Najwa Karam (نجوى كرم) Started singing career began in the late 1980s with moderate success, but her major successes began in the mid-1990s. She is one of the most successful Arab singers—participating in numerous festivals and concerts around the globe, and has received a number of awards from various distinguished bodies. She is also Rotana's highest-paid artist.
The early years and Layali Lubnan: 1966–1988
Najwa Karam Karam was born in Zahle, to Karam Karam and Barbara Chahine Karam, a family of Lebanese Maronites, she believes in Jesus Christ. She is the youngest of five children, having an older sister, Salwa, and three older brothers, Tony, Jean, and Nicolas. She spent her childhood in Zahle, in the care of her parents and older brothers. From an early age, Najwa was known among her friends and relatives for her powerful singing voice, but her parents emphasized the need for an education and a stable career over entertaining.
Karam attended secondary school at Jesus the Angel College, and then worked as a teacher for two years at Eastern College, in Zahle.
In 1985, Karam decided to pursue a singing career by participating in the television singing contest Layali Lubnan (Lebanese Nights), although against her father's wishes. Interpreting popular varieties of the traditional Lebanese Mawal in her powerful voice, Najwa walked away with the Gold Medal, public exposure, and her father's approval.
Following this win, Karam studied at the Lebanese Institute of Music for four years to improve her knowledge of music and the music industry in general. She was under the direction of renowned Lebanese composers Zaki Nassif and Fouad Awad. In 1987, Najwa participated in another television program named Laylat Haz, where she was warmly accepted by the audience. By 1989, Najwa had gained the knowledge and experience she needed to make her first attempt at breaking into the Arabic music industry.
The beginning: 1989–1993
"The Sun of Song"
In 1989, Karam's first studio album, Ya Habayeb, was released by a then-little-known record label, Relax-in International. The album contained seven tracks, all in the traditional Lebanese traditional/Folkloric style. Due to her previous exposure to the Lebanese public, the album was well-received in Lebanon but did not receive much attention from the rest of the Arab World.
After a three year hiatus from music making, Karam returned to the scene with her follow up album, Shams el-Ghnnieh. The album title was inspired by her nickname, Shams el-Ghinnieh (The sun of song), which was given to her by the Lebanese people and media because of her vocal abilities. The album was recorded by another small record company CM. The style of the album was more romantic and contemporary, in comparison to Najwa's debut, Ya Habayeb, which was more traditional. Shams el-Ghinnieh was received very well by the Lebanese public.
Najwa's fortunes took a turn for the better when she was approached by the Middle East's largest recording label, Rotana, owned by the Saudi Arabian Prince Walid Bin Talel. An agreement between the parties was made, and Najwa was now on Rotana's roster.
Work on a new album began immediately. Expert poets, writers, and composers were enlisted to help Najwa make a fresh new musical image for herself to revitalize public interest, and finally draw attention from the wider Arab audience. By mid-1994, an album consisting of 8 new songs had been compiled and was ready to be released to the Middle East. Naghmet Hob (The Rhythm of Love) fused Lebanese tradition with Arab pop. Its catchy Lebanese dance song Law Habaytek (If I loved you) was an instant hit, introducing Najwa Karam to all of the Middle East. The song and its video clip dominated the Arabian charts. Its follow up hits from the same album were "Wrood Eddar" (Roses of the Garden) and "Elala (la la)," which received similar success.
The wide success of Naghmet Hob fueled a concert tour and a number of awards for Karam, including a prize from the Lebanese Broadcasting Association for the Best Artist of 1994.
Karam had been thrust to the top of the Arabic music scene in less than a year, and was now constantly in the public eye. In 1995, Najwa started work on her second Rotana album, her fifth release in total. It was titled Ma Bassmahlakand closely followed the traditional style of Naghmet Hob. The main difference was the lyrical and vocal nature of the tracks which had more depth. Riding the wave of her celebrity, two of the songs were hits, namely Ma Bassmahlak (I won't allow you) and Hakim el-Qady (The Judge has spoken).
With five albums under her belt, the latter two of which witnessed ground breaking success, Najwa was becoming a familiar face in the Arabic music industry. On 16 June 1996, Karam released her newest album entitled Hazi Helo (I'm Lucky). The title track, Hazi Helo, and three other songs, "Khayarouni", "Ala Mahlak" and "El-Ghorbil", were the most popular from the album.
Following the release of Hazi Helo, Najwa set off on a large scale world concert tour, which would take in many Arab states, parts of Europe, and America. She found a number of fans in the U.S., and performed to sold-out concerts all over. To honour her success in the U.S., Najwa was presented with the Key to the City of Chicago.
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