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Arts and culture

Modern Lebanese diva, Aziza, talks Personas, Nostalgia and Pop

BEIRUT | - June 06, 2014, 20h13
Par Sophie Spencer
The Lebanese singer Aziza, a regular feature at the Blue Note in Hamra is releasing her debut album, Aziza on Saturday. Her unique blend of oriental Tarab and pop music, representing at once a step back to the golden past and a step forward to a beautiful future, is set to revolutionise the Lebanese music scene. Iloubnan talks to the Diva and asks ‘Who is Aziza?’
Iloubnan: Aziza is the name of the character that possesses you when you sing. Can we refer to her in the third person?
Aziza: No, actually. Aziza was born when I was singing on stage 3 years ago. She came to say ‘I am here now, I am a performer, I am not afraid of the stage or of people, I am an entertainer.’ Since she was born, I live her. I breathe Aziza. I eat Aziza. I am Aziza.

Describe yourself, Aziza, in 3 words.
1. A Taurus. I want what I want and I never stop pursuing my dreams. I am super stubborn, it is my star sign, I am the perfect Taurus.
2. An old spirit. I feel I am haunted by an old lady. She lives in me and takes me back to the time of Umm Kulthoum and Abdel Wahab.
3. Schizophrenic. There is no explanation, I am just crazy.

Do you get stage fright?
The minute Aziza was born, stage fright was gone.

Tell me about your debut album, Aziza, coming out on 7th June.
I have been writing and composing my own music since I was 15 or younger. A year and a half ago I met my producer Jana Saleh and told her my vision for Tarapop, a blend of old Tarab music and pop, both of which I love. She loved the idea too. The album is 9 tracks of a blend of disco, reggae, pop and classical Arab beats. The album is also my story, the soundtrack to my life. It comes from the world of divas like Sabah and Dalida and is bringing back the diva era in a new form.

So, you write your own songs, what are they about?

Everything. Sometimes I’m telling personal stories from my own experience and sometimes other people’s stories. One song, Barghasheh is about a day in Beirut, the traffic, the shouting and the annoying people who manage to annoy even the most annoying thing, the Barghasheh- the fly. I even have one song where I sing as a man talking to a woman.

You are launching the album with a concert at Sporting Club on Saturday. What can we expect?

A real performance. I will be singing the whole album. There will be 11 musicians and western and oriental instruments like drums, bass, trumpet, guitar and also the tabla and daf. I am also introducing a new concept to Arabic music: backing singers with their own character. My girls, the Azizat are super fun and super cute. They sing and dance and have a real presence on stage.

If you could duet with one of the greats, dead or alive, who would it be, what song and why?
Abdel Wahab, he is my master. I learnt to sing from him, to compose from him. I would sing Hakim Ayoun. It’s a beautiful song.

Who was it that first introduced you to Classical Arabic music?
My Dad. When I was very young, 3 years old perhaps, I went on stage with him and sung Umm Kulthoum. I was very cute. But then when I grew up I experimented with jazz and world music and through my experimentation ‘Tarapop’ was formed.

You are publicly critical of modern Arabic pop music. What’s not to like?

Commercial Arab music is in downfall. The music and the lyrics are both declining. It saddens my heart. There is nothing new; everything just repeats itself; the same beats and rhythms. Whereas you see foreign commercial artists like Beyonce experimenting and trying new things, her new album was a piece of art.

Do you take any inspiration from foreign artists?
For the look and stage performance, yes. I really like Dalida, Bjork and Grace Jones. I have too many musical inspirations to count!

The video for Ya Mazag with Aziza riding on the back of a motorbike with a gang of bikers is quite provocative. Would you say sexiness is a crucial element in your work?

No, I am first and foremost an entertainer. Some song and performances are sexier than others and some are not sexy at all!

If you could live in one decade, which would it be? Why?
Take me back to the colour of the seventies, to the colour of life and music back then. There was just something golden about the seventies. It was the crucial time between the sixties and the eighties, paving the way for the eighties.

What is your favourite ice cream flavour?
Pistachio, always pistachio. And sometimes Ashta.

Who are you supporting in the World Cup?
No one. I don’t like football. I used to watch it with my Dad but I don’t have time anymore.

Are you a morning person?
No! Hell no! I can get up at 10 or 11 no problem but don’t ask me to get up earlier than that. Aziza definitely comes alive in the night-time when she can sing and entertain people.

For more details about the album and Aziza’s concert at Sporting Club on Saturday, June 7 visit her Facebook.
#Aziza, #Lebanese_singer, #Lebanese_artist
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