Coke Studio and Cultural Hybridity in Music

As Irvine explains, recognizing songs that we know can happen very quickly, and it happens through a “simultaneous understanding of stacked, synced and layered combinations of sounds (timbres, instruments, melodies, harmonies, rhythms) and sung or rhythmic recitation of lyrics (language and poetic forms, in songs with lyrics or words)”(Irvine). Different music genres have different sounds that we associate with them, and contemporary music often mixes these different sounds together in new ways. Certain music genres are also associated with certain cultures, and thus can symbolically represent these cultures. The mixing of these music genres (with one sound that represents a culture, and another sound that evokes another culture) is a popular form of fusion and remix in contemporary culture.

Coke Studio Middle East is a TV show that plays off this idea of cultural hybridity and mixing through music, by bringing together popular artists and sounds from different countries in the Arab world, and having these artists collaborate on songs with artists from other countries outside the Arab world. The show embraces the idea of cultural mixing, but always ensures that the songs and artists collaborating with one another are popular and immediately recognizable to audiences. Each song plays off of the popularity of a certain song, but mixes it with new sound elements, reminding listeners that the song is a remix and incorporating sounds emblematic of a different culture. The Coke Studio songs are fairly obvious in their combination of carefully chosen sounds for us to pass through our “conceptual frames that we’ve learned,” playing off the meaning of sounds in specific genres and styles in the collective ‘cultural encyclopedia’ of musical forms and their meaning associations”(Irvine 2).

Video: Nancy Ajram & Jose Galvez collaboration, “Hali Hal”

This video, featuring Lebanese pop star Nancy Ajram, singing in Arabic, is a collaboration between her and the Spanish flamenco singer, Jose Galvez. The sounds mixed in the song signal to us immediately that we’re hearing a combination of Arabic music and flamenco music. I think the rhythms in the song are distinctly flamenco, as are Jose Galvez’s vocals, while Nancy’s vocals are distinctly Arabic. The description on the song’s YouTube page highlights this fusion, and also highlights their respective “authenticity,” purity, and status:

“Oriental Music meets Flamenco Music: Nancy Ajram an icon of the Arabic pop music meets Jose Galves who comes from a pure Gypsy Spanish tradition. They come together to create a fusion where the Oriental Pop meets the Spanish Flamenco music. “

Various Coke Studio Middle East collaborations, featured on their website:

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Video: “Just a Dream” by Shereen and Nelly 

The melody and song structure of “Just a Dream” by Nelly and Shereen is obviously playing off the recognizability of the very popular Nelly song. The twist is that Shereen, an Egyptian pop singer, joins forces with Nelly on the song, and sings the chorus in Arabic. They have also changed the instrumental arrangement in the song. In addition to the live band with guitars and drums, they’ve also added an accordion (or something that sounds like one?) and string instruments, which has the effect of  making the song sound more “Arab” or “Egyptian.” The result is a song that mixes musical codes from American pop/rap/hip hop music with Egyptian pop, but mostly relies on the original “Just a Dream” to carry listeners through the hybrid mix. I believe this song, and mos,t if not all of the Coke Studio songs,  is an example of what Navas calls a “selective remix,” which “consists of adding or subtracting material from the original song”(Navas).

Works Cited

Coke Studio Middle East. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2014. <>.

Irvine, Martin. “Popular Music as a Meaning System.”

Just A Dream — Shereen & Nelly,Š S02E01.” YouTube. N.p., 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2014. <>.

“Nancy Ajram & Jose Galvez, Hali Hal, Coke Studio , S01E01.” YouTube. N.p., 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2014. <>.

Navas, Eduardo. “Remix: The Bond of Repetition and Representation.” Remix Theory. N.p., 16 Jan. 2009. Web. 04 Apr. 2014. <>.