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Majida Al Roumi: what truth sounds like

With a voice that can carry across any arena, Majida Al Roumi is a soprano who is known as much for her thrilling performances as she is for her unflinching social, political and humanitarian activism.

Al Roumi, who was the second person to sell out the Royal Albert Hall in London, thirty years after The Beatles did so in 1965, has been building her legacy in the Arabic music world since the 1970s, but she’s made every effort to distance herself from the fame and fortune and blaze a new path where she can play by her own rules.

Set to perform in the UAE on February 8 during the Dubai Classics festival, the singer spoke to tabloid! about starting her career at a young age, sticking to her guns and loving her country, Lebanon.

You started out in the music industry when you were very young. You were 16 on the talent show Studio Al Fann. Do you think starting at that age helped or hurt you in the long run?

At the time, the situation was different and I didn’t expect to get so much love and admiration from the public. In general, the music industry is difficult and I have no interest in it because my convictions are different and I’m a person who can’t live without truth and without values. The music industry is not always open to that — some care about money, and others want to have fun, and some want fame. For me, art is in the message. It’s a matter of life, where one works as hard as they can and with as much depth as possible. It was not an easy task at all, in light of the war in Lebanon, and in circumstances such as mine, and the conditions of the region and what was happening there.

On your album Ghazal (Flirtation) released in 2012, for the first time you wrote the majority of the songs. What inspired you to write for this album in particular?

Thoughts passed through my mind and I put them to paper, and I do not consider myself a poet; however, in my heart, there are emotions that I would like to deliver to the people — and if I can’t find satisfaction with someone else who could write it — I say it as it is, because that moment of truth within the world of art is a very important one to pluck and present to the people. I am confident that any action that does not come from the heart does not reach the people.

You’ve always been outspoken about your love for Lebanon. What is your vision for it now?

I am a citizen of Lebanon, I have the right to express my opinion like any other human being, especially when our country is in danger and the Arab world around us is boiling. An honest word that spills out of our conscience is of great importance, so as to not be silent like the silence of false witnesses. I can’t have a clean conscience as a false witness. I am here to say that I am with the freedom, sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and “not a hair less” than this meaning, as well as the safety and security of the entire Arab world from Egypt and Syria to Palestine, Iraq and Libya and Tunisia and all the countries that suffer from difficult political conditions. My wish for them is to be safe and live in peace.

You’ve sung all over the world in the past 40 years. What is your favourite place to perform and why?

I love all the Arab countries, but there is an exception with my life, other than Lebanon, and that’s Carthage [a suburb of Tunis] where I lived a unique experience, because it was the first theatre I stood in and sang as a professional at the beginning of my career. The Tunisian people have a very special place in my heart, and every time I sing there, I feel like I’m singing in my family home.

Don’t miss it

Majida Al Roumi performs at Shaikh Rashid Hall, Dubai World Trade Centre, on February 8. Doors open at 7pm; show begins at 9pm. Tickets are available on virginmegastoreme.com, Dh299-Dh1,399.