Do you remember back in the day singing Bailamos and Livin la vi da loca? Imagine people walking around humming the tunes of yatabtab and tanoora....for me that's actually a scary thought. Ok maybe this isn't the best comparison considering the former two were primarily in English, but it respresented a time when the masses took interest in music of the Latino culture. Is the same trend evolving with Arabic music amongst the Western audience? If you ask me, yes! or something like it.
Or maybe it's the people I hang out because it's all around me and I don't even reside in an area with a large arab population by any means. Yesterday I was hanging out with 2 friends at an arab-owned establishment that'll sometimes play Arabic music. A song came on that was undifferentiable to me from the one played before it and the one played after it. Their eyes both lit up as they simultaneously annouced "OH my God I love this song!" Neither of them are arab; one is of Iranian background the other is mixed ethnically (no arab blood).
When I told them I didn't know it they almost seemed annoyed at me, like they were sitting in the presence of an ignoramous. For the most part the only arabic songs I know are those that I hear over and over at celebrations. "Oh so you're like a fares karam-nancy ajram kind of girl then?" Wow! I was totally impressed my friend had enough knowledge to be able to make that conclusion.
Weeks before I was hanging out at a similar place that had Arabic music videos playing on a muted corner television so that we can only see the cheesy scenes. One of the people with me, a very Southern White girl, wanted to know if what was on the screen was "that boosi wawa song". She then added her own commentary that it was such a silly song. So not only can she identify arabic songs, but she made a differentiation between "good" ones and "bad" ones. That reminds me, my roomie asked me on several occasions if I can burn an Arab CD for her that she can listen to when working out.
You could say it could be because the people I was hanging out with may also have a lot of arab friends, but I have a lot of Asian friends and I could never identify an asain song or name a singer. There seems to be more interest in Arabic pop music than the pop music of other minorities nowadays (maybe except for Latinos). Any theories?