JEDDAH: Have you always wanted to know what the songs of Abdulmajeed Abdullah, Dalida, Amr Diyab, Fairuz or other Arabic artists would sound like in a video game?
The answer? Check out the creations of Saudi Emarati digital artist and music producer Moath Bin Hafez, who reinterprets popular Arabic songs in video game environments.
For the 50th UAE National Day, Hafez came up with the idea of creating an 8-bit chiptune version of the UAE National Anthem, which was his pilot project.
“Since Instagram is primarily a visual platform, I created a simple animation of the UAE flag being flown in the Super Mario universe,” he told Arab News.
“To my surprise, the video game garnered a lot of attention and became my most watched video within a few days,” he said.
After his success, he decided to focus on chiptune remixes of Arabic pop music as there was clearly an “appetite” for this type of content.
“With modern software, you can emulate the sound of those old chips without having to learn anything about programming, so you just focus on the creative side like instrumentation, arrangement and stuff like that,” he said.
“I’m an 80’s kid so I played a lot on my Sakhr (MSX) and NES. For me, the music was always the most memorable part of those old games.”
He said the sound chips on those old consoles were very primitive, so the composers pushed the boundaries by being really creative with the composition and the techniques they used.
“The idea of working with limited tools to encourage your creativity really appeals to me,” he said.
Regarding music, Hafez said that electronic bands Daft Punk and Justice are his biggest inspirations.
Video games have changed so much over time, but his favorite is the classic generation Donkey Kong Country 2 and the modern generation Fallout series.
“I mostly contrasted the singers with backgrounds from fighting games like Street Fighter II and the King of Fighters series. They’re very lively and often have lively characters watching,” he said.
“I try to match the background to how the music sounds and how the singer comes across to me,” he said.
He explained that he used the famous Las Vegas set from Street Fighter II for one of his works for the 2000’s game show Man Sayarbah Al-Malyoon (Who Will Win the Million).
“It’s really crazy and over the top with dancers and spectators because I feel it fits the scale of this show in the Arab world,” he said.
Referring to his work on Lebanese singer Fairuz, he chiptuned her song “Habaytak Bisayf” (I Loved You in the Summer), which is about loneliness and longing.
“It made sense to have Fairuz cycle through empty landscapes through different seasons to match the lyrics and emphasize loneliness and isolation,” he said.