This clip has received over 14 million views in less than 3 years, since it was posted by Saudi-based musician Alaa Wardi, who is a YouTube sensation in the Arab world and in Turkey.
In Saudi Arabia, there is a prevailing idea that music and art are distractions from God. Music is considered “sinful” or “haram” by religious leaders, including the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Medina, Salah Al Budair. Very devout Muslims believe it is especially sinful for songs to refer to women and for women to be involved in the composition of music.
Important religious texts refer negatively to non-percussion musical instruments but Alaa Wardi works within these proscriptions and sometimes pokes fun at them, with his a capella compositions. This one, “No Woman, No Drive” is a spoof of the Bob Marley classic, “No Woman, No Cry” featuring Saudi stand up comedians, Hisham Fageeh and Fahad Albutairi, as a satirical comment on the Saudi Arabian ban on women drivers. The video quickly went viral on the same day that a number of Saudi women defied the driving ban in Saudi Arabia in October 2013.
Of himself, Wardi writes, “Alaa Wardi is my name, making music is my trade, bringing happiness is my desire, uplifting souls is my aim, all people are my brothers and sisters, all countries are my home, love and equality are my beliefs, hatred and prejudice depress me…”