The music industry runs at a blistering pace – even amidst tragedy and a pandemic.
Six weeks ago, a masked Nour Ardakani was in the streets of Beirut as part of an army of volunteers cooking food for survivors of the deadly port blast. Her home, located 30 minutes from the explosion, was fortunately unharmed.
Today the Lebanese singer and dancer is in Dubai as a newly minted member of the pop crew Now United.
It caps off a whirlwind period that saw her supporting survivors during the day, while some evenings were spent digitally auditioning for the group in front of its founder, Simon Fuller.
In a statement announcing the appointment, the music mogul said he chose Ardakani for her crystalline voice and level headedness.
“In Nour I have found a remarkable young performer. She has natural talent and is a wonderful pure singer with gentle emotion and warmth,” he said. “However, it is her personality that impressed me the most. She has a calm confidence, a maturity and intelligence far in advance of her age. She comes from an extraordinary part of the world, rich in history, culture and the arts. Nour is the perfect choice and she will make the region and Lebanon very proud.”
Taking the opportunity
The emotional highs and lows of these past few weeks are not lost on Ardakani.
Speaking to The National, she says the experience armed her with a steely resolve as she takes her place as the sole Arab member of the 16-piece international pop group.
“I am ready for the responsibility,” she says. “I am not only representing the Mena region and Lebanon, but also the youth who come from here. This only makes me want to work harder and I can’t wait to get started.”
Ardakani certainly got what she wished for.
So far, her few days in Dubai have been a frantic mix of interviews, styling sessions and photoshoots – not to mention meeting members of the group who have jetted from various countries for promotional duties.
So how are the first days of being a pop star?
“Everyone has been super supportive and super kind. It has all been nice and welcoming,” she says.
“I literally just met the group yesterday and they were telling me how it’s a lot of hard work. But I don’t think it is going to be as hard as it seems because everyone is in this together and all of us are doing the same thing. That way we can support each other if anyone is tired."
Welcome to the music industry
That optimism will be tested as Now United is nothing less than an international juggernaut.
Formed in 2017 by Fuller, the man behind The Spice Girls and the Idols television franchise, the group represents 16 countries spanning most regions of the world – the sole African member, the Senegalese singer Diarra Sylla, left the group earlier this month for a solo career.
That eclecticism is reflected in a string of hit singles that have them fusing anthemic pop with styles ranging from Reggaeton and EDM to ballads.
The group boasts a large number of members from varied backgrounds, which means work can be shared and a lot of ground covered. This is how Now United managed to release a staggering 31 singles and 28 music videos all within three years and in languages including Tagalog and Spanish.
While an Arabic lead single is too early to call, Ardakani plans to add the region’s signature sounds into the mix. “Well, it is all happening so super quickly,” she says. “While a lot of the songs are in English, there is a lot of integration of cultures to the music. So I do plan to add the Arabic and Lebanese style of singing to the music.”
One United are ready and prepared
Until that moment arrives, Ardakani will practice those notes and moves. While the group are planning to shoot more music videos globally, their next world tour remains up in the air due to the pandemic.
When the time comes however, the crew should be a well-oiled machine with choreography and vocal classes they are taking.
“With Covid-19, and everything, I guess we're doing the best that we can,” Ardakani says. “And right now to make things work we practice to be ready for everything that's going to come.”
Judging by her confidence, we are sure she won’t skip a beat.