Desert Rose

Album: Brand New Day (1999)
Charted: 15 17


  • Sting sang this as a duet with the Algerian singer Cheb Mami, who was very popular in France and brought the Rai style of folk music to an international audience. Sting brought him in to make the song sound more authentic, and the collaboration introduced Mami to a Western audience. Mami made news in 2005 when he was accused of abducting his former girlfriend and trying to force an abortion on her because he was ashamed to have an illegitimate child. The abortion attempt failed, and the woman later gave birth to a girl. Mami was sentenced to five years in prison by a French court.
  • Cheb Mami wrote some of the lyrics in Arabic. Sting did not know what they meant, but they happened to follow the same theme as Sting's English lyrics - "longing." Sting noted in Lyrics By Sting: "Mami started to improvise an intoxicating sliding melisma, reminiscent of an Islamic call to prayer. Instantly, it sounded authentic and galvanizing. He then sang the verse I commissioned in Arabic. His phrases matched the gait of the melody as perfectly as a horse and rider."
  • Sting performed this with Mami at the 2000 Grammys.
  • Artists like Sting who play to adult audiences have a hard time getting their songs played on the radio and have very little chance of getting on MTV. This makes it very hard to promote their new songs. Sting's manager at the time, Miles Copeland (brother of Stewart Copeland from The Police), found a new way to promote this song and helped make it a hit. When they shot the video, they needed a stylish car that would show Sting being driven through the desert on the way to a club. Director Paul Boyd used a new Jaguar S-Type, and when the video was done, Copeland thought it looked like a car commercial. Copeland sent the video to Jaguar's advertising agency and asked them to make their car commercial look like the video in exchange for free use of the song. The Jaguar people loved the idea and ran commercials featuring the song that looked very similar to the video. This got the song heard, which resulted in radio play and a hit record. For Jaguar, they got great exposure in the video and use of a hit song in their commercial, which made people more likely to watch it. Sales of Jaguars jumped as younger buyers checked out the cars; Copeland and Sting found a new way to promote a song.
  • This was released in September 1999, but did not gain popularity until it was used in the Jaguar commercial in March 2000. It finally hit the US Top 10 in August.
  • Before making the deal with Jaguar, Sting's record company planned on selling about 1 million albums and paying $1.8 million to market it, including $800,000 to make the video. Jaguar bought about $8 million in commercial time for the ad, which promoted the song every time it ran. The album ended up selling over 4 million copies.
  • Many classic songs have been used in car commercials, but this was the first time a new song by a contemporary artist was featured. A lot of deals have been made since, as artists like Sheryl Crow and Incubus have teamed up with car companies in cross-promotion deals.
  • Sting performed this at the pregame show of Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa.
  • In 2001, Sting went on a world tour where he played various exotic locations, including the Baalbek International Festival in Lebanon.
  • Sting planned a festival tour in the US called "Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms," featuring musicians from Egypt, Algeria, and Iran. It was scheduled to start September 14, 2001, but was canceled when the US was attacked by terrorists on September 11.
  • The violinist featured is Lili Hayden, who has played with Porno for Pyros, Sasha Lazard, and Seal. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ram Dass - San Francisco, CA
  • Sting had a role in the movie Dune, which is partially set on a desert planet. He played Feyd-Rautha. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    John - Colorado Springs, CO
  • Sting re-sang the vocals for a dance remix of the song by Victor Calderone, recommended to him by Madonna, and the track went to #1 on the Billboard Max-Singles chart.

Comments: 24

  • Josh Gonzalez from Reading, PaLove the song I want to know who is the beautiful lady driving the jaguar please.
  • Cheryl Abrams from St. Charles, MoThis song takes my breath away. It takes me out of myself and into the car, into the crowd, my heart pounds in anticipation of every word hanging on every note. Pure joy. I am in awe of this brilliant decadent sound and exuisit experience.
  • Al from NySurprised Cheb Mami wasn't in GITMO. This song gives me PTSD.
  • Zam from Maleyziathis is an awesome great mixture and perfect vocals combination from cheb mami and sting
    together with the superb melody and musical instruments arrangement and collaboration from middle east and western, I love this song so much, and from the translation lyrics by samiel and debs, I am so touch by the meaning of the lyrics by cheb mami,

    'leyli ya leyli"
    "oh my night oh my night"
    "aman aman aman"
    "oh how I wish
    I wish
    I wish"
    "it's been quite a while/what a long time it's been"
    "I've been looking/searching for my love, and I'm searching for my love"
    I've been looking for the love of my life"
    "I've been looking for the love of my life"
    I've been looking for my love"
    "my whole life is for you/with you"
    there is nobody else but you"
    "oh just you,
    love just you"
    "It has been a long time"
    "and I am looking for myself and my love one"
    "and I am looking for myself and my love one"
    "and I am looking for myself and my love one"
    "my life is for you and no one other than you"
    "this is a long time"
    "I'm the person who loves more"
    "I'm the person who loves more"
    "I'm the person who loves more"
    "my life is for you and you are my life"
    "there's nothing else but you"

    ...,both translations from you, samiel, and debs,
    they are beautiful as they are...
    amazing duet song from cheb mami and sting
    and also I love the video scence , the female chauffeur that drove the jaguar limousine,
    so beautiful...
    ....mercy...bravo.... you... desert rose...
  • Kev from Farmersville, TxActually Dune was set ENTIRELY on a desert planet. The parts that weren't desert were only there to set up the story. Frank Herbert built an ecologically sound world in which there was no rain and very, very few plants. (Where did the oxygen come from? They tell you in the books.)

    But, yes, the video for this song was exceptional. It reminds me of when I used to ride. (Hold a horse close and you'll know what I mean... get to know a few and you'll know even more... learn to dance with one... and the world is your stage.)
  • Abigail from Tel Aviv, IsraelSamiel, thanks for the translation, transliteration and the cultural insight, impressive! I always loved both the song and video. I thought the English lyrics have an Arabic poetry quality to them too, but now I'm getting the full grasp of it only.

    The video (even though shot in the Mojave desert) reminds me of late night driving through the open region of the Negev desert of Israel, where only vast arid plains of rock lay empty on either side. And during those long night hikes in the desert, your only companions are whoever you bring along, mist, echoes, and the occasional bug. And of course, the night.

    Even though all very different, there are many big deserts in the Middle East and North Africa. I imagine that one would get similar emotions from any of them on a restless, lonely night...
  • Doug from Los Angeles, CaThis is a great song and Cheb Mami's singing is amazing. Unfortunately though, when I hear this song now I think of what he did to his ex-girlfriend. Really a shame.
  • Stafler from Durban, South Africai love the music video of this song
  • Samiel from Beirut, LebanonHello everyone. I am a Lebanese Canadian. First of all, Cheb Mami is an arab, and that makes me so proud.....His voice, lets just say, it takes you places. Someone mentioned earlier on here that the word "aman" in the song means water. That is not true. Obviously they are not very familiar with the Arabic language. Let me start by translating what Cheb Mami is singing.....

    A few things before translating:

    the words "leyli ya leyli mean "oh my night Oh my night" Arabs sing about the night and tend to "talk" to the night in songs and poems especially when the poetic or singer is feeling sad. Since sadness keeps people up at night, far from being able to sleep at times, one finds him/herself alone (since everybody else is asleep) and that the night is their only companion, and given those who are hurt tend to want to express their feelings, the "night" hence, is there and listening. We the arabs are very affectionate and romantic people in our way ofcourse.

    Ok now for "aman aman aman" contrary to what was aforementioned, aman aman does not mean water. Aman aman means "oh how i wish i wish i wish" Usually it correlates with a longing, a yearning of some kind, and so when you hear "aman aman aman" in arabic songs, then the singer most probably yearning for something, maybe something he/she had in the past and had lost, or something that hurt them for years and is still hurting them, or maybe about something they never had and want so badly.

    basically the arab singer is very spiritual, sings to God, the night, the sun, the sea, etc etc.....

    Now, notice the way we sing. I even sing the same way cheb mami does, although i am not able to hit that high note he can, or pitch it high up there....i wish i could have, this would allow me to do way more with my scaling.

    the arabic scale is different than the western one. i believe there is more mystery and emotion in the arabic one. When you are bottled with emotions, and they need to come out, nothing does the job better than the arabic scale. you really feel light afterwards. Then again, this is just an opinion of mine. I also love listening to English music.

    one last thing...notice the vibrations in cheb mami's voice or cords....i believe -but this is just my opinion-that the vibrations in the arabic style of singing, comes from our love for the flute. Im not sure what they call the instrument here, but it sounds exactly like a flute. lets call it the arabic flute. our appreciation for the arabic flute, over time, made us sing in a way where we would sound almost like the flute. Another thing is the vibrations tend to convey certain emotions. So when cheb mami at the end scales up, and then drops it, ( he did that live concerts mostly) its like he is saying "this is my story" or " farewell dear night" " or " dont forget my oh night" or "lest shall i forget you oh night" things like that....the point is to end it with emotion, with hope, a simple wish, and better day yet to come, or even just simply "this is what happened here, this is my story, this was my pain or this is my pain, and this is who you are to me, oh night" things like that..... as to the translations:

    layli ya layli
    oh my night oh my night

    hadi mudeh taweela
    its been quite a while OR
    what a long time its been

    wu ena nhawis ena ala ghzey il tee
    ive been looking/searching for my love
    and im searching for my love
    wu ena nhawis ena waaaaaa ala ghzaly
    (same) only he says ghzaly this time, not ghzeyilty....

    the difference here, well its like saying
    ive been looking for the love of my life
    ive been looking for the love of my life
    ive been looking for my love

    aman aman aman =insenuates pain, yearning, wishing, etc just as i had mentioned earlier

    last part:
    he uses again
    wu ena nhawis ena ala ghzayelty
    omri feeky inti ya
    my whole life is for you/with you

    now what i hear in the last one is this:
    fish hada gherik
    there is nobody else but you
    ah ya inti inti ya
    oh just you you love just you

    anyways....hope that clarified some things
    one more thing..not all arabs are terrorists, not all muslims are terrorists......and even those who really terrorists....well then, ask yourselves why that is.....anyways, take care...
  • Nathaniel from Woodhull, IlIt has been a long time,
    And I am looking for myself and my loved one
    My life is for you,
    And no one other than you.

    This is the translation of the Arabic singing by Cheb Miami thanks to
  • Devin from New York, NyDebs, Scottie's saying that Desert Rose would've inspired a middle eastern music fad that was stunted by the events of 9/11. Jeez, illiteratemuch?

    I don't expect you to check this, but at least other people won't be confused.
  • Baraa from Riverside, United Statesi dont care wat all u other people say im just saying that this was and still is my favorite song. i never new there was supost to be a play in lebanon but it got canceled
  • Debs from Montgomery, AlI swear I didn't post that 3 times!
  • Debs from Montgomery, AlA middle Eastern music fad arise from 9/11... Desert Rose came out way before 9/11, dude.
  • Debs from Montgomery, AlCheb Mami does NOT sound like a girl... crikey! Remember Barry Gibb? Desert Rose is an exotic, haunting song... it's haunted me for 6 years now... and for God's sake, the national language of Algeria IS Arabic... and Cheb can sing in Algerian Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, AND French... can you? I've seen two translations of Cheb's lyrics... I don't know which ones are the right ones...
    " It has been a long time
    And I am looking for myself and my loved one
    And I am looking for myself and my loved one
    And I am looking for myself and my loved one
    My life is for you
    And no one other than you "


    " This is a long time
    I'm the person who loves more
    I'm the person who loves more
    I'm the person who loves more
    My life is for you and you are my life
    There's nothing else but you
    Only you "

    Either way, they're beautiful... as he is.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaIs it just me, or does Cheb Mami sound like a girl? I'm pretty sure that he's a guy, but his voice seems to defy that notion... Is the Arabic language naturally high-pitched when it's sung, or something?
  • Matthew from Milford, MaThis song is so awesome...
  • Mike from Falmouth, MaIs Mami Singing what Sting Sings in Arabic? If not, Does anyone have the translations?
  • Linda/rob Hummerston from Saltash, Englandi have got the brand new day album, and i have got desert rose as a single on tape. the song is fantastic and i love it, the trouble is, the tape quality has gone, so, does anyone know where i can get desert rose on cd single?? the single version is much better than the album version!
  • Martina from Kiel, GermanyTo Annabelle: Arab is the first official language in Algeria, french the second. And Algeria is not Middle east, but Northern Africa.

    As far as I can still remember my arab, Cheb Mami sings about water (2aman") and a rose in the desert and teh hope for rain so the rose may not dry.

    For me it is a beautiful song. As I have grown up in many countries (within them a year in Tunisia) it is a perfcet reunion of western and arab culture, poetry and music.

    Martina Bedregal C., Germany
  • Kristi from Hillsboro, MoDoes anyone have the Arabic lyrics in the song as well as a translation? I can't seem to find one anywhere.
  • Scottie from Sydney, AustraliaI think Desert Rose is a fantastic song. Using musicians from the middle east was inspired. I reckon that a middle eastern music fad didn't arise because of 9/11. People have to stop stereotyping muslims.
  • Harper from Tucson, AzThey speak Arabic and French in Algeria. It's part of the Maghreb region.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrIf Cheb Mami is from Algeria, why was he singing in Arabic?
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