A California judge has sent Jay-Z and his producer Timbaland to court for sampling Abdel Halim Hafez's “Khosara Khosara” in their song “Big Pimpin”, allegedly without the proper licenses, The Guardian reports.
The plaintiff, Ossama Ahmed Fahmy, who claims to be the heir to Baligh Hamdy, Hafez's producer, is suing the two artists for sublicensing the song from the record label EMI Arabia, which Fahmy argues was not authorized to make such a deal.
The case leveled against the Jay-Z and Timbaland also focuses on what the plaintiff argues is a vulgar perversion of Hafez's original song, which to many represents the golden age of Egyptian culture, as it was originally sung in the 1960 movie “Fata Ahlami”.
The opening of Jay-Z's song “Big Pimpin'” bears a striking, almost identical resemblance to the opening of Hafez's “Khosara Khosara”, except that Jay-Z's music video is laden with girls sipping drinks in bikinis on a yacht.
“They used it with a song that even by Jay-Z’s own admission is very vulgar and base,” Fahmy’s lawyer, Keith Wesley, told The Guardian. “That’s really why this is so significant to my client. They not only took music without paying. They’re using it in a song that is, frankly, disgusting.”
While borrowing and building off of old concepts is new, some argue that in this case, Western artists are taking advantage of the lack of strong copyright law in the Middle East for new material.
Ted Swedenburg, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, says in this case, Jay-Z was “escaping the punishing and very expensive regime of sampling in the West, so exploiting the apparent absence of copyright on an Abdel Halim song.”
Jay-Z's song, however, is not the only example of sampling from Middle Eastern music. Madonna sampled from Lebanese singer Fairouz's music in her album “Erotica”.