What You Should Know About Suhel Nafar and the Music Industry


We have previously talked about various different Middle Eastern artists and their journeys with the Western world and its media. Some of these artists include Faouzia, Abir, and even Ruby. We also know about many Arab artists who are very popular amongst the Western media like Bazzi, Rami Malek, and many more. Today we want to talk about Suhel Nafar who brings together various Middle Eastern artists, and their music all around the world through different playlists he creates and uploads globally for everyone to listen to. In the world of music he has become a token of hope as he highlights and discusses many important topics in the industry helping in the representation of ethnic and Arab artists. 

Suhel Nafar has previously been associated with the hip-hop group DAM as their co-founder which has been within the Arab culture for 20 years. In 2016, he helped launch the complex Snapchat Discover channel which soon turned out to be the fastest growing platform in the history of Complex Networks. Another big accomplishment was the fact that Suhel and his story with the band, DAM was featured into an award winning documentary called Slingshot Hip Hop. It premiered in 2008, at the Sundance Film Festival and has even been featured internationally at places like the Mori Art Museum in Japan, TIFF Kids International Film Festival in Berlin, La Matatena in Mexico and the Asiana International Short Film Festival. 

Currently, Nafar is working in the Spotify Global Lead of Arab Music and Culture. He explains that after touring with his band around the world since he was 14 years old he would constantly look for a piece of home everywhere he would travel to. One of the main ways he has realized people connect back to their roots and culture is through music. This is where Arab Hub on Spotify takes place, it is where all you have to do is just search the word, ‘Arab’ and a whole hub of playlists like Yalla, Shisha Lounge and Arab X pop up. In this Hub listeners can take a deep dive into the music that is currently trending everywhere in the Middle Eastern Diaspora and teaches us how music can be such a connective force when millions of users are able to stream and jam together. 

Suhel Nafar is also the Vice President of Strategy & Market Development- WANA at EMPIRE, the leading independent label, distributor, and publisher in the US and the first label to open a division in the US to help grow the local scene in West Asia & North Africa and its diaspora. He explains that the journey to create a playlist is actually really strategic. In the Middle East diaspora alone there are about 22 different countries that him and his team look into to see what music is trending, videos that people are loving, and genres that individuals are mostly listening to. With that, he curates the most popular songs and creates different playlists for specific types of music, so everyone is able to listen to it internationally. 

One of Suhel’s main priorities while leading the Arab culture on Spotify is to make his people happy and proud of who they are and their roots. He says that he needs to carefully pick and choose specific Arab artists from home and within the diaspora that are being heard and represented so no one feels left out, but individuals are getting the chance to listen to something new as well. 

He strongly believes that when you learn about a culture through music, film or any type of art, that culture becomes familiar to you, and when you are familiar to something, it becomes closer. He claims that Spotify does a great job in caring about global cultures and Arab Hub is proof of that. He hopes that through music and learning about the different types of Arab cultures it brings the same and different people closer and together. 

If you want to get to know Suhel, make sure to signup for our Virtual Cafe tomorrow where we’re having a conversation with Suhel as well as enjoy performances by @aneestherapper @zachmatari @malaykamusic @iam_soulful @tamaraqaddoumi FT @ovidlb.

by Mariam Asif – YLT Staff

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