Iraqi singer and composer Waleed El Shami will grace Abu Dhabi’s Al Raha Beach Theatre tomorrow in a double bill with Lebanese songstress Myriam Fares to celebrate Eid Al Fitr.
The performance, presented by Alchemy Project in association with Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), will see the hugely popular El Shami sing hits from his albums, Mussiba and Salemli Al Hob.
We caught up with the 39-year-old singer, who calls his “beloved UAE” home, and learnt that he has a few surprises up his sleeve.
“Right now, I’m working on preparing a new album that will be produced by Rotana, and which I will be ready to hand over by end of January next year,” says El Shami. “But for this upcoming concert, I have a new single coming out, with words by the amazing lady poet Jumouh, and my melody composition and my singing, and God willing it will be an Eid gift to my audience during my upcoming performance.”
If his track record is anything to go by, the song will prove to become an instant hit. El Shami is responsible for the hit single Al Muhajer, which he wrote for his fellow Iraqi singer Hatem Al Iraqi, a song he says "echoed deeply across the artistic community at the time". It launched a career that has been on an uphill trajectory ever since.
Music, says El Shami, has always been as essential to his life as breathing while he was growing up in Iraq. “I lived in the midst of a family that breathes art and has a passion for music. I learnt from them everything beautiful, like playing the oud, and appreciating poetry, and composing and singing. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be Waleed El Shami.”
He began his career performing with his brothers, who are now musicians and artists in their own right. In 1998, he left his homeland of Iraq and moved to Jordan.
He remains reluctant to say what prompted that career move in particular.
“There are too many stories and issues and background circumstances that drove that decision, which I’d rather keep to myself, and perhaps share in my memoirs one day, God willing,” says El Shami.
Eventually, El Shami made the UAE his home, and he says it’s his favourite place to perform. “The stages in the UAE are the most special Arab stages in terms of beauty and technical innovation and organisation, as well as an audience rich in vitality,” says Elshami. “I adore singing on the UAE’s beloved stages. The land of the UAE brings together people from all Arab and international nationalities, and when I perform there, it’s for an audience that is from all over the world.”
As a composer and singer, El Shami has become renowned for his collaborations with Arab stars, and has composed music for some of the leading singers of the region and beyond.
“The [Emirati] artist Mansour Zayed is one of the most recent artists I’ve composed for. Other big names I composed for, from Iraq, are Hatem Al Iraqi and Majed Al Mohandes and others. As for regional and Arab artists, I’ve composed for Rashed Al Majid and Abdelmajid Abdallah and Kadhim Al Sahir and Mohammed Abdo and Aseel Abu Baker and Nawal Al Kuwaitiya, and Emirati songstress Ahlam and Diana Haddad from Lebanon, and Fayez Al Saeed and many more.”
For El Shami, singing and composing go hand-in-hand in terms of importance. The melody, he says, often takes precedence, before the words come to him. But whether singing or composing, the two “are like my two eyes to me”, says El Shami.
“Still, singing spreads more than a simple melody.”
And on Friday, it will be his singing that will draw in the crowds and he “can’t wait”.
• Waleed Al Shami performs with Myriam Fares on Friday, July 8, 8pm, at Al Raha Beach. Tickets from Dh150 at tixbox.com, or from 056 675 68 34/35 or 800 TCA