Etab: The Saudi Singing Star Who Continues to Inspire

Etab, a pioneering Saudi singer who passed away in 2007, remains an inspiration to Arab women in music nearly two decades later. Despite the social restrictions of her time, Etab defied norms by performing in public, starting at weddings and family gatherings at the age of 13. Her big break came in 1972 when she performed at a concert alongside Egypt’s renowned singer, Abdel Halim Hafez. Etab’s unique style, blending Bedouin roots with contemporary influences, quickly gained popularity, making her a household name across the Arab world.

Throughout her career, Etab released 15 albums and starred in three films, becoming an icon with hits like “Gani Al-Asmar” and “Mita Ashoufaq.” Her husky voice and folksy-contemporary aesthetic set her apart, and she remained true to her roots even after settling in Cairo. Beyond her musical achievements, Etab also advocated for women’s empowerment in the male-dominated music industry.

Two prominent Arab singers, Sawsan Albahiti and Rahma Riad, reflect on Etab’s legacy and its impact on their own careers. Albahiti, a Saudi opera singer, remembers the influence of Etab’s music on Saudi women and its role in shaping her identity as an artist. Riad, an Iraqi singer, highlights Etab’s ability to connect through music and bridge cultural divides. Both artists emphasize the importance of cultural authenticity in their own music, drawing inspiration from Etab’s unwavering dedication to her Saudi heritage.

Etab’s legacy as a cultural ambassador and trailblazer continues to inspire artists who follow in her footsteps, reminding them of the power of music to transcend entertainment and foster connection, education, and inspiration.

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