A dark, graceful silhouette advancing to the rhythm of roaring drums and synthesized, cracking clapping sounds ushers us into the opening scene of the “Yallah” music video. Abir suddenly appears before our eyes illuminated by a feeble teal light in Lynch-ian fashion. She’s filing her elongated, ruby claws sitting cross-legged on a low bed frame, fenced in by embellished pillows. The neon shine accentuates the hyper-local, golden decorations. The setting is mystical.
“We’re a problem, that’s what they say about us … we’re a problem,” she says, sporting an unamused expression. She’s fed up.
We are quickly thrown into a whirlwind of symbolism.
The Moroccan singer is found in a low-lit red room surrounded by silent, still, women shifting all focus onto her and her sensual moves in a choreographed, unconventional belly dancing session reminiscent of Salma Hayek’s infamous snake scene in From Dusk till Dawn.
She’s reclaimed the alluring cultural tradition of hip-shaking by doing so in a snug, form-fitting vintage Versace two-piece ensemble. The outfit pays tribute to an iconic, Muslim bombshell of the past, Yasmeen Ghauri, who wore the electrifying look on the runway in 1991.
The getup, selected by stylist Lorena Maza, graces Abir’s slender body, emphasizing her womanly core and framing the hypnotizing rolling of her hips.
Next, an abrupt location break shocks the audience. It’s a metaphor for the revolutionary message the singer yells out throughout the track. Abir’s romantic lace dress is in opposition to the earthy tones in the background, recalling the inflamed palette of her first single, Inferno. Abir’s bold attitude adds a layer of disconnect.
In a quick cinematic passage, we are transported back indoors. This time, the room is electric blue and the singer is surrounded by men of all ages. Her movements are less suggestive, rather sharp and commanding. Abir is running the show. She’s setting her own rules in such a powerful and glamorous way, we are urged to abide.
Yallah provides an anthem for a new generation of Women. Those who reject the rules maneuvering their immediate surroundings for a long time, too long maybe. The track echos of rebuttal. It’s the chant against societal expectations. An encouragement to be whoever you want to be, love who you love, and speak your truth, unapologetically.
The diversity depicted by the tale is a reflection of the heterogeneous Arab and Muslim community, one that cannot succumb to a monolithic interpretation. The climax is reached with a final, glass-shattering high note leading us into a slowed down tempo and a powerful last image depicting the ambivalence and variety of Arab womanhood.
Director: Sharif Abdel Mawla
Video Commissioner: Shadeh Smith
Creative Director: Nadia Azmy
Executive Producer: Sara Nix
Production Company: Partizan Entertainment
Cinematographer: Daan Bukman
Editor: Rigel Kilston / Splash Studios
Colorist: Joppo / De Grot
Production Designer: Desiree Brands
Stylist: Lorena Maza
Hair Artist: Ilham Mestour
Makeup Artist: Karima Maruan
Choreographer: Janelle Jalila Issis
Focus Puller: Rob van Dam
Local Producer: Fouad Challa / Dreamaker Productions
First AD: Bandar Atifi
Location Manager: Othman Al Khammari
Art Director: Marian Filali
Assistant Styling: Fatima Zahra Akhamlich