Maya Diab promises to perform the region's 'first virtual live show'

The singer joins fellow Lebanese artist Oussama Rahbani in holding separate online concerts this week

A handout photo of Maya Diab (Courtesy: World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi)
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Two of Lebanon’s biggest musical names are going online this week to treat fans to live concerts.

Composer and poet Oussama Rahbani announced that a piano performance will take place on Monday, May 11 on his Facebook page.

This will be followed by a virtual gig from Maya Diab, who will hop on her YouTube page to play a selection of hits and fan favourites on Thursday, May 14.

While online concerts have fast become the norm in the wake of the coronavirus, what makes these shows significant is the pedigree of the acts.

With the exception of Syrian singer Asaala and Elissa's isolation-inspired music video for Hanaghani Kaman Wa Kamam, high-profile Arab pop stars have largely stayed away from the virtual space during the pandemic, preferring to either work on upcoming albums or record new Ramadan-inspired songs.

Let’s take a look at the two shows coming our way this week.

Monday, May 11: Oussama Rahbani, 7pm on Facebook

He hails from Lebanon's arguably most distinguished music family.

The son of Lebanese composer and poet Mansour Rahbani (who, with his brother Assi, formed the celebrated songwriting duo The Rahbani Brothers), Oussama forged his own creative path by melding jazz and classical music with traditional Middle Eastern music.

Oussama has played a prevalent role in the Lebanese entertainment industry. As a composer, he wrote a number of musicals and operas, including a 2004 Arabic adaption of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, The Return of the Phoenix ,which was staged in Dubai in 2009, and a gala concert celebrating his family's legacy as part of the 2013 Abu Dhabi Festival.

He was also a mentor in the TV talent quest Star Academy from 2004 to 2007. Those who followed the series would have remembered Oussama's no-nonsense approach when it came to his advice for contestants.

In a 2013 interview with The National, he hinted that his stint on the show was not creatively fulling. When describing his tough teaching regimen to aspiring musicians in Beirut, he explained that he is looking for more than just a good voice.

"Your voice has to have character; that's one of the keys to success and this is what will distinguish you from the rest," Oussama said. "You have to have intelligence to withstand the intensity. It is a very challenging experience. If some people don't like it, well, there are plenty of television programmes they can join."

Thursday, May 14: Maya Diab, 12am on YouTube

The Lebanese singer is keeping hush about her performance, only promising that it will be the "first virtual live show in the region".

Whatever it is, fans should expect Diab to play a bunch of her regional hits. She began her career in 2001 as part of the all-girl group The 4 Cats before going on to launch a solo career four years later. An artist not enamoured with the album format (her only effort is 2015's #MyMaya), Diab is known for her pop singles Habibi, Tawel Balak and Hiya Di Donia.

In 2016 she duetted with US RnB singer Jason Derulo on the music programme Coke Studio. Both performed the track Talk to Me, an Arabic-English remix of Derulo's 2013 hit Talk Dirty.

Diab is also active on the regional fashion scene. In 2018 she began her two-year role as the regional face of cosmetics giant L'Oreal.

Other online shows this week

The addition of Oussama and Diab’s shows makes for an eclectic week of virtual performances.

On Tuesday, May 12, the instrumental group Canella Trio will showcase their fusion of western classical and oriental melodies in a concert streamed on Dubai Opera's Instagram account from 9pm.

Sami Yusuf will perform a selection of his key works in his online Ramadan concert. ADMAF
Sami Yusuf will perform a selection of his key works in his online Ramadan concert. ADMAF

On Wednesday, May 13, British spiritual singer Sami Yusuf will conclude the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (Admaf) Ramadan performance series with a bespoke concert titled Journey of Solidarity.

The intimate set will feature pieces inspired by both Islamic history and spirituality, such as Hasbi Rabbi, Meditation, You Came to Me and the soaring The 99 Names. The show will stream on Admaf's Facebook page from 9.30pm.