Middle Eastern Music Mondegreens

Middle-Eastern Music Mondegreens

Mondegreens, those mis-heard lyrics we've all experienced (google it for more info), are probably more common when the song isn't in the same language you speak. Your brain tries to make sense of what it hears.

So we English-speaking fans of Middle Eastern music often have this experience, of thinking we hear English words in the middle of some Arabic, Turkish, Greek, or other Middle Eastern song. The Rising Phoenix Dancers presented some of their favorites at Oasis Dance Camp to discover what everyone else was hearing. It was interesting how many different ways people would interpret the same sounds, often with amusing results. Since posting this web page, we've received many more excellent examples of mis-heard lyrics in Middle Eastern songs. Some contributors report that the "new" words make them laugh so much they can no longer dance to the song.

So, here are some of the ones we've collected, organized by artist. I've found some of the CDs mentioned on amazon.com; you can click on the CD images at right to go to them there. *choreo

There are some for whom the voices seem to be providing choreographic notes; these are notated below by an image like the one at left.

 

George Abdo

  • "Raks Zeina", from the "Magic of Belly Dance" LP. Lyrics heard as "Zeina, Zeina, one-legged Zeina" (reported by Michelle (NC, USA) and others).

  • "Sahirrnee" from the CD "Belly Dance! The Best of George Abdo and his Flames of Araby Orchestra" (or the old "Magic of ..." LP). Jaziri (WA, USA) claims to have listened to this for many years and swears he signals the end of the song with "Superman cannot be dead."

  • "Wadeelo Salamy", from the LP "Belly Dancing with George Abdo". Title lyrics variously heard as "We deal salami" (reported by Shakira (OH, USA)), or "What a big salami" (reported by Sasha (CA, USA)).
Best of George Abdo

Abdy

  • "Galbi". To Marisa (OR, USA) it sounds like in the chorus he's encouraging us to "sing a Hawaiian song." Josefina (AZ, USA) hears an entire English chorus:
    Come here, young lady, And sing with a white dove,
    Come in, young lady, Let's sing a Hawaiian song.

    Nina Amaya (MD, USA) hears it differently:

    Gonna be done quickly, gonna see my body's gone,
    Gonna be done quickly, gonna sing my Valium song
Galbi by Abdy

Mustafa Amar

  • "Monaya". Jen (Scotland, UK) advises: "In the bridge, it sounds like he says 'Oh yeah, it's me - Bigfoot!' Proof that Sasquatch exists if ever I heard it!"

  • "Nar el Hob", heard as "Not a Hope", reported by Robin (NY, USA) as describing her love life.
Best of Mustafa Amar

Adam Basma Arabic Ensemble

John Belizikjian

Brothers of the Baladi

  • "Festani". Sasha (CA, USA) reports that the female chorus seems to be singing "Bugs on the highway, bugs on high..." and that even many years later, some of her troupe members still refer to it as the "bug" song.

  • "Mastoom Mastoom". Presumably this song is actually about drinking, which might explain the injury that caused them to sing "I need a Band-Aid, can't find a Band-Aid."
Brothers of the Baladi: Eye on the World

Amr Diab

  • "Amarain". Renee (WA, USA) reports that her husband hears the opening lines as "Woah, Mom and Dad, I'm a radio now" or "Woah Mom and Dad, are you ready or not?"

    Marisa (OR, USA) says her boyfriend swears the chorus sounds like "A Marine - a Marine is what I need."

  • "Ana Ayesh". Jen (Scotland, UK) tells us that he sings "Ana a'ayesh iw mosh a'ayesh," which she was convinced was "I'm a radish, a mushy radish."

  • "Bahebak Aktar". This song has a Greek part by Angela Dimitriou, which, as reported by Shadia al Shahar (AL, USA), sounds like "The sexy body of the emu... uh-huh, uh-huh... This kafta is pasta, it's pasta!" She even gave a link so you can listen for yourself: http://www.romanysaad.com/amrdiab/realaudio/amarain/amrdiab-bahebakaktar.shtml

  • "Habibi Ya Nour el Ain". Reported by Robyn Friend (CA, USA), she couldn't remember the title but identified it as "that lovely rhumba-y song that was very popular a few years ago (Georges Lammam taught it in his singing class at Mendocino camp a few years ago)". The song was later identified by Miranda. Robyn said the refrain sounds like "Habibi, habibi, habibi, I know you been lyin'".

    Carolynn (CA, USA) hears it differently: "... a noodle in my eye."

  • "Kallast Feek Kol Akalam". Jen (Scotland, UK) reports that her dearly beloved is convinced he hears Amr singing "Thou must defeat the Licky Lems." He thought maybe a Licky Lem could be a kind of candy and the song would make a good jingle.
Best of Amr Diab

Amr Diab: Greatest Hits

Mohammed Fouad

  • "Khafet Dhamon" (CD "Sif Safaa: New Music from the Middle East"). Lyrics heard as "His feet don't move, his feet don't move, oh what a shame his feet don't move."
Sif Safaa

Hamada Hilal

  • "Batalt Ahiboh", around 45 seconds into it, Nina Amaya (MD, USA) reports hearing, ""Overlook the high low: oh what a bitch you were -yy."
Hamada Hilal: Bakhaf

Samer Issa et al

  • Aimee (AL, USA) reports that she and her dance friends agree that in the song "Ya Bahaia", from the CD of the same name, "the man says 'I see dookie' (you know, like poop!) numerous times." She adds, "It's hard for me to dance to this without a big grin."
Ya Bahaia

Metkaal Kenawe

Noor Shimaal

  • "M'hanni Lebled", (CD "Where Africa Meets the Orient"). Lyrics heard as "Hide in a plant, you're ugly, hide in a plant; hide in a plant, you're ugly, son of a gun."

  • "Ilvanhm" (same CD) sounds like they're singing about "my stun gun, my stun gun."

  • "Weli Weli" (same CD) sounds like "Willie Willie Willie, won't you go back home."
Noor Shimaal

Solace

Tarkan

  • "Bu Guce (Kir Zincirlerini)" on his self-titled CD sounds like a sad tale about a romantic dancing fool, "Boogie Jane" or "Boogie Geoff" (the latter interpretation courtesy of Fiona (England)).

  • "Simarik" (the "Kiss kiss" song) makes me think Tarkan must be a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fan, because he occasionally mentions "Tasha Yar." My troupemates later decided this sounded more like "Chop lotsa yarn."
    *choreo This song inspires Fiona and her group in England. They are sure that in the song he says "arses, arses" and they shake their butts at that point.
Tarkan

Ehab Tawfik

Warda

*choreo
  • "Ya Leyl", from the CD "Harramt Ahebak". There's a part of the song where she sings what sounds like "big hip circle, big hip circle". This actually was very apt for a choreography taught by Ibrahim Farrah.
Harramt Ahebak by Warda

Unknown Artists

Various Artists

Want to find out the real lyrics to Middle Eastern songs? Shira's site is a good source.

Got any mis-heard Middle Eastern music lyrics you'd like to share? Send them to me, Sherezzah, email sherezzah at beledy.net.

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