A One-Woman Music Revolution
The Diva of Arabic music is what Samira Saïd’s Fans like to call her — and with good reason.
As a singer, performer, producer, actor — is there anything Samira Saïd hasn’t done, and done exceedingly well?
With her perpetually evolving style and an ever-ground-breaking repertoire spanning more than 35 years, Samira Saïd is, by far, the most accomplished female superstar in the modern history of Arabic music.
With more than 500 songs recorded to date and more CD’s sold than any other female Arabic star in the last 50 years, Samira Saïd is the force that triggered a music revolution in the past 30 years, leading a one-woman charge that brought Arabic music into the age of video.
Born in Rabat, Morocco, Samira began singing at an early age and was greeted with accolades early on, winning Morocco’s Mawahib television talent contest. From there, the rest is history. With her parents firmly behind her, she soon came into her own as an artist, topping the charts in the Magreb. Her most popular early hits include Maghlouba (i.e. Downtrodden).
Samira’s ambitions extended beyond Morocco, and – on the advice of her idol, Abdul Halim Hafez – she soon relocated to the Arab world’s entertainment and cultural hub, Cairo, Egypt. And it wasn’t long before she was noticed by producers.
As her international career started to take shape, she began crafting songs that would become Arab-world favourites.
In 1980, Samira recorded the song titled Al Hob Elli Ana Aichah (i.e. The Love That I Am in), composed by Mohamad Sultan. Not long after, she sang Morocco’s first and, so far, only entry in the Eurovision song contest, Bittakat Hob (i.e. Message of Love).
Then, She went on to record alongside major names on the Egyptian music scene, including Baligh Hamdi, Helmi Bakr and Mohamad Al-Mouji.
Samira went on to work with composer Mohamed El Mougi, singing and acting in her sole film role to date, inÇa Aktob Ismak Ala Arrimal (i.e. I Will Write Your Name in the Sand), which included her singing Ya damiiti Haddi (i.e. Tears, Fall from My Eyes).
Meeting Baligh Hamdi, in particular, would prove pivotal on the young Samira’s path as an emerging artist – as he would end up composing what would turn out to be major breakthroughs in her early career: Ben Leef (i.e.The Circle of … Life), Sayidati Sadati (i.e. Ladies and Gentlemen), Malich Enwan (i.e. Ready When You Are),Akher Hawa (i.e. Last Love).
It was Hamdi who finally composed long format song Aalemnah El Hob (i.e. Taught to Love) for Samira, whichshe debuted at the Spring festival in Cairo in 1982.
When Samira met up again with Mohamed Soltane, he would end up further expanding her repertoire, penning Hikaya (i.e. Story), Methaya Li (i.e. I Think So), Ellila Dee (i.e. Tonight), Yaoulouna Anni Kathiran (i.e.Talking about Me), showcasing her gift taking classical Arabic melody to new heights.
She also teamed up with Khaled El Amir, who further highlighted her range in composing: Shoft Habibi (i.e. I Have Seen My Love).
Then the revolution began: With Al Gani Ba’ad Youmine (i.e. And Two Days Later, He Came Back), written bylyricist Mohamed abdel wahab and composed by Gamal Salama, Samira would not only cement her position in herlong reign at the top of the charts, but she also triggered a revolution in Arabic popular music, which would see the long-held dominance of classical long-format songwriting give way to shorter-format works.
From 1982 till 1986, Composer Helmi Bakr took her into new territory, composing classical Arabic long-format melodies specifically for Samira’s voice, including: Lilet El Ouns (i.e. Magnificent Get-Together), Ech Gab Li Gab (i.e. A Cut about the Rest), Malak Mosh Zay Awaydak (i.e. Why Have Things Changed with You?), Amrak Aajib (i.e. I Don’t Get You), Menghir Sabab (i.e. For No Reason).
But it was with Baligh Hamdi’s compositions for Samira Asmar Malak (i.e. My Heart Belongs to You), and especially Ketre El Kalam (i.e. Talk of the Town), that she soared into the stratosphere as a superstar in Egypt.
Then, she repeat the great success with Mosh Hatnazel Aannak Abadan (i.e. I Will Never Let You Go).
And in the following years, Samira’s career was to meet with huge success, as she emerged with mega-hits, including Aiwa Bashta’lak Sa’at (i.e. Yes, Sometimes I Miss You), the sultry, jazz-infused track Oyoonak Alit (i.e. Your Eyes Say So), and Al Gani Ba’dyomein (i.e. He Came Two Days Later). Samira’s ever-changing style drew in loyal legions of new fans, as she transitioned seamlessly between styles and genres. Taking bold chances, experimenting fearlessly and paying no mind to controversy, Samira would soon become the Arab world’s reference for her daring, utterly-honest and out-there music and personal views, opening new doors and inspiring not only a thaw but an entire revolution in the Arabic-language entertainment industry.
Another turning point was to come in 1998, when Samira emerged with her album Al Bal (i.e. On the Mind). The title track, a livid, furious call to her loved one, took the Arab world by storm. The sultry, dramatic video, featured Samira clad in a black sleeveless dress, with a black shawl fluttering across her body. With wind blowing through Samira’s hair, fires burning everywhere around her and Roman statues engulfing her, the video was an iconic mirror of Samira’s evolution. The album topped the charts with hit after hit, such as philosophical, mind-numbing Halit Malal (i.e. Situation of Boredom) and Beteegee Witimshee. (i.e. You Come and You Go).
The years that followed witnessed continued success for Samira. With the album Rohi (i.e. My Soul), she experimented with new producers and lyricists on an epic album that brought her Moroccan roots back into focus. Not only was the album another huge success, but by showcasing Samira’s experimentation with a broad array of styles it set new ground rules for Arabic-language song.
The year 2000 witnessed the release of Lilah Habeebee, (i.e. One Night, My Love), album title track, which went on to win for best video in the Arab world in 2001 at the Cairo Arabic Music Festival. With lavish funding and exceptional production values, the video cast Samira as a distraught lovelorn with rain pounding down and wine glasses breaking around her in Victorian surroundings. The album featured one of Samira’s most memorable ballads, Te’dar Te’oli (i.e. Can You Tell Me?), jazz-influenced Malee, (i.e. What’s It Got to Do withMe?), groove-laden tracks such as Moshta’alak (i.e. I Miss You) and Beyban Alaya (i.e. It Shows on Me), a traditional-length Arabic-music track longer than the typical pop song, with recurring, mind-boggling lyrics.Lailah Habeebee was the show stealer.
By 2002, Samira Saïd had become a household name throughout the Arab world, with mega-hit album Youm Wara Youm (i.e. Day after Day). And the title track would prove to be a pivotal international breakthrough, winning at the BBC Music Awards in 2002 and the World Music Awards in 2003. Not only did the track highlight Samira’s signature ability for collaboration, featuring duo vocals with Cheb Mami, but its video stirred controversy across the Arab world, with Samira, at ease in her own skin, ever fearlessly striking passionate and revealing poses as her art commanded.
Success again followed with the 2004 release of album Aweeny Beek (i.e. Give Me Strength), with its title-track video filmed in Barcelona and single Makhalas in Egypt.
In 2005, Samira gave a special concert based on the album in Cairo. And in the summer of 2005, she rekindled an old flame with her Tunisian fans, performing at the Carthage festival, where she sang a collection of songs in a variety of Arabic dialects.
In 2006, Samira again struck gold with Kolena Enssan (i.e. We Are All Human), a special single for the Africa Cup of the Nations (ACN) that she sings in French, English and Arabic. Kolena Enssan debuted at the opening of the ACN in Cairo.
Samira reinvented herself once again, in 2008, as a dance-music diva, with the release of her album Ayaam Hayati (i.e. Days of my life). The album not only spawned several hits (notably Awam Kida (i.e. Already), Hob Mayouss Minoh (i.e. Hopless Love) and Nefssi Atkalem (i.e. I Wish I Could Talk), but also sparked renewed interest in dance music among mainstream music fans. It also won at the Middle East Music Awards (MEMA) for best singer and best album of the year. Samira’s 2008 studio album, Days of My Life, sold almost 600,000 copies in its debut week, rocketing to the top of the charts.
The latest video by Samira, for the single Hob Mayoos Minoh (i.e. Hopeless Love), was directed by Hadi Al Basjori. The video tells the story of a woman in her car sinking into the sea. As her soul rises up to the sky, she lashes out at her lover of betraying her and tells the story of their failed relationship.
In 2009, The 6th Arab Radio and Television Festival (ART) announced the winners for the 2008 music poll, which surveyed 60 million Arabic-language fans around the world. Samira was presented with an honorary award for her triumphant return to the charts after a three-year hiatus, with her latest album, Ayaam Hayati(i.e. Days of My Life), which won the festival’s Distinguished Creativity Award.
The same year, Samira took the Murex d’Or award for best female artist in North Africa/ Middle East.
Samira Saïd has won more than 40 awards throughout the Arab world and elsewhere. In her native Morocco, Samira was awarded the Rabab d’or prize at Tétouan’s Voix des femmes festival in 2008 and and an exceptional fan-recognition award at Rabat’s world-renowned Mawazine international music festival in 2009. Special honours were conferred upon Samira by Morocco’s King Mohammed 6 during the monarch’s throne-accession anniversary festivities in 2009.
Samira has maintained unusual longevity in the Arabic-speaking world, frequently incorporating new stylistic influences, such as Tarab, Raï and Jazz and working with a variety of emerging talents. With every new album, Samira’s fan base has steadily broadened and her concerts are consistently sold out. Her albums, includingInssani, Khaifa, Ashka, Enta Habibi, Kul Dee Eshaat, Al Bal, Rohy, You Wara Youm and Aweeni Beek, have sold in excess of 25,600,000 copies.
As a solo artist, Samira Saïd reinvented the very basis of the contemporary Arabic song medium, paving the way for music video just over 20 years ago. Since her one-woman revolution, composers have morphed classical 20-to-30-minute song formats into short, camera-ready forms, and she has been THE term of reference for an entire generation in the performing arts throughout the Arab world.
She is often imitated but impossible to duplicate. Flamboyant yet discreet, Samira is an awe-inspiring creator whose passion gives new meaning to the word charity. As an example for all – don’t just stand there, do something – she gives intelligently, discreetly and powerfully, even when the world hasn’t yet realized it needs to wake up. Courage, strength and conviction are her middle names — she always ends up standing up for what is right, whether or not it’s fashionable or popular, trouncing taboos and launching AIDS awareness in the Arab world, as well as rallying other European and African stars to the urgent need to aid earthquake victims across North Africa.
As a beacon of tolerance, she spearheaded mega concerts to draw people together after the riots in immigrant suburbs across France, and to bring about solidarity between all religions, whether performing at the Vatican (at the time she was the only Arabic-music artist to perform in front of Pope John Paul II), or taking the show on the road where other stars dare not go, bringing her joie de vivre live to people in Gaza.
Not just another star in the sky looking pretty, but a voice for humanity.
1. El hob elli ana a’aycheh (1978)
2. Ben Lif (1979)
3. Ya Damaiti Haddi (1979)
4. Bitaqat hob (1980)
5. Allemnah el Hob (1982)
6. Lilet el Ouns (1982)
7. Ehki ya Shehrazade (1982)
8. Hikaya (1983)
9. Ketr al Kalam (1983)
10. Methaya’li (1984)
11. Ech gab li gab (1984)
12. Youm akablak Fih (1985)
13. Amrak ajib en (1986)
14. Moch hatnazel a’anak (1986)
15. Ya ebn al halel (1987)
16. Ghariba (1988)
17. Sibni louahdi (1988)
18. Ensani (1989)
19. Ana walla anta (1989)
20. Khayfa (1990)
21. a’ach’a (1991)
22. Hannitlak (1992)
23. Enta habibi (1993)
24. Kolli de echa3at (1996)
25. a’al bal (1998)
26. Rouhi (1999)
27. Laila habibi (2000)
28. Youm Wara Youm (2002)
29. Awweeni Beek (2004)
30. Kolena Enssan (We are all humans) (2006) – single
31. El Hayate We Essalam (Life & Peace) (2008) – single
32. Ayaam Hayati (Days of my life) (2008)
33. Be Winner – Samira Said featuring Fnaïre (2010) – single
34. Min Tourabak – From Your Dust(2010)- single
35. Lahetini El dounya – Life Got in the Way(2010) – single
36. Yarab Ana Gitlak – Back to God(2010) -single
37. Khaloh – Let Him Be (2010) – single
38. Mazal (2013) Single
39. Elly Benna (2014) Single
40. Bahess B Aman (2014) Single