Majida, the Lebanese diva

MajidaLast night, we once again conquered fear of another Doha terrorist attack and made our way to the city’s iconic Sheraton Hotel to see Lebanese singer Majida al-Roumi in concert as part of the Doha Cultural Festival. It was exhilarating. We had a blast! Majida gave a top-notch performance that I will personally remember for years to come. She kicked off her concert by praying for the safety of Qatar, something I found very considerate and unexpected.

Majida performs amid the stunning lightsHer first song was Beirut ma bitmout, or ‘Beirut won’t die.’ She performed it so passionately. It was very touching in light of the political tensions occurring there these last months. The audience — a good portion of whom were Lebanese — clapped and cheered as she sang the lyric calling for the "removal of the foreign hand," which I assumed was a reference to Syrian interference in Lebanon. This is the Middle East, you can never escape politics!

During the two-hour concert, Majida performed a number of masterpieces like Kon Sadeeqi, or ‘Be my friend,’ Kalimat, or ‘Words’ and 3am biesalouni 3aleik el nas, or ‘People are asking me about you.’ [links pull Real Audio feed] I surprised myself by knowing a number of her songs by heart. I guess they were buried there deep down in my subconscious.

Kon Sadeeqi in shaky closeupMajida looked absolutely stunning and performed so elegantly. I can’t believe she is almost fifty. She just looked amazing.

One interesting thing happened during the concert when a group of people that appeared to be Lebanese left the hall running with mobile phone to ear. I figured something must have happened like an explosion. I was right. As we were enjoying our time listening to Majida’s tantalizing voice, a bomb exploded in yet another Christian area in Lebanon. It is very sad indeed. But I quote Majida: Beirut Ma bitmout or Beirut won’t die.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had become over-saturated by the continual playing of the songs of Fairuz, another Lebanese diva. Last night I couldn’t help but wonder why Majida had yet to reach the pinnacle that Fairuz occupies in the hearts and minds of her Arab audience. Majida belongs at the same or even a more elevated position than Fairuz.

All in all, we had a great time! I’m still humming the tunes from the concert. I will definitely make sure to add some of Majida’s albums to our humble music collection very soon.

16 Comments

  1. Amin Matalqa March 27, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    I absolutely love Majida’s music and voice. Her classic songs (Kun Sadeeqee, Kalimat, and all the songs on her first album) always take me back to being in the Middle East whenevr I feel like connecting with my roots here in LA. You’re so lucky you got to see her live.

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  2. Roba March 27, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    I love Majida Il Roomi. She reminds me of my childhood when my dad would only agree to play this cassette that had only Nizar Qabani’s music, so it was strictly Majida, Kathem, and Asala. Majida is very talented, and both her music and her voice are excellent. Kalimat is one of my all time favorite songs.
    I love her dress! I’ve never seen Majida look so stunning.. My mental image of her is her early 90’s music with poofy clothes, ruffles, and too much bright red makeup.
    But you know, you can’t really compare Majida to Fayrouz.
    I think that the fame Fayrouz recieved has to do with an unbelievablly huge amount of music(is it over a 1000?), although we must acknowledge the fact that the Rahbani’s stole most of their music and a lot of Fayrouz’s songs sound the same. She’s a very prolific artist, and its very hard to ignore someone as prolific. Another fact that distinguishes Fayrouz is that she was a milestone in the history of Arabic music. The launch of Arabic pop is widely attributed to Fayrouz, she revolutionized the music scene by popularizing 4 minute songs(sandweecheh as my grandmother still calls them) rather than ones that would last for hours such as Om Kalthoum’s. Yeah, I actually took CLasses about Fayrouz’s importance in Arabic music in my “Introduction to the Arts” course at JU…

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  3. Shaden March 27, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    Although i like majida but its not a fair comparison between her and fayrooz. i prefer fayrooz’s voice to majida if i have to choose. i love her songs’ lyrics and her personality…love everything about her. recently i listen to fayrooz almost every morning.
    for majida i like kun 9adeeqi and kalimat, i didn’t like her new songs or maybe i didn’t listen to enough songs for her.

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  4. Jeff March 27, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    Perhaps not so surprisingly, I didn’t know I knew Majida, being new to the Arabic music scene. Of course I knew Fairuz but I don’t have the same attachment as others here for reasons fairly obvious. I still could appreciate the Fairuz voice, however.
    That said, Majida really knocked me out. She began her performance with Beirut ma bitmout, singing something like “I come from Beirut” and man, it packed a punch that was not lost on anyone listening. It was such a powerful and heartfelt song. I could not understand all the lyrics but the passion brought on by the turmoil of today was palpable.
    I did not know a good number of the other songs but found I knew Kalimat quite well. But what knocked me and everyone else out was this operatic voice she kicked out in a number of songs. It bordered on belting but was just far cleaner and perhaps could be described as truly operatic. It was mesmerizing and so powerful. The house was blown away. She’d pull that mic back and unleash.
    This and the fact that she sang and sang without a break or even a touch of water left the strong impression that we were in the presence of a tremendous vocalist. It seems in many of her songs she sort of drifts along, lightly, breathily singing; hiding her voice a bit. She’s capable of this vocal power that I don’t hear on these recordings the wife linked to here.
    They say it is only in live performance that the true artist shines and she proved that last night. I might have lost focus when I lost contact with her lyric and the language evaded me. But when she stopped, the orchestra stopped and she sang out “Allah” about seven times in an operatic voice it shook everyone there right down to the bone. She was really amazing.

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  5. amal March 28, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    Natasha, I’m going to kill you next time I see u-how can you compare Majida to Fairouz!?! She will never, EVER, EVER reach the calibre of Fairouz. She doesn’t have half of Fairouz’s grace, talent-or symbolism. Fairouz is a Lebanese icon. She represnts Lebanon more than the flag! She symbolises hope for a country that was torn by civil war. You know what Majida symbolises? A Lebanese of Palestinian origin who is ashamed of her roots. Yuck

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  6. LINDA March 28, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    hey didnt king hussien like her a lot?

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  7. Sinan March 29, 2005 at 11:23 am

    I guess that Majida is the only artist that I would ever think of attending a concert to her as well as Celine Dion of course, it’s funny though cause I mostly listen to Rock but I can’t resist listening to these two beautiful voices.

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  8. jareer March 31, 2005 at 6:54 am

    Linda,
    All Jordanians liked her, not only His Majesty. Majda is a phenomenon in our Arab world that you can hardly match. That does not make other singers less, like Fairouz. But her style of music, lyrics and the way she performs – not to forget the beautiful face and her facial expressions when she sings – all these touch a chord deep inside each of us who live or once had lived in Jordan. I have not been following up on her latest, but for the songs I know she was just terrific.

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  9. Charles April 4, 2005 at 4:58 am

    Dear Amal , I’d like to say that when Natasha compared Majida el Roumi to Fairuz she internally means that Majida by now is supposed to receive glory and praise equivalent to what Fairuz earned. She’s just stating that Majida is as important despite much differrences with respect to voice and performance (Majida has a soprano level while Fairuz is on Alto). I beleive the International community has already given room for Majida on the list of super-talented artists, she’s the arab Diva who in many objective points of view has an outstanding and an exhilerating operatic voice that we really miss in Arab art after the death of Asmahan and Leila Mourad. Please understand that no one is like Fairuz but not even Fairuz is like Majida el Roumi. While we all appreciate Fairuz works, we have to know that in her times competition was low on the Arab art scene and people where attracted to the sweet voice and lebanese flair of Fairuz. But in more modern times, Majida’s voice and extraordinary performance shook the world and made people fly to a world of peace and love. In addition, world critics stress on the lofty personality of Majida as a part of her total combination while they view Fairuz as a disturbed character. Cheerful presence is so important on stage. And please note that Majida is 100% Lebanese and her Maestro father Halim el Roumi(who gave Fairuz her name)was originally from Tyr and has lived for a while in Palestine like many Lebanese and he came back to Lebanon where they lived in Kfarshima.

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  10. metalordie April 4, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Asmahan rocked. Her untimely death stole a true musical gem from the Arab world. Laylil Uns Fi Vienna was pure heaven. And this is coming from a metalhead!!?!
    Charles, thanx for that post. Nice to see someone remembers the glory days = )

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  11. linda April 4, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    hey dont for get nancy agram šŸ˜‰ j/k

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  12. Jeff April 6, 2005 at 10:56 am

    Here are some closeups of the diva herself. We weren’t close enough to get anything like this but the local paper, The Gulf Times, was and boy did they get some fantastic shots here and here [They are over 100k each].
    I scanned them in from the newspaper and cleaned them up a bit but the quality can only be so good I’m afraid.
    For the true fan, I took one and reshaped it a bit to create a computer desktop or wallpaper. You can get that here.

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  13. linda April 6, 2005 at 11:57 am

    umm, she looks a bit different from music videos and concert i have seen her in in the past. Why?

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  14. ramzi June 24, 2005 at 12:27 am

    Majida is the greatest singer and interpreter the middleeast and the world will ever see. Her glory is certain and time will witness the uprising of her music more and more. She is an amazing compationate lady!
    We love you majida

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  15. Ramzi January 25, 2006 at 8:44 am

    Majida is a great singer,Iloved her last song “aatazalt al gharam” but frankly i didn’t like the video clip of this song where in my opinion it should give more serious look to Majida ,,,with all my respect to Nadeen Labaki

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  16. Hamudi February 1, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    Majida is the best active singer of our times. I hardly listent to arabic music, but when I do I know that Majida is the cream of the crop. I listen to classic metal/rock and that made me more appreciative of Majida’s singing abilities along with the quality lyrics she chooses. I wish there is such a thing as arabic heavy metal. I know this might sound nuts, but I think Majida would make a fantastic/legendary partner with a good band lead singer about an ancient middle eastern epic battle…. we all know we had hundreds of those battles in the Middle East, so the subject is there. I know I’d buy the CD in a NY minute!

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