A group of Palestinian, Syrian and Jordanian musicians have recorded a cover of British band The Beatles’ track “Drive my car” to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive.
The cover saw Syrian singer Nano Raies, Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash and other musicians from Jordan and Palestine come together to adapt the famous Beatles song, using traditional Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud and the darabouka drum to form the backing track. Raies sang the cover in Arabic, closely echoing the original lyrics “Baby you can drive my car, yes I’m gonna be a star.”
The cover was recorded with the help of US radio station PRI and Berklee College of Music, based in Boston USA, which provided the musicians with the means and equipment to produce the track, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Raies and the group recorded the cover to honour the recent lifting of a ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia, which came into effect in June. Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to uphold a ban on women’s driving, the rescinding of which has been hailed as a victory for women’s rights in the Kingdom.
An end to the ban was ordered last September by King Salman as part of the sweeping reforms pushed by his son, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). Bin Salman has led a bid to transform the Saudi economy and liberalise its society, pledging in May to spend 50 billion riyals ($13.33 billion) by 2020 to promote entertainment, health, sports and education.
However, Saudi women have continued to face numerous obstacles to their new-found right. Yesterday, a Saudi woman’s car was set on fire by a group of men seemingly angry over the female driver’s purchase of the vehicle. The owner of the car, Salma Al-Sherif, alleged that her car was deliberately set alight by men “opposed to women drivers”.
In June, Saudi TV presenter, Shireen Al-Rifaie, came under investigation by the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media after appearing in a TV report in “indecent” clothing. Al-Rifaie was documenting her first experience of driving following the lifting of the ban. Numerous women’s rights activists, many of whom had lobbied for the ban to be lifted, remain under arrest in the Kingdom, raising concerns about the extent of MBS’ reform agenda.