"Shu Hayda" is a youthful Lebanese song that has contributed to the substantiation of Marwan El-Shami's identity as an artist. El-Shami, whose artistic career began in the 1990s, has succeeded in proving himself as a promising singer with this, his third hit song, which has achieved unprecedented success in Lebanon.
Mawtani met with El-Shami to discuss his career.
Mawtani: Whom are you addressing with "Shu Hayda"?
Marwan El-Shami: I say "Shu Hayda" in real life to my daughter and to my sweetheart, and to every person who deserves this phrase. In the music video of this song, I say it to pretty young woman who was spending the evening with her girlfriends at a nightclub. I am attracted to her beauty, and for a moment we exchange the same type of admiration, until at the end of the evening, her fiancé shows up, and I realize that she was at her bachelorette party.
Mawtani: Did this happen to you in real life?
El-Shami: No. The idea of the video is an outcome of collaboration between music composer and lyricist Salim Assaf, who wrote the lyrics and the music of the song, director Bassam Kayal and myself. I thank God for the astonishing feedback the music video has received from the public.
Mawtani: Before this, you had the song "Layki". Tell us about it.
El-Shami: It was my first single, which I released in 2008. The lyrics of the song were written by Riyad al-Ali and the music by Thaer and Maher al-Ali. This was followed by the song "Feeki Tihli", written by Fares Iskandar and composed by Salim Salameh. The latter achieved success.
Mawtani: What does the success of "Shu Hayda" mean to you?
El-Shami: It means greater responsibility to complete what I have started in the field of art. After my last song, I must choose the next one carefully, because I follow the policy of releasing singles and not albums. We have ears for singles. Besides, my ability to finance and produce my work does not allow for more than one single.
Mawtani: Have you not received offers from production companies?
El-Shami: Yes, sure. But I choose what I am more comfortable with. All of us are aware of the anguish artists face with production companies. I do not want to take a step backward, but want to move forward. I study every step I take very carefully, because it is unacceptable to quit after I worked so hard to achieve success.
Mawtani: Do you believe that the problems faced with production companies serve the interest of art?
El-Shami: What I know is that companies have messed up a lot and released unnecessary works, which put them in trouble. In my opinion, we have had enough of these productions. I hope that we reach decisions that will clean up the art arena in Lebanon, so that we can restore its good reputation.
Mawtani: You sing in the Lebanese style. What about other styles?
El-Shami: In my evening performances, I sing in several styles and in other dialects, such as Egyptian and the Gulf dialect, which preserves the quality of the word, as well as the Iraqi song, which occupies a good position today because Iraqi singers select lyrics and music that are beyond wonderful.
Mawtani: What about your beginning?
El-Shami: I began by studying Eastern singing and playing the lute at the National Music Institute, followed by participating in the early 1990s in concerts for master artists such as Wadi El-Safi, George Wasouf and Ragheb Alameh in Lebanon and outside. At these concerts, I used to sing before they came on stage.
Mawtani: Why has your success in the field been delayed until now?
El-Shami: I have had attempts. The first one was in 1995 when I released my first CD, but it was not important. In 1998, I released an album titled "The White Horse". The song succeeded. After that, I continued in my career, but I suffered a lot from production companies, composers and lyricists, who apparently did not believe in my talent. I got tired of repeated visits to them, and of listening to songs. I have not regretted not singing them, but have heard others sing them.
Mawtani: What were you looking for?
El-Shami: I was looking for songs at the level of "Shu Hayda" and "Layki", or songs that have beautiful meaning and tune.
Mawtani: How far do you want to take your career?
El-Shami: My ambition is great. I hope to produce work with moral content and to deliver the songs I learned from master artists.