Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanese singer Aziza has become famous in her home country almost overnight. Thanks to a concert she held on Saturday, June 7, to mark the release of her upcoming debut album, and thanks to a savvy media campaign launched on several social networking websites, she has quickly become the talk of the town. Her dedicated team was quick to upload videos of her flamboyant stage presence and unique style, all of which quickly went viral. The venue choice for the concert, the Beirut Sporting Club, also turned out to be a smart move—being a popular beach spot thronging with the city’s residents during the summer months.
The 20-year-old does not hide her delight at the early reactions to her album. She attributes the success to her crew, especially her producer, Jana Saleh, who believed in the project and sought to present a different style of Arabic singing. She also had the support of team member Lara Qunsawa, who forged vital links with the Lebanese media. Aziza said: “We are confident of what we present and want the media to see what we do and judge whether it likes what it sees and hears. So far the feedback has all been positive.” Aziza adds: “Arabic music is, in many ways, well below standard, and this is why [Arab] youth prefer to listen to Western music, and this is really sad. What I present is Arabic singing that somewhat relies on an attractive image as well as on music so as to suit the new mood among young Arabs.”
Aziza is her stage name. It came about when she sang a cover of Aziza by legendary Egyptian crooner and composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab and the audience chanted “Oh Aziza!” The name stuck. Aziza is also the title of her debut album, which contains the cover of the song Aziza as well as a famous Italian song titled No No No. She composed all the other songs herself.
Aziza describes the songs on the new album as “folk [songs] that mix traditional singing with pop; some parts are sung in the Lebanese dialect and others in standard Arabic, as well as mixing in some reggae. Sometimes, the sound of the drums is more prevalent.” It is this contemporary blend that Aziza says reflects her everyday life. Holiday Inn is a song that mocks men who come home from work and act as if they are staying at a hotel, leaving all the chores to their long-suffering wives, who must shuttle around the home, concierge-like, to tend to their every need. Barghasheh is about a city like Beirut: buzzing with people and noise. The album is replete with female-focused themes with many of the songs reflecting women’s issues; their sorrows, preoccupations and relationships.
Preparation for the album has come along steadily over the last two years. Two team members Jana Saleh, who studied in New York, and Raad El-Khazen, her music arranger, are both credited with giving the album a distinctive flavor.
Aziza’s first music video, Ya Mazag (“Good Vibes”), has yet to be broadcast on TV, but it has been uploaded onto YouTube and is quickly racking up the hits. Teasers for upcoming singles like Barghasheh are also doing well.
Although Aziza studied visual and audio media, she has always been surrounded by music. She grew up around a father who loved songs and had a melodic voice. She plays guitar and is now learning how to play the oud, or traditional Arabian lute. Aziza says: “I decided to live my life only as a singer and not to have any other job. Music requires dedication and persistent work, which I’m doing now.”
Following the release of her first album, preparations are already underway for a bigger show next winter. “We will not stop and we will do whatever we want next time,” she proclaims confidently.
But the publicity so far has served merely as a trailer, a teaser announcing her arrival onto the Arab music scene. Aziza and her crew will now dig in for a long slog if they are to prove that they deserve attention on the competitive Lebanese music scene.