Arabic voice-over market generates new career opportunities for young talents

“The emergence of this new market has made local talent from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan and Morocco resurface,” says Egyptian software engineer AbdAllah Khashaba.
Saturday 20/07/2019
Creating quality. Egyptian software engineer AbdAllah Khashaba.(Courtesy of AbdAllah Khashaba)
Creating quality. Egyptian software engineer AbdAllah Khashaba.(Courtesy of AbdAllah Khashaba)

AbdAllah Khashaba has been writing code for 12 years. The Egyptian software engineer worked on the Dubai Digital Library for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, where he built his expertise on content copyright, international data formatting standards and content access methodologies.

All competitive skills to take on a new mission: democratising and professionalising the Arabic voice-over market. By “voice-over” is meant the voice of speakers whose face does not appear, serving some other purpose.

Khashaba is the founder of Soundeals, a marketplace for professional Arabic voice-over artists. The business was created out of a different business idea. When introducing their video advertising campaign on social media, Khashaba and his team were looking for professional voices. They went to the trouble of finding good voice-over artists. They quickly jumped into solving that problem.

Khashaba spoke to The Arab Weekly via WhatsApp Call, unfolding this nascent yet profitable industry.

Establishing good business governance between voice-over artists and clients is key to creating quality Arabic audio recordings, providing career opportunities and keeping voice-over recordings accessible to all.

The Arab Weekly (TAW): Why does the region need Arabic voice-over recordings?

AbdAllah Khashaba (AK): “Unlike programming languages, voice-over recordings target human audiences. It is axiomatic to address humans in their language and voice. Even more so in our region where language speaks to the heart. Voice can express a range of emotions and can deliver messages more optimally than any other means. Humans have the innate ability to quote words and enact joyfulness, sadness and seriousness through sound. This reality had to be transposed to our digital lives.”

TAW: How is the Arabic voice-over market changing?

AK: “The voice-over market in its open form is at its early stages. It was either concentrated in the hands of costly studio production houses or the hands of individuals without much control over quality. Because of high-cost productions, only elite companies could have access to this service and, in most cases, there would not be a guarantee for acceptable levels of quality or diversity in voices.”

“With the expansion of technological innovation in the region, voice-over recordings have embraced several digital applications, sometimes unexpected ones.

“In the Middle East, human voices are used in TV, radio advertisement, audiobooks, YouTube video, podcasts, e-learning material, interactive voice response messages, Chatbots models and even robots.”

TAW: What are Arab listeners demanding?

AK: “Based on what our clients request, we can observe that Arab listeners are keen on voice usage for video advertisements, motion and infographics videos, interactive voice response messages, documentaries, educational material, audiobooks, podcasts, poetry, cartoon dubbing, movies and games.

“Above all, they demand quality. One factor that is usually overlooked is that quality is product-based and depends on guidelines and technical specifications.

“Our experience shows that some countries tend to have their preferred voices. Egyptian clients prefer Saudi voices. Emirati clients are very much into voices from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, in that order.

“We are also realising how much-predefined roles, styles, ages, genders, languages and dialects matter for the voice of the character. These criteria all bring the voice-over to real life experience.”

TAW: Does the region have enough talent to supply the demand?

AK: “The emergence of this new market has made local talent from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan and Morocco resurface. We would have never imagined that many young people were looking at that market as a career.

“When we launched three years ago, more than 25,000 local voice-over artists registered on our platform. That number says it all about that hidden new market.”

“Out of the 25,000 local artists, only 3,000 were professional talents with proper training and had the necessary equipment. We find it important to professionalise the remaining 22,000 to provide work opportunities, diversify the industry and offer infinite choices for listeners. We offer online training, blog resources and organise voice competitions to create a real professional community.”

TAW: What is the future of the voice-over industry?

AK: “Every industry is becoming involved with the inclusion of voice as an essential supportive asset. By nature, we believe it can go down or die as long as the voice is a natural component of humanity.

“The evolution of media and technology is also key in developing new trends such as voice-controlled devices, artificial intelligence human voice trained models and Internet of Things devices, which are all in the making.”