Despite the considerably low turnout for the Egyptian presidential elections (46 per cent), fans of UAE singer Hussain al Jasmi claimed that his song, “Boshret Khair” (Good Omen) ten days before the elections encouraged many Egyptians to vote. Launched on May 16, the song gained more than 13 million views on YouTube so far.
Written by Egyptian Ayman Bahjat Qamar, the song capitalized on the global success of Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” including Arab countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon and most recently Yemen.
Al Jasmi’s song adopted a similar style of Williams, especially the cheerful music which was composed by Egyptian Amro Mustafa. The lyrics which were written by Egyptian Bahgat Amar call on Egyptians from some of the country’s major cities to participate in elections.
While the video does not show the singer, Al Jasmi, it features ordinary Egyptians from different provinces dancing happily in streets and holding signs that encourage people to vote in.
Al Jasmi’s success prompted some journalists and social media users to initiate a twitter hashtag campaign to grant the UAE singer Egyptian citizenship.
As happened with Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, Egyptians posted tribute videos capturing their happy moments while dancing to Al Jasmi’s song. Some of these videos went viral prolonging the momentum of the song.
One version shows a woman wearing Niqab belly dancing in the middle of the street to the song, and a crowd of people gathered around her cheering.
Another shows what appears to be a group of policemen belly dancing to the song. Others used montage movie scenes showing famous Arab and western celebs dancing to the song. U.S President Barack Obama was the theme of one of those montage clips.
A hashtage of the song name, #بشرة_خير (Boshret Khair) has been trending with users posting videos and photos of people dancing to the song.
The song also has a serial now made by monologist and satirist Akram Hossni, also known as Abu Hafidha, the name of the TV character he presents in a weekly show “Yes’ad Allah Masa’ikum” (Pleasant Evening). The monologist used the same music with new lyrics calling on Egyptians in cities that Al Jasmi’s song forgot to mention.
Egypt’s classic singer, Hani Shakir, criticized the song clip saying that it shows the country as one big “cabaret ” in reference to all the dancing Egyptians it features.
Aside from the song artistic value, it certainly had some of the magic formula that makes many videos go viral. One ingredient is that it tells a compelling story on how significant the elections are in shaping Egypt’s modern history. Regardless of what kind of product you are trying to market, a compelling narrative could be your way of selling the story.
Additionally, the song managed to create an emotional engagement by making people dance or clap or smile every time they listen to it. A sad song/video could also have similar impact.
According to Kevin Allocca, YouTube trends manager, described tastemakers, creative participating communities, complete unexpectedness, as all characteristics of a new kind of media and a new kind of culture where anyone has access and the audience defines the popularity.
In this context, the song was a subject of discussion of many daily Egyptian and Arab TV talk shows such as Amr Adeeb’s “Cairo Today“, whom, with other TV hosts, served as tastemakers.
The Egyptian entertainment community tweeted and shared jokes about it so did the social media users. All these factors combined together with the timing of the song, the significance of the theme for the Egyptians, has helped it go viral. However there are no guarantees that even if you still used this same exact formula that your video would go viral..one can only try !