gradual revelation. Each track peels away layers of constructed emotions and perceptions intricately woven over time, exposing a space that no longer holds existence. "Wishah" serves as a poignant farewell to home, capturing the essence of departure and the transformative experience that accompanies it.

TIF - 1.6

Hailing from Algeria, TIF stands as a trailblazer in the burgeoning North African rap scene, seamlessly blending Hip-hop bass with Oriental influences. Often referencing themes of love, emancipation and homeland in his lyrics, TIF is a master in code switching, with his soft vocals offering a fresh approach to rap. ‘1.6’ is a highly awaited follow-up to his standout performance on ‘Houma Sweet Houma’ in 2022.

Teen Idle - Nonfiction

In her latest album, 'Nonfiction,' New-Jersey-raised Egyptian-born musician Sara Barry explores themes of departure, heartbreak and the challenges of growing up. The album vividly depicts the perpetual process of bidding farewell to childhood and the hardships that accompany adulthood, underscoring our hesitancy to embrace change. Through its 11 tracks, 'Nonfiction' skillfully blends indie-rock with bedroom pop, creating a sonic landscape that blurs traditional boundaries.

Mayssa Jallad - Marjaa: The Battle of the Hotels

‘Marjaa: The Battle of the Hotels’ is a concept album based on singer-songwriter Mayssa Jallad's dual expertise in music and urban research. Crafted in collaboration with producer Fadi Tabbal, the music intricately weaves Tabbal's spatial approach to sound with Jallad's exploration of Beirut's Hotel District. The album is a homage to Jallad's master's thesis in Historic Preservation, a comprehensive study detailing the history of the Battle of the Hotels that unfolded in the late 70s in Lebanon.

Acid Arab - Three

The Franco-Algerian collective Acid Arab’s latest, titled ‘٣ (Trois)’ features ten tracks of compelling dancefloor hits. The album's sophisticated production and the captivating performances of eight guest vocalists from North Africa, Syria, and Turkey contribute to its diverse and intriguing nature. Acid Arab incorporates Algerian Gasba, Anatolian Trance, Synthetic Dabkeh, and Bionic Raï. With nearly a decade of exploration in various music genres through collaborations and extensive travels across the Mediterranean and beyond, Acid Arab continues to push boundaries.

Vargas - I Hate Summer

In his second studio album, Moroccan rapper Vargas ventures into new territories, exploring a fusion of techno, rap, dance, and drill. ‘I Hate Summer’ has a variety of low and high energy tracks which share the same fusion of sounds and genres that are distinct to Vargas’ persona.

Hassan AbouAllam - Shalfata

Cairo-based Hassan AbouAllam’s latest dance album is made up of four tracks, plus a remix of each of them from renowned producers and dancefloor masters Zuli, 3Phaz, Trakka, and Joaquin Cornejo. The project is marked by clean mixed drums and distorted sound design and vocals, giving listeners some ear candy within every track.

Marwan Pablo - Akher Qet3a Faneya

After another lengthy hiatus, Alexandria-born rapper Marwan Pablo dropped his long-awaited ‘Akher Qet3a Faneya’. The album was mostly produced by Pablo himself, along with a few tracks produced by frequent collaborator Hadi Moamer. Although Pablo didn’t necessarily switch his sound, he introduced new flavours and twists that added to his discography of bouncy production and social commentary-based rhymes, illustrating the dark realities of his personal experiences in society.

El Sawareekh - 2oll Ya Rayek

This project illustrates the Mahraganat duo’s originality and consistent efforts to develop their sound. By incorporating numerous elements from genres such as Shaabi, Hip-hop and Pop, they have managed to refresh their influential style in their latest EP.

Zaid Zaza - Zaza El Waseem

On his latest album ‘Zaza El Waseem’, Ziad Zaza points to change as his main motivation behind the LP. The Fayoum-born, Cairo-based artist juggles multiple genres on this release, dabbling with EDM, Pop and Mahraganat sonics while also staying true to the Drill sonics that have defined his sound in the past.


After establishing a reputation for themselves within Cairo’s underground music scene, MOSHTRQ’s first release as a collective sees them embarking on an exploration largely centred around fast tempos and left-field sonics. From Postdrone’s warped break-beats and vocal chops to Yaseen and Dakn’s tempo shifting hybrid bass banger, it’s safe to say that every MOSHTRQ artist adds their own distinct sound and character to this release.

Afroto - Belad

Afroto’s five-track EP ‘Belad’ showcases his diversity as an artist as he expands his vocal style within multiple genres ranging from Shaabi, Trap and Electronica. ‘Belad’ also features regional rap stars Ziad Zaza and Marwan Moussa, who amplify the energy of the EP with their electrifying verses.

Sabine Salame - Tafi El Daw

Lebanese artist Sabine Salame’s debut album features 10 diverse tracks that take the listener through the different emotional stages of immigration. The album stands out due to its effortless merge of Rap, spoken word and melodic singing. Through the use of dark humour, Sabine is able to translate her personal tragedies of separation and alienation into an overall uplifting experience. The album is a collaboration with fellow Lebanese producer and sound design artist, Jawad Nawfal AKA Munma.

Mvndila - HYDR

Straight from the heart of Sudan emerges 23-year-old up-and-coming rapper, singer and songwriter Mvndila who delivers heartfelt testimonies about the emotional toll of being a young man in a modern day Sudan on his latest EP ‘HYDER’. The five-track EP comes with heavyweight production credits boasting names like ‘77, Sammany, Swish, Khayyat, and MarwanOnTheMoon, while covering topics such as depression, love and codependency.

Lil Baba - Seif

Known for his influential production style, Lil Baba’s debut EP as a rapper showcases his singing chops, smooth flows and witty wordplay. The release also brings together members of ‘El Mexic’ collective such as Abo El Anwar, Ahmed Santa, and Abyusif, as well as Egyptian hit-maker 3enba to deliver a diverse list of tracks that maintains a consistent vision and sound throughout.

Eldab3 - 3awdet Eldab3

Although Eldab3 hasn’t been the most active artist throughout his career, when he does release, he makes sure that he offers a valuable addition to the sound coming out of the region. In ‘3awdet Eldab3’, the artist refines his fusion of Rap, Electronic and Mahraganat to create well-rounded entries that solidify his artistic vision with his most concise collection of tracks to date.

Abo El Anwar - Akhro Noor

Prolific Egyptian rapper Abo El Anwar dropped his first full-length album ‘Akhro Noor’ in early 2023. The project features a set of heavy hitting tracks that revolve around Jersey club beats, old school Rap sonics, as well as some emotional RnB tracks. The project also features summer-hit Blanco, featuring Maadi Town Mafia member Husayn, where the pair go back and forth along the track while effortlessly merging their flows and lyrics creating a catchy sing-along that took TikTok by storm.