Hiba Tawaji had been sitting on a song that she wrote a few years ago and had a “special place” in her heart, she says. But still, it was missing something. It wasn’t until the Lebanese singer-songwriter/actress met with her new label, Universal Arabic Music, and her producer that they brainstormed and concluded they’d release the song as a collaboration.
“The first name that came across my mind was Luis Fonsi because he had everything we wanted for this song,” Tawaji explains via Zoom from her home in Paris. “Vocally, image-wise as well. He’s such a classy act. I asked the label to reach out to him and we suggested he wrote his own lyrics in Spanish because we wanted it to feel like he was giving the song his own touch and adding his own emotions.”
An Arabic-Spanish language song, as Fonsi (who’s signed to Universal Music Latin) puts it, “doesn’t happen every day.” The Puerto Rican artist, who over the summer was featured on Helene Fischer’s “Vamos a Marte” — a German-Spanish song — says this collab was a “new world” for him.
“The song already had a lot of vibe,” shares Fonsi, who’s dialing in from Miami. “The feel of it, the rhythm. I don’t understand Lebanese-Arabic, but there was a connection with the music, and that in itself brought me closer to the project. We started a WhatsApp group and we had many phone calls. I’d ask Hiba, what do you want me to say? What are you thinking? What does it mean when you said this? Obviously, they sent me a literal translation of what she was singing.”
After writing his part in the song, he recorded it sent it back to Tawaji who “literally screamed” when she heard it for the first time. “He nailed it,” she says. “He added a rhythmic vibe and also this romantic thing that we were searching for. Very melodic and modern as well, it had everything.”
The bilingual song, released via Universal Arabic Music — a Middle Eastern music record label launched by The Weeknd’s manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby and Republic Records, which recently signed Tawaji. “Que Sera Sera” is part of Universal Music Group’s global crossover efforts and the label’s mission to provide a global platform for their artists.
“One of the lessons we learned from previous global collaborations, is that you cannot come up with one single global marketing strategy and expect it to work in all markets,” says Gabriella Mosci, head of marketing at management company SALXCO (Tawaji, The Weeknd, Doja Cat). “Different countries have different dialects, cultures, and taste in music. You have to take the time to really understand each individual region and personalize your marketing campaigns to best fit that specific market.” Adding, “Our mission is to give Arab artists a global platform where their voices, music, and culture can be heard and shared around the world. We want to bridge the gap between MENA (Middle East/North Africa) and the rest of the world.”
In hopes this song strikes a worldwide connection uniting fans from opposite ends of the globe, Tawaji also thinks “Que Sera Sera” is a song that represents the “present and the future. Music brings people together and we need that today more than ever. It’s like opening borders and breaking barriers and it’s important to stick to that as artists and set an example of being open minded.”
Fonsi echoes Tawaji. “A song is more than just a language, it has different layers and sometimes we fall in love with instrumental music because it makes us feel something powerful and there are no lyrics, and you don’t know who the songwriter is or what religion he is, it just makes you feel something.”