The Middle East is finally "Happy"! Pharrell's hit has got warzones smiling

Published April 13th, 2014 - 13:17 GMT

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Happy Jordan
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Jordan: Solid choreography and slick production make this a winner! Produced by BeAmman, a grassroots website that promotes the city of Amman, it sets spectacular dance moves against the backdrop of the Citadel, Roman Amphitheater and Amman skyline. Best scene? The two old men in red fez waving their coats as they dance down the street!

Happy Saudi
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Saudi Arabia: Musician, singer and songwriter Alaa Wardi assembled an all-male (of course!) cast that puts a twist on the tune by actually singing it! As if these guys aren’t cute enough, clever kaleidoscopic effects up the video’s visual appeal. There may be no women involved in the production, but a crocodile makes a cameo appearance.

Happy Egypt
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Egypt: At times a bit shaky like your mom’s home movies, but winning shots of the Great Pyramids, dancing camel drivers, and a souk full of snappy moves make this one a keeper. Take note of the ginger-haired dude on the train. Forget walking like an Egyptian - get up and dance like one!

Happy Kuwait
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Kuwait: See the desert turn into a disco as Kuwaitis strut their stuff. Kuwait is known for sun, surf and sand - and apparently breakdancers? The best scenes feature thaub-clad men with Justin Timberlake moves.

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Image 1 of 9: Happy Lebanon: No Label, the Lebanese anti-bullying movement, produced a respectable version of Happy. Videographers roamed Beirut and invited people to Be Happy! An oddball mix of sweet children and sweaty nightclubs - it captures the city’s eclecticism.

Happy Tunisia
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Tunisia: One of the first Arab “Happy” videos was filmed in the northern city of Bizerte. Tunisia went on to launch over a dozen “Happy” videos! Williams himself re-tweeted “Happy – Tatooine”, a Star Wars version directed by Mohamed Arbi Soualhia which garnered over 1 million views in its first week on YouTube.

Happy Algeria
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Algeria - Snarkiness doesn’t jibe with happiness, but maybe the Algerians should’ve stole a page from Saudi Happy and left the women on the cutting room floor. Sorry ladies, but the men steal the spotlight in Algeria’s version! Even Darth Vader busts a move.

happy morocco
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Morocco - A group called Tafraout Nouvelle Génération shot their all-male video deep in Morocco’s Berber heartland. The ancient oasis town of Tafraoute predates the Arab conquest by centuries. Popularized in the ‘60s by tie-dyed hippies, it now drawn the world’s elite rock climbers - and dancers!

Happy Iran
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Image 1 of 9: Happy Iran - Set against a remix of Williams’ tune, this entry features a montage of haram-panted, big-haired boy dancers from the 1990s, girls recreating Soulja Boy’s Crank That moves, street dancing, and a few home parties thrown in as filler. Dancing in public is illegal in Iran; apparently not everyone got that memo!

It may seem crazy what I’m about to say, but listen up, world - the Middle East has been gripped by happy-ness! A new wave of demonstrations has swept across the region, mostly youth-led and occurring in very public places. From the Gulf to North Africa, people are rising up in opposition to negative imagery and pessimistic headlines about civil protests and economic woes. So why is it making us so miserable? 

Their message is simple and powerful; it’s amplified through social media; and it’s based on Pharrell Williams’ irrepressible hit song “Happy”.  The videos - which are packed with humor, imperfection, and individuality - prove that there is nothing more contagious than unadulterated joy. They demonstrate that any distance that exists between the West and the Middle East is best travelled in dancing shoes! But incessant overplaying is making us decidedly unhappy - when will all the giddiness please just go away? 

Recorded for last year’s animated blockbuster Despicable Me 2, the bouncy beat was nominated for Best Original Song at this year’s Academy Awards. It’s impossible to deny the song’s appeal, even if you’re on the edge of insanity from hearing it so often. What is it that makes this so infectiously fun? Is it the effervescent melody? Is it the  joy of watching people dance as goofily as we do? Or is it the straight-up lyrical invite to dive into the group-hug-alicious action, "Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth"? 

Anyway you slice it, the unabashedly exuberant “Happy” looks to be the ultimate 2014 crossover record. But the song’s culture-hopping potential has moved beyond the top 40 - it's got toes tapping around the planet. 

"This is probably the most I've ever been humbled in my entire life," the rapper (who wrote, produced and sings the tune) told the Los Angeles Times about the world’s reaction to his song, "Because it's something bigger than me, bigger than anything I've ever done."

We’ve selected the best remakes from the Middle East - what better way to see how people everywhere are attracted to lighthearted fun? While the ubiquitous tune dies a too-sloooow death, we take one last look at regional spins. Spin doctors prescribe watching a few in quick succession to possibly kick your Guilty Pleasure addiction!

Jumping on the happiness bandwagon before it reaches its sell-by, here are the corners of the Middle East that were hit by the happiness bug:

- Jordan

- Saudi Arabia

- Egypt

- Kuwait

- Lebanon

- Tunisia

- Algeria 

- Morocco

- Iran

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