Assala Nasri performs at the Mawazine festival in Morocco last month. Courtesy Youness Hamiddine / Mawazine
Assala Nasri performs at the Mawazine festival in Morocco last month. Courtesy Youness Hamiddine / Mawazine

Mawazine sessions: Syrian diva Assala Nasri on making her voice heard



Ever since arriving on the scene in 1991, the Syrian singer Assala Nasri maintained her presence on the popular conscience with a career melding the past and the modern.

A prolific artist, the 46-year-old has released more than 20 albums showcasing her vocal command over various genres, including complex classical Arab ­operettas, Khaleeji and mainstream pop. Nasri has also embarked on a ­television career, with two ­seasons as host of her own musical talk show Sola on OSN.

To top it all off, she remains one of the most colourful and headstrong personalities in the entertainment industry, with a reputation for being mercurial and refreshingly direct. “It’s too late for me to have a new personality,” she says from the Mawazine festival in Morocco. “I am who I am and that means normally speaking without a filter.”

It was reported in March that you were in discussions with the broadcaster MBC to replace Sherine Abdelwahab in the upcoming new season of The Voice. How is that going?

First of all, I don’t replace anybody. Also I can say that it is not going to happen. We did have discussions, we didn’t agree on certain things – that I don’t want to get into – and I don’t think we will ever agree because we have too many differences.

What about those rumours that the upcoming season of your OSN show Sola will be the final one?

Yes, this will be my last series. After this I want to work with my darling husband Tito [the Palestinian American director Tarek Al Eryan] on creating a show that would be a dream come true for me: an interactive show screened around the Arab world and the wider global Arab diaspora, where I meet personalities and discuss issues affecting us.

You talk very affectionately about your husband to the press.

Tareq is my husband and I am his woman. He is my friend and my confidant. I love him because he respects me and knows my talents. You know, we travel together, and on one trip we went to the US and I knew he was in a long relationship with a woman who lived there and, you know what, I wanted to meet her.

Oh-oh. That doesn’t sound like a good idea.

No, it’s not like that at all. I wanted to meet her and really get to know her because she, like me, played a big role in developing his character. So I want to know more about this person who was important to him. Besides, anyone who loves Tareq will love me.

Do you feel that with the plethora of talent shows, the industry is focusing more on finding the next new stars as opposed to supporting more established acts?

I wrote about this on Twitter the other day. You know, when you get to a certain established phase of your career, you cease getting support from the industry and the media and your friends.

The problem is that we become bored more easily. We are always looking for the next big thing or the next trend and people forget the artists such as us who are still going strong after 20 years. Now, I am not saying we should not look for new artists: we follow and support them, too. But at the same time, we should also be aware of the established acts who are also evolving in their own way. I don’t feel that my music is stagnant. It’s the opposite. Mentally, I have the same passion and excitement as the days when I first started.

What has been the biggest setbacks you’ve experienced as a result of your fame?

The loss of former friends. Eventually I realised that these friendships were built on artificial terms as opposed to being real. They came about as a result of my fame. They eventually faded away and that upset me because I really value the concept of friendship. I love hanging with friends and being in their company – even if it’s a five-minute chat, I do feel a relaxed change in me and a sense of safety.

Any word on your next album?

I have begun working on an album dedicated to Khaleeji songs. It is in the very early stages, though, and I am working with some people, so let's see how the project goes.

Next week we chat to Nigerian duo P-Square about becoming one of Africa's best-selling acts and their desire to work with Arab talent

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Consoles: PC, PlayStation
Rating: 2/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

MATCH INFO

Manchester United 1 (Greenwood 77')

Everton 1 (Lindelof 36' og)

The stats and facts

1.9 million women are at risk of developing cervical cancer in the UAE

80% of people, females and males, will get human papillomavirus (HPV) once in their lifetime

Out of more than 100 types of HPV, 14 strains are cancer-causing

99.9% of cervical cancers are caused by the virus

A five-year survival rate of close to 96% can be achieved with regular screenings for cervical cancer detection

Women aged 25 to 29 should get a Pap smear every three years

Women aged 30 to 65 should do a Pap smear and HPV test every five years

Children aged 13 and above should get the HPV vaccine

Sri Lanka squad for tri-nation series

Angelo Mathews (c), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Janith Perera, Thisara Perera, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera, Shehan Madushanka, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan and Wanidu Hasaranga

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The bio

Job: Coder, website designer and chief executive, Trinet solutions

School: Year 8 pupil at Elite English School in Abu Hail, Deira

Role Models: Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk

Dream City: San Francisco

Hometown: Dubai

City of birth: Thiruvilla, Kerala

Tax authority targets shisha levy evasion

The Federal Tax Authority will track shisha imports with electronic markers to protect customers and ensure levies have been paid.

Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director of the tax authority, on Sunday said the move is to "prevent tax evasion and support the authority’s tax collection efforts".

The scheme’s first phase, which came into effect on 1st January, 2019, covers all types of imported and domestically produced and distributed cigarettes. As of May 1, importing any type of cigarettes without the digital marks will be prohibited.

He said the latest phase will see imported and locally produced shisha tobacco tracked by the final quarter of this year.

"The FTA also maintains ongoing communication with concerned companies, to help them adapt their systems to meet our requirements and coordinate between all parties involved," he said.

As with cigarettes, shisha was hit with a 100 per cent tax in October 2017, though manufacturers and cafes absorbed some of the costs to prevent prices doubling.

The Specs

Price, base Dh379,000
Engine 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6
Gearbox eight-speed automatic
Power 503bhp
Torque 443Nm
On sale now

Specs

Power train: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and synchronous electric motor
Max power: 800hp
Max torque: 950Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)

The specs

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 194hp at 5,600rpm

Torque: 275Nm from 2,000-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Price: from Dh155,000

On sale: now

Generation Start-up: Awok company profile

Started: 2013

Founder: Ulugbek Yuldashev

Sector: e-commerce

Size: 600 plus

Stage: still in talks with VCs

Principal Investors: self-financed by founder

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded

Company profile

Name: Cashew
Started: 2020
Founders: Ibtissam Ouassif and Ammar Afif
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: FinTech
Funding size: $10m
Investors: Mashreq, others

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates