The Arab world is lambasting Lebanese singer Myriam Fares for her gyrations in the video for the World Cup's theme song, saying her erotic dance moves disrespect Arab tradition.
In the clip for “Tukoh Taka,” the 39-year-old stars alongside Nicki Minaj and Colombian singer Maluma as they celebrate the month-long soccer tournament in Qatar.
Both in the media and on social media, some call Fares' performance a cheap imitation of Shakira, who sang “Waka Waka” for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Commentators on Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television said Fares’ revealing outfit “doesn't reflect the Arab identity.”
The editor of a Lebanese cultural magazine tweeted that “her performance doesn't reflect Lebanese music.” Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted a critique on social media: “The Arab singer is supposed to reflect Arab culture in attire and appearance, not just bounce around and dance while singing meaningless and annoying lyrics.”
Another critic on social media wrote: “This dance doesn't represent Qatar’s identity, nor does it represent our identity as citizens of the Gulf. And most importantly, it doesn't represent our identity as Muslims. Our heritage and culture are more important than a cheap imitation of Shakira and others. This kind of dance belongs in nightclubs.”
The claim that Fares is trying to imitate the Colombian superstar (who is of Colombian and Lebanese descent) is widespread. As another critic on Twitter put it, “the world would be a better place if Myriam Fares stopped being convinced that she’s Shakira.”
But a Lebanese journalist has come to Fares’ defense. Nidal Al Ahmadieh, editor-in-chief of the Beirut-based cultural newspaper Al Jaras, tweeted: “The most important thing is that Myriam Fares represented Lebanon, and we're pleased with her. Anybody who doesn’t like it can just show us their performance at the next World Cup.”
And Lebanese journalist Rabia Zayyat added on Twitter: “The assault on Myriam Fares is frightening! She's a talented and hard-working artist from my country, and she's taking part in the most important event in the world! And instead of being happy for her success, we attack her.”
Lebanese journalist and cultural critic Jamal Fayad told the newspaper An-Nahar that “the criticism and scorn being heaped on Fares is all about envy. The fact that a Lebanese artist can take part in the World Cup is a big achievement, and it’s natural that Fares would come in for criticism on social media.”
But Fayad added that Fares “made a big mistake by choosing to write and create the material herself. If she had been helped by or had consulted with major artists in the Arab world, she could have created music of a higher quality and more fitting for an event like this. I don’t like her performance in the World Cup song because it's very ordinary at best.”
This isn’t the first time Fares has come under attack for a video; in 2018 it was for the song “Goumi.”
In that clip, she's in a jungle surrounded by people in what's supposed to pass for tribal attire. In one part her skin and face are shaded darker. The video sparked an uproar on social media, with people calling her racist and accusing her of appropriating African culture.
One critic wrote: “It's sad that these topics don't come up for discussion in our Arab culture, and that someone can make a whole video like this without seeing any problem with it. This is totally racist and ignorant.”
In interviews, Fares defends herself by saying the aim was to highlight “black beauty” as described in the song’s lyrics.