Majida El-Roumi (ماجدة الرومي, also transliterated as Magida Al-Roumi) was born in Kfarshima, Lebanon on December 13, 1956. She is a singer and a soprano, who started her musical career in the early 1970s when she participated in the talent show, Studio El Fan on Tele Liban and won the gold medal for best female singer. Since her appearance on television at the age of 16, she has become one of the most successful and respected singers of the Arab world as well as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
Majida El Roumi Baradhi ( ماجدة برادعي), born to renowned musician Halim El Roumi (born Hanna El Roumi Baradhy) and wife Marie Loutfi who were a Melkite Greek Catholic couple from Tyre, a city in South Lebanon. They got married and lived in Kfarshima, they had three girls Maha, Mona and Majida and a boy Awad. Halim el Roumi became a renowned musician and continued to live in Kfarshima, which was home to many Lebanese singers, musicians, poets and writers, like the late Philemon Wehbi, Melhem Barakat and Issam Rajji. The residence of Halim el Roumi in Kfarshima was a meeting place for many cultural figures. Growing up in such an artistic environment, Majida's interest in music started to show at an early age when she used to listen to the works of the prominent figures of that time, such as Fairuz, Umm Kulthoum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Wadi Alsafi, and Asmahan. Her singing and beautiful voice attracted the attention of her family and neighbors. One of the early songs she used to sing (and which was actually saved on record) was a religious song called "Your Birth" or Miladak in reference to the birth of Jesus Christ.
Raymond Safadi, Majida's cousin, was fascinated with her voice and thought that she could be very successful if she pursued singing as a profession. However, the big obstacle was her father who knew more than anyone else how difficult it was to work in the music industry. Although the father refused his daughter's participation in Tele Liban's Studio el fan, Majida, with the help of her cousin, Raymond, entered the talent show, singing songs for Asmahan and Leila Mourad. like Ya Toyour, Ana Albi Dalili, and Layali El Ouns Fi Vienna. The jury was impressed with her performance and her beautiful voice and awarded her the gold medal.
Halim El Roumi gave Majida his blessings to pursue singing as a profession as long as she continued her higher education. Despite the war in Lebanon in 1975, Majida obtained her BA in Arabic Literature from the Lebanese University.
On September 17, 1977, Majida got engaged to a businessman from Byblos, Lebanon. Antoine Dfouni became not only her husband but also her manager. They had two daughters: Hala and Nour. Majida and Antoine later divorced in 2006.
Majida lost her sister, Maha, to cancer. Before her death, she flew to her sister who was hospitalized in the United States and stayed with her for days. When she had to come back for a concert in Cairo, Majida dedicated a song to Maha, wishing a miracle would take place to heal her. When Maha died, Majida recited a poem she wrote at her funeral in a church in Kfarshima. Her sister's death lead her to produce several religious albums and held several religious concerts. She would later release a special song dedicated to Maha.
Majida was one of the first modern singers to start combining western classical music with the Arabic classical music (tarab). Ihsan Al-Monzer, Elias Rahbani, Elie Choueiri and Dr. Jamal Salama, all of whom Magida has worked with, also subscribe to this school of music. Her first hit, Am Behlamak Ya Helm Ya Lebnan, written by poet Said Akl and composed by Elias Rahbani offered a first glimpse at her operatic voice. However, the majority of her early 1970s–1980s success was achieved with much more oriental songs. From 1977 to this day, Majida has made sure to sing at least one song composed by her late father on each album she releases, as well as songs about Lebanon and her people.
Majida's self-titled debut album was typical of 1970s Arabic pop, with traditional percussion, a string section, guitar, and keyboard. Her sense of duty towards her country was evident from the beginning, with songs like Nab' El Mahabbeh, and the vast majority of her songs were in the Lebanese Arabic dialect. The same can be said for her 1980s work, like the joyous Layalina Men Layali El Omr and Ya Saken Afkari. Ya Saken Afkari marked some of her first work in classical or written Arabic, with songs like La Taghdabi and Salawna. Majida also sang a hit rendition of the late Abdel Halim Hafez's El Touba in 1987. Never one to depend on record companies, so far Majida has released no more than two albums with each label she signed with.
Musical Maturity (1990s)
In 1991, Majida released Kalimat, her first true pan-Arab hit, under the Music Master label. The hit title song was written by revered (and controversial) Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, and composed by Ihsan El-Mounzer. Qabbani also gave Majida a patriotic song titled Beirut, Set Eddounia, which Dr. Jamal Salama composed. Majida started the movement which re-popularized classical Arabic poetry in music. It was also a marked change of tone for Majida, and her music began to fuse East and West. 1994's Ibhath Anni followed the template set by Kalimat. Majida sang another symbolic song which empowered women, Dr. Souad Al Sabah's Kon Sadiqi, as well as patriotic songs like Oum Etthadda and Saqata Al Qina. She also sang another Nizar Qabbani poem, titled Ma'a Jarida, which garnered almost as much success as Kalimat. With Dr. Jamal Salama on board, the album felt even more classical, especially with Lan A'oud, Ma'a Jarida, and the signature ballad, Ibhath Anni. However, Majida still maintains an Arabic feel to her music, and you can hear it throughout the album in the percussion, the strings, and even accordion (which Dr. Salama worked into Ma'a Jarida). The album was the first in which Abdo Monzer, who composed both Ibhath Anni and Kon Sadiqi, and Dr. Salama did all of the musical arrangement.
In 1996, Majida signed with budding Saudi label Rotana and released Resa'al. Like its predecessor Ibhath Anni, the album was dominated by Abdo Monzer and Dr. Jamal Salama. Elie Choueiri, who had previously only composed patriotic songs like Saqata Al Qina and Koullon Youghanni Ala Lailah for Majida, wrote the opening song, Samra' El Nile, a song for Egyptian women. Some of the greatest work from Majida's collaboration with Dr. Salama came in this album. Songs like Shou'oubon Men Al Oushaq (composed by Joseph Khalifa), and Ainaka blurred the line between what was considered classical and Arabic music, while Lawen Ma'i El Iyam employed Majida's operatic skills and Hobbouka evoked songs from Eastern Europe. Elie Choueiri composed two more patriotic songs for this album, the powerful Qana, condemning the Israeli massacres there, and Ma Rah Tekhlass Lehkayeh. Majida's father Halim composed Mimi, written by the Rahbani Brothers, for Majida's daughter.
In 1998, Majida released her ninth official album, Ouhibbouka Wa Ba'd. For the first time, she worked with Saudi poet Al Nasser and composer/singer Dr. Abdel Rab Idriss, and the duo produced the title song. Tawq Al Yasmin marked Majida's fourth collaboration with Nizar Qabbani, and her first with Iraqi singer/songwriter Kathem Al Saher, who had become Qabbani's musical ambassador by then. The heartbreaking song of an ignored lover, arranged by Kadim himself and Khaled Fouad, was perfect for Majida, in the sense it was unmistakably Arabic and yet had the added the grandeur of classical music. The style of the album also suited Dr. Jamal Salama perfectly, and he composed three songs, the powerful Al Qalb Al Maftouh, dramatic Inta El Madi, and unforgettable Sayedi El Ra'is, which was written in the form of a letter to the President. He also arranged Al Yawm Aada Habibi, a duet with her father Halim El Roumi . Dr. Salama's purest classical work with Majida to date was on this album. Al Nasser also wrote Yaqoulou Inni Imra'aton for Majida, and the influence of Nizar Qabbani on the poet is evident in this romantic poem.
After the death of her sister Maha, Majida did not release any "secular" music for close to a decade. In 2003, she released two religious albums titled Cithare Du Ciel and Erhamni Ya Allah. Majida sang a special rendition of the song "Ave Maria", which was the first official recording to show her talent as a soprano.
The Return of "Majida" (2006)
2006 marked the return of Majida to a much-changed Arabic music scene. As she signed for an album with Good News Production that made her return with an album that spoke to a younger audience, while still stimulating her faithful older audience. "E'tazalt El Gharam" (I Quit Love) was released with a video directed by Nadine Labaki. It showed a changed, happier, and young Majida. Majida worked with many new names, like singer/songwriter Marwan Khoury as well as musicians Jean-Marie Riachi and Claude Chalhoub.The new musicians updated Majida's style while keeping the old-world charm that made her name. Many whom she hadn't worked with in over a decade also returned, like fellow Kfarshima musician Melhem Barakat, who composed the title song. Said Akl returned with his poem "Sawfa Nabqa", an ode to Lebanon. Composers Ihsan El Mounzer, Joseph Khalifa and Kamal Saiqali put Gibran Khalil Gibran's words to music for Majida in "Nashid Lel Hob." "Nashid El Zafaf" is a rendition of Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" with congratulatory lyrics by Majida herself. Familiar names, like Saudi duo Al Nasser and Dr. Abdel Rab Idriss, as well the late Halim El Roumi and Nizar Qabbani, also contributed songs to the album. "Al Hob Wal Wafa" revealed once again the diversity of Dr. Idriss as a composer, but the ability of a lengthy song to succeed so greatly in 2006 surprised everyone.
Majida sang a song from her upcoming album at the annual 2008' Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon, titled "Ma Rah Ez'al A Shi" (I Won't Feel Sad Over Anything). Her New album is scheduled for an early release in 2011, She is working With Kathem Al Saher on a new track "Wa'adtouka"written by Nizar Kabbani.
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