Amr Diab - Biography
By J Poet
Egyptian born Amr Diab is the most popular male singer in the Arab world. His fusion of Arab, Spanish (particularly Flamenco), Latin, Caribbean (particularly reggae), and other western music has made him an international star. Remixes of his song “Habibi” from Nour el Ein (1996 EMI Arabia) have been staples of dance clubs all around the world since the album’s release. His concerts generate a hysterical fan reaction, and he was the first Arab artist to use music videos to promote his hits, another strategy that has added to his international appeal. In 2006, he made a Pepsi commercial with Beyoncé Knowles, Pink, Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears that caused a sensation throughout the Arabic world.
Amr Abdel Basset Azeez Diab was born in Port Said, to a middle class family, in 1961. His parents loved the arts and encouraged their son’s singing ambitions. Diab sang in public for the first time when he was six, at an Al-gala celebration, a holiday marking the day British forces left Egypt after the Suez war of 1956. His performance of the National Anthem, “Belady, Belady,” was broadcasted over Egyptian radio and the Governor of Port Said gave him a guitar for his performance. He sang with the school band in primary school, and enrolled in the High-College for Arabic Music in Cairo in 1981.
Diab made several singles while he was at the High-College, but none were successful. He continued his education at the Cairo Academy of Art and released Ghanny Men Albak (1986 Delta Sound Egypt) and Ya Tareea (1986 Delta Sound Egypt), which sold well, but were not remarkable. His first hit was Khalseen (1987 Delta Sound Egypt.) In 1988 Diab starred in the film El Saginatean with Elham Shaheen and Youssef Shaaban and released Hala Hala (1988 Delta Sound Egypt.) The title track was a major hit. Shawa'na (1989 Delta Sound Egypt), arranged by Libyan singer Hamid El Shaery, was another early hit.
Diab represented Egypt at the 5th Tournament of African Sports and sang at the opening ceremonies in Arabic, English and French, boosting his international profile. Matkhafeesh (1990 Delta Sound Egypt) was promoted with a video of the title song, making him the first Arab artist to use a video to market his music. On his first world tour that year, he sang at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, only the third Arab artist to headline the venue. An early version of his groundbreaking hit, Habibi (My Love) (1991 Delta Sound Egypt) was released the next year, featuring his sax work.
Diab’s Ayyamna (1992 Delta Sound Egypt), which includes the hit “El Mady” was followed by the film Ice Cream Fi Gleam and the Ice Cream Fi Gleam Soundtrack (1992 Delta Sound Egypt.) Diab appeared in the film with established stars like Simon, Ezzat Abo Ouf, Hossam Hosny, and Alaa Waly-El Din. Two songs from the movie “Raseef Nemra Khamsa” and “Hatmarrad Alwad' Elhali” were hits.
In 1993 Diab cut Ya Omrena (1993 Delta Sound Egypt) with the hit “Kan Andak Ha'” spawning another popular video clip. He also starred in Dehk We La'ab with Omar Sharif, a hit at that year’s Egyptian Film Festival. Weylomoony (1994 Delta Sound Egypt) was Diab’s first album to use Flamenco rhythms and the video for the title track of Ragaeen (1995 Delta Sound Egypt) was praised for it’s innovative blend of black and white and color photography.
Nour El Ain (1996 EMI Arabia), with a new version of “Habibi,” an English translation of “Nour El Aiun,” was a global blockbuster. Dozens or remixes flooded the market. Artists throughout the Arab continuum covered the songs and the album became the best selling record ever released by an Arab artist. It topped the charts in Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Malaysia. The video for “Habibi” was one of the most expensive productions ever mounted for an Egyptian pop star. The album went 3X platinum and won Best Video, Best Song, and Artist of the Year awards at the Arabic Festival in 1997. In 1998, Diab was given the World's Best Selling Middle Eastern Artist Award at the World Music Awards in Monaco, an event attended by Gloria Estefan, Céline Dion, Mariah Carey, and The Backstreet Boys. He was the first Egyptian artist to ever win. He used the prize money to build a hospital in Cairo's poverty stricken Muqattam district.
Awedony (1998 EMI Arabia) became another international success with its blend of techno, Flamenco and Egyptian music. The title track of Amarain (1999 EMI Arabia) became another pan-Arab hit; the album featured duets with Khaled on “Albey” and Angela Dimitrou on “Bahibak Aktar.” Diab made another two month sold out tour of North America and released The Best Of Amr Diab (1999 EMI Arabia.) His next chartbuster was Tamally Maak (2000 EMI Arabia), with more Flamenco guitar on the title track and the hits "Al'alem Allah", "Ba'terf", "Sa'ban Alaea" and "Wa Hiya Amla Eih." Aktar Wahed (2000 EMI Arabia) was promoted with another lavish video for the track “Wala Ala Balo” with rapper SandMan, filmed in a London disco, and the reggae infused “Ahibbak Akrahak.” Diab toured the Middle East to support the release and bought a second home in Beirut.
On Allem Alby (2003 EMI Arabia, 2003 Mondo Melodia US) Diab experimented with rock guitar and R&B, perhaps a tip of the hat to the American market, while Leily Nahary (2004 EMI Arabia) returned him to the Arabic best seller list with the title track becoming another huge hit. A shot from the Pepsi commercial he made with Beyoncé Knowles, Pink, Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears was used for the cover photo. Kammel Kalamak (2005 EMI Arabia) reportedly cost four million dollars to make and despite the bootlegged songs that appeared on the Internet before its official release, it sold two million copies the first month it was on the streets. El Leila De (2007 EMI Arabia) became Diab’s fastest selling album when it moved over million copies in its first week or release. The album’s first video, “N'eoul Eih,” a techno/house blend, was shot in Santa Monica and Malibu. The album won Diab another World's Best Selling Middle Eastern Artist Award in Monaco. Diab is working on another album for release in early 2009.
In 2008, Diab produced El Helm, a 12-part TV documentary that detailed the ups and downs of his career. Amr Diab's Greatest Hits 1986-1995 (2004 EMI Arabia) and Amr Diab's Greatest Hits Greatest Hits 1996-2003 (2005 EMI Arabia) give you a quick overview of the singer’s career.