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Meet Zach Matari, the US-Palestinian pop singer who went viral on TikTok.

Updated 23 sec ago Maan Jalal August 14, 2021 13:53 Follow @arabnews

DUBAI: Arab pop is a formula many Arab artists have attempted to perfect. And while some have had success, has there ever been an official Arab pop anthem that has swept the world?

Thanks to TikTok, the answer is now yes.

The artist Zach Matari, who recently signed to Empire, went viral overnight when he released his single "Yalla" in August 2020. With over 10 million views and counting on TikTok, the single quickly became a lockdown favorite, garnering a fast-growing international fan base for Matari.

"When I wrote 'Yalla' I wanted an Arabic word that everyone could sing and pronounce no matter their background," Matari told Arab News from his home in New Jersey, US. "I wanted an authentic sound. I wanted to write an anthem."

Independent artist Zach Matari went viral overnight when he released his single "Yalla" in August 2020. Supplied

"Yalla" seamlessly blends a catchy pop beat and the smooth ease of R&B with a rhythm and melody that is recognizably influenced by traditional Arabic music. The result is an energetic fusion that is not only hard to forget but impossible not to bop to.

"When we finally figured out how to fuse Western and Arabic music, I knew it was going to be something special. It took us months to come up with the sound. We wanted it to be real and unlike anything anyone had heard before."

For Matari, "Yalla" was more than just about creating and releasing a good track.

"I just repeated over and over again in my head that 'Yalla' was going to represent my people. It was a song that would expose our culture to a new audience so we could be seen in a positive light, and it did exactly that. The message is powerful, both for me and my people. It's a reminder that no matter what is being thrown at us, I'll never let it knock me down."

Matari has shared the stage with the likes of Ellie Goulding, Fetty Wap, Fifth Harmony and Ziggy Marley. Supplied

Matari, who has shared the stage with the likes of Ellie Goulding, Fetty Wap, Fifth Harmony and Ziggy Marley, has never shied away from his Arab and Latin roots. His identity has always been a source of pride and inspiration.

"I love to incorporate the sounds of my two cultures in a way that's authentic. Both communities are made up of proud, resilient people. It's encouraging to write anthems for them, to feel represented by them and to deliver their culture through music for the world to enjoy."

Despite the success of "Yalla," it was a reminder for Matari that there's still a lot of work ahead for Arabic music and Arab artists to have a voice in the international music scene.

"'Yalla' made me realize the lack of Arab representation in Western pop culture. As much as we think there's been progress, there's still a long way to go. It's pushed me to write better songs that people will connect with and to encourage other Arab American artists to release content to show the rest of the world who we are."

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Since his viral hit, Matari hasn't stopped working. His new single, "Lately," is a call for better representation and respect for all people.

"'Lately' is about my grandfather Sidi Mustafa Matari. Growing up I didn't have a superhero in the media. The guys who looked like me were always the villains. I'm here to change that narrative. 'Lately' is dedicated to my grandfather. He was the superhero who made me believe anything was possible and that I can be whoever I wanted to be. Because of him, I won't ever let someone tell me who I am or who I'm supposed to be."

"Lately" is now available to stream on all music platforms.

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Author:Maan Jalal
Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Aug 14, 2021
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