Ajram, Nancy (1983–)
Nancy Ajram is a popular Lebanese pop singer and dancer. The winner of a Lebanese television musical competition at the age of twelve in 1995, she achieved stardom, complete with lucrative commercial endorsements, after releasing a hit album in 2003.
Ajram was born on 16 May 1983 in Ashrafiyya, in the eastern part of Beirut, Lebanon to a Maronite Catholic family who nurtured her musical ability from an early age (she has two siblings who are also performers, one an actress, the other a singer). Ajram appeared in two televised singing contests when she was eight years old. When she was twelve, she appeared on Nujum al-Mustaqbal (Stars of the future), a popular variety show, where she won a gold medal. She began at this time to focus on voice and theory lessons, and at age eighteen she released her first album, Mihtajlak (I need you). She was then accepted, apparently a major accomplishment, as a member of the Syndicate of Professional Artists in Lebanon. Three years after her first album she released a second, Uyunak Anni (Take your eyes off me). Neither was especially well received. She has achieved more success in recent years; in 2005 she signed a deal to endorse Coca-Cola and be a spokewoman for Damas Jewelry, and the album she released in 2006, Yatabtab … Wa Dalla (I pat and spoil) was a major success. Ajram is now one of the wealthiest singers in Lebanese.
During the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, Ajram refused to leave Lebanon. She wrote a patriotic song, "Lebanon Ya Habib al-Umur" (Lebanon my love) as a tribute, and to "express her grief over the horror her dear country is experiencing while Israeli forces are kill-ing so many innocent civilians, destroying the core of Lebanon." Ajram also cancelled her concerts in Syria, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates on Valentine's Day 2006 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister rafiq hariri, saying that it was "[my] duty as a Lebanese citizen to commemorate this day, as most Lebanese plan to do" (http://www.nancy-ajram.ws).
INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Ajram's career was deeply influenced by the Lebanese producer Jiji Lamara. After her first two albums failed, the Lebanese producer turned her career around and made her the star she is today. She also claims Fadel Chaker as her favorite recording artist.
Name: Nancy Ajram
Birth: 1983, Ashrafiyya, Lebanon
Education: Vocal and music theory studies
- 1990s: Participates in Lebanese TV musical competitions; wins gold medal on Nujum al-Mustaqbal (Stars of the future)
- 1998: Releases first album, Mihtajlak (I need you)
- 2000: Releases second album, Uyunak Anni (Take your eyes off me)
- 2003: Releases third album, Ya Salam (How fantastic)
- 2004: Releases fourth album, Ah Wa Noss (Yes of course)
- 2005: Signs to promote Coca-Cola
- 2006: Releases single, Anta Masri (You're Egyptian) for African Cup of Nations football tournament being held in Egypt; releases fifth album, Yatabtab … Wa Dalla
THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE
Global perception of Ajram has generally been positive since her emergence on the music scene in the late 1990s. Ajram was named as the best Arabic singer by the magazine Zahrat al-Khalij for both 2003 and 2004 and she was also named by the Arabic-language edition of Newsweek as one of the most influential personalities of the Arab world in 2005. Although her reception has been generally positive, Ajram has also caused some controversy (as have many of her colleagues), for her clothing, for certain comments she has made about religion, and the fact that she is seen as a sex symbol in the Arab world. Most recently rumors circulated that her concert in Berlin was boycotted because of this, and she experienced some difficulties at a concert in Bahrain because it was held during the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan. She is seen somewhat ambivalently in the Arab world: she is a symbol of modern western influence, a flouter of tradition; on the other hand, she is loved, considered progressive, entertaining, and new. The rest of the world, other than those of Middle Eastern descent, seems to be slow to discover her.
It remains too early to assess Ajram's legacy, since she is young and still growing as an artist; her career and influence could change in any direction. However, she has sold more than twelve million albums, and is the third best-selling female singer in Lebanese and Egyptian music history. She had three albums debut at number-one as well as multiple number-one singles after beginning to work with producer Jiji Lamara. She was the youngest to have a first single reach number one on the Arabian Charts (Ya Salam [How fantastic], 2003).
Nancy Ajram Fan Website. Available from http://nancyzone.atspace.com/home.html
Nancy Ajram's World. Available from http://www.nancy-ajram.ws
Khodr M. Zaarour
Myriam Faris (1983?–), like Nancy Ajram, is considered to have been a child prodigy. She began dancing at the age of five, and earned the first place spot on Téléliban, a televised dance competition, at the age of nine. She placed first in Oriental dance. She credits her early and continued dance experience with helping her later vocal talent. She studied for four years at the National Conservatory of Music. At the age of sixteen, she won the top prize at the Lebanese Song Festival, and the next year participated in the singing competition Studio El Fan 200 and took the first prize here as well. She was signed to the music label the Music Master International. She has enjoyed tremendous success, including sold-out concerts and a large fan following throughout the Middle East. Both Ajram and Faris started fairly young, and have worked hard at perfecting their talent and fan followings.