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LEBANON: Pop princess faces Egyptian outrage over 'Nubian monkey' lyrics

October 21, 2009 |  8:02 am

Haifa Wehbe is no stranger to controversy. The sultry Lebanese provocateur made a name for herself on the Arabic music scene with her signature coquettish pout and tongue-in-cheek songs like "Boos al Wawa" ("Kiss the Boo-Boo) and "Ya Ibn al Halal" (roughly, "Hey, Good Little Muslim Boy").

But now the pop princess is finding herself at the center of a different kind of scandal after Egyptian lawmakers expressed outrage over allegedly racist lyrics in her new song "Baba Fein?" ("Where's Daddy?"), according to news reports. 

The song, a duet between Wehbe and a young singer who plays her son, is supposed to be a lighthearted lyrical argument revolving around bedtime, with the child at one point singing the line, "Where's my teddy bear and the Nubian monkey?"

The song has provoked outrage, especially among Nubian Egyptians from the south of the country who interpreted the lyrics as a racist slur. 

Last week, a lawmaker reportedly recommended the People's Assembly meet with authorities from the ministries of culture and media to discuss what action to take, and a group of Nubian lawyers announced its intention to sue Wehbe.

The singer responded, releasing a formal apology and saying the Egyptian songwriter who wrote the lyrics, Mustafa Kamil, told her the Nubian monkey was a popular children's game and widely known in Egypt. 

Wehbe has resided part time in Cairo after marrying wealthy Egyptian businessman Ahmed Abu Hashima, and often sings in the local dialect, since Egypt is the largest music market among the Arab countries.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Video: The double-feature music video from Lebanese pop diva Haifa Wehbe contains the controversial "Baba Fein?" song. Credit: YouTube

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