Alama, Ragheb (1962–)
Massively popular throughout the Arab world, Lebanese singer Ragheb (also Raghib) Alama has been a topping the Arab billboards since the early 1980s when he broke into the music business at the age of eighteen. He has released more than fourteen albums, with many singles reaching number one on the charts. His music tends to blend traditional rhythms with a synthesized sound to produce popular dance tunes.
Ragheb Subhi Alama was born in Ghubayri, a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on 7 June 1962. The fourth of eight children (he has three sisters and four brothers), Alama displayed his music abilities at an early age. When he was just two years old, he would sing along with the radio, even though he could not pronounce the words. His father, who recognized his son's special talent and encouraged his musical interest, took Alama to a taping of a music show at a Lebanese radio station to be interviewed when he was just nine years old.
When he was thirteen, Alama entered the Beirut Conservatory of Music, where he refined his talent with vocal training. He also studied the ud (oud; a lute) for several years. Although his parents hoped that Alama would continue his studies at the university and perhaps enter a career in engineering, Alama's heart was already in his music. On the very day he finished his high school exams, he rushed from his tests to a television studio to appear on the popular, nationally broadcast show, Studio al-Fann, the Lebanese version of America's Star Search. Displaying his wide range of vocal abilities, Alama won the talent show and quickly became a popular figure across Lebanon.
Riding the wave of his success on Studio al-Fann, Alama released his first album, Ya Rayt, in 1986. Written and produced by Ihssan Al-Mounzer, the album's blend of traditional rhythms and Western pop sounds was soon breaking sales records around the Middle East. Alama's popularity continued to increase and he appeared widely at festivals and concerts in Lebanon and Egypt. He also spent significant time in the recording studio, releasing a new album every year through 1990: al-Hadiya (1987), Dawa al-Layl (1988), Ma Yajuz (1989), and lbi Ashiqha (1990). In 1990 Alama's fame reached new heights and spanned new international borders when Albi Ashiqha went platinum and the title cut became the first music video produced in the Middle East.
Name: Ragheb Alama; also Ragheb Subhi Alama
Birth: 1962, Beirut, Lebanon
Family: Wife, Jehan Al Ali (married 1996); two children, Khalid (born 1997) and Lu'ay (born 2001); one daughter, Sara, from his first wife, Randa Zaka
- 1986: Released first album, Ya Rayt
- 1993: Released "Albi Ashiqha," first music video produced in the Arab region
- 1998: Named Best Arabic Male Singer, awarded the Golden Lion
- 2002: Released album Saharuni al-Layll
- 2003: Released album Tab Leh
- 2005: Released Greatest Hits, 1996–2002
Between 1993 and 1999, Alama released six albums: Ya Hayati (1993), Tawa'am Ruhi (1995), Allamtini (1996), Farq Kabir (1996), Bravo Alayki (1997), and Habibi Ya Nasi (1999). All but Farq Kabir were released under the Relax-In Production label. During the 1990s, Alama's international audience continued to expand, and he played to sold-out crowds in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. In 1998, following a concert in Jordan, he was the target of an assassination attempt by a crazed fan, who shot him in the leg before fleeing the scene.
Alama garnered several awards, including Best Video Clip from Cinema and People Magazine in 1995 and the Golden Lyre from the Second Orbit Festival for Arabic songs in 1997. In 1998, he was named the Best Arabic Male Singer and awarded the Arabian World Gold Lion. In 1996, Alama married Jehan Al Ali; he has two children: Khalid (born 1997) and Lu'ay (born 2001). He also has one daughter, Sara, from his first marriage to Randa Zaka.
In 2001 Alama signed with Alam al-Fann Production and soon released Saharuni al-Layll (Up all night), which included the smash single, "Bitghib Bitruh" (When you go away), a duet with then-newcomer Elissa (now a major Arab singing star). The following year, the title cut of his new album, Tab Leh (Oh why), became his most popular release to date, reaching the number-one spot on the Arab billboards. In 2004, the release of al-Hubb al-Kabir (The great love) marked the final collaboration between Alama and Alam al-Fann Productions. "Yalla Ya Shabab," performed with Persian superstar Andranik Madadian (known simply as Andy) received significant attention and spawned a successful music video. The second single to generate interest was the album's title cut, which, although it never reached number one, managed to make it into the Top 40. In 2005 Alama released Greatest Hits, 1996–2002, which included songs such as "Tab Leh," "Nassini al-Duniya" (Make me forget the world), and "Saharuni al-layl."
Although Alama asserted he left his partnership with Alam al-Fann on amicable terms, the singer has vowed to never again sign a contract that gives a production company full and exclusive rights to his music. Thus, several attempts to negotiate a deal with the radio and television company Rotana have continued to stall over this point. Alama plans to self-finance his new album, which is scheduled for release in summer 2007.
Alama has also done his part to bring "reality television" to the Middle East. He starred in the popular show What You Don't Know About, which airs on Arab satellite television station MBC. The show, which follows along in the everyday life of a popular entertainer, shows Alama as singer, husband, and father, with several of the episodes shot at Alama's home in Paris.
INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
With fans across the world, Alama has toured the United States and Canada several times. In 2005, he held a concert in the capital of Mauritania, the first of its kind in that country. In 2006, he held a concert for the Iranian community in the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In the same year, he performed at Royal Albert Hall in London, in a benefit concert that aided two Lebanese orphanages. Alama regularly participates in charity events, especially those aimed at aiding children in need. He has also built a school for children. Alama brings a message of hope and an appeal for unity among Arab nations to his performances.
"NASSINI AL-DUNIYA" (MAKE ME FORGET THE WORLD)
Make me forget the world, make me forget the people.
Melt me my darling, and let me tell you sweet words.
If I go around the world, if I go around the people,
There is no possibility to find love like yours.
If I tell you that I love you,
Love is just too less for you.
If I take a minute away from you,
I return in the need to see your eyes.
Hug me, be mine,
Melt me and melt in my love.
Come and we'll live the nicest days.
It was the nicest day of my life
When I met you, my life.
I couldn't take it, if I didn't think of you for one moment.
I found myself in your love,
You took me from all the people, to live the most beautiful feeling,
And, my darling, make me forget the world with you.
EXCERPTED FROM "NASSINI AL-DUNIYA"
THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE
Alama's international appeal has carried his blend of Middle Eastern rhythms and Western pop melodies across the world. Although his heavy reliance on synthesized notes and sound effects may sound overdone to Western ears, the Arab community has long loved his danceable tunes, with belly dancers preferring his more traditional beats and others leaning toward his more purely pop songs. Alama's love songs have also garnered a wide audience. He has performed throughout the Arab world at festivals in Carthage, Tunisia, the Jarash International Festival in Jordan, and the City Lights Festival in Egypt, as well as appeared in the West in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington. He has been given the honorary keys to the city from cities like Detroit and Sydney. In Egypt, he received top honors for his video "Alamtini" (You taught me). He has recorded with Western performers and even has a global fan base in non-Arabic speaking countries. His songs also are available worldwide via such music download services as Rhapsody, iTunes, and MusicMatch.
Besides being wildly popular among his most devoted fans during his twenty-year career, Alama has served as a pioneer of Arab music videos. With the release of the first Arab-produced music video, "lbi Ashiqha," in 1990, he has continued to advance the region's offerings of quality music. He will be remembered as one of the most popular Arab singers of the last quarter of the twentieth century.
Harris, Craig. "Ragheb Alama." All Music Guide. Available from http://www.allmusic.com
"Interviews: Ragheb Alama." Arab Ella Magazine, 1 (Winter 2005/2006). Available from http://www.arabellamag.com
"Ragheb Alama." Ragheb Alama Official Web Site. Available from http://www.ragheb-alama.com
"Ragheb Alama A True Success." Middle East, 19 June 2006.
"Ragheb Alama Refuses to Be Exclusive to One Company." Al Bawaba, 11 February 2005. Available from http://www.Albawaba.com
"Ragheb Alama Searching for Arab Unity." Middle East, 18 June 2006.