Tomorrow, Ragheb Alama will be the first singer to perform at the FGB Arena at Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi. The Lebanese crooner and Arab Idol judge speaks to Saeed Saeed about his latest album and a spiky rivalry with the Emirati diva Ahlam
It's been reported that you have entered the studio to record a new album. How is that going?
It is in the very early moments, but I am excited to be working on music. This whole thing takes time and I don’t come to the studio with any specific goals. The studio is like a kitchen and once you get the right elements together it ends up working very well.
You've recently been appointed as a goodwill ambassador for the UN's Environment Programme. Will your famous love songs now change to odes to the environment?
I don’t think so. I think when it comes to helping the environment and other causes, the best thing I can do is use my name and my actions. At the same time, if I am asked to do a song about the environment as it could reach many people, then this is something that I am happy to do.
Arab Idol will be returning for its third season soon. Is it a challenge as a judge to be fresh and objective with each season?
We are starting to work on it very soon. I do look forward to it. Each season is new and fresh for me and the calibre of contestants continues to improve. As a judge, you try your best to work with the contestants and help them achieve their highest powers and do the best that they can. This is something that I continue to enjoy doing each day.
Are you looking forward to sitting on that judging panel once again with Ahlam? You got into a few explosive exchanges last season.
At a personal level, I have nothing against Ahlam. But I also must say that some of things she says to the contestants on the show are too negative and that is something that I can never accept. I believe, as judges, we are there to help the contestants. Now, I agree with many of Ahlam’s comments regarding contestants; some are indeed not good enough, but we should say that in a non-negative way. In that manner I think I am similar to [fellow judge and pop star] Nancy Ajram as she is positive like me. I don’t think we should be there on the show to destroy people.
You are known for your optimism. As a Lebanese singer, is it tough recording and working in a country that's experiencing civil unrest?
It is a very difficult time. It feels like there is no law here. We as musicians need a platform to perform and promote our music and now is a hard time for that. But this will not stop us, we will still go out and perform and help in whatever way we can. Also, I grew up here and I lived with war all my life and I sadly don’t see this thing ending soon, as the conflict has a deep history. This will not affect me, though. Just like journalists here continue to write, we as singers will continue to sing and war will not stop such things.
Have you checked out the new FGB Arena? What should fans expect from the first concert there?
I have not been to the place, but I did hear that it looks wonderful. Then again, this is not surprising, to be honest. Anything that is done in Abu Dhabi is always top quality and done with professionalism. People should expect a great night full of enjoyment and love. It will be a very positive time.
• Ragheb Alama and Maya Diab perform tomorrow at the FGB Arena, Zayed Sports City, from 9pm. Tickets cost from Dh295 from www.ticketmaster.ae