An Emirati songstress of Yemeni descent, Balqees hasn’t been one to shy away from shattering convention, setting out to shake up the Khaleeji scene with dedication and flair. Her artistic exploits have been as audacious as her outspoken, feisty public persona, prompting a meteoric rise to stardom and an open-armed reception by the youthful, vibrant cross-section of the genre’s faithful. The soprano’s silky vocal delivery has often played the role of alluring counterpoint to playfully innovative instrumentation, punctuated by traditional Khaleeji percussion and built upon classic song structures. This is evident particularly on her third album, Arahenkom, where elaborate string arrangements, electronic beats and dreamy piano passages prove an intriguing companion to the singer’s exploration of styles as diverse as Western pop and even R&B. This ingenuity and desire to innovate—in a genre of Arabic music that’s not renowned for experimentation—earned Balqees the honour of performing with legendary tenor Andrea Bocelli in Abu Dhabi. It also sets this daring artist apart as one of the most consistently fascinating personalities in Arabic music.