BEIRUT

Culture

Roumi sings for peace and prosperity

Roumi was backed by a youth choir and piano. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Iconic pop singer Majida el-Roumi made a musical plea for peace and national unity at the American University of Beirut Thursday evening. The occasion was a brief concert to preview a number of soulful tracks from her new album “Ghazal,” whose proceeds will go to the university’s scholarship fund.

Backed by a piano and youth choir, Roumi filled AUB Assembly Hall with her powerful vocals. Deeply emotional in tone, the work on the new album promises to explore standards of the Lebanese songbook – love and heartbreak – while probing other emotional themes as well.

“Ghazal” features 14 tracks spanning three years of work, including a duet with her father. Roumi is planning a number of shows in Lebanon for its debut, beginning with a show in Batroun this summer.

With the country shaken by instability and emotional tension, the release of “Ghazal” and it’s explorations of love was not lost on Roumi, who used the AUB album launch to call for national unity and peace.

“Let’s build Lebanon with the aspirations and ambitions of youth,” she said.

Roumi said she hoped her album’s message of love would appeal to a broad demographic, promoting calm in the country.

“I don’t know why everyone moves forward except us,” said Roumi. “Every time, every year we go backward. Lebanon deserves that we believe in it.”

Proceeds from the new album will be donated to AUB’s scholarship fund which Roumi hopes will help stem the country’s massive brain drain. Over half Lebanon’s university graduates leave the country to find jobs and continue their education abroad. The scholarship fund helps students in need of financial aid.

“Lebanon’s biggest wealth is in the intellect of its people, and it’s our duty to protect it and prevent any brain drain from taking place,” Roumi said. “I meant by this step to join the people who are building [Lebanon] with culture and art and hope.”

Supporting Lebanon and building a stronger country has been a theme throughout the Lebanese singer’s career since her first single “I Dream of you, Oh Lebanon.”

Roumi graduated from the Lebanese University but has also been a longtime supporter of AUB. She helped rebuild the university’s College Hall after it was bombed in 1991 and, after receiving an honorary doctorate, hosted a scholarship fundraising concert in 2009.

“I’m calling for peace of course,” Roumi told The Daily Star. “I’m one of the people who believe there is a power of good.

“We are at a dangerous crossroad in Lebanon. We need to take a firm stance on what’s taking place,” she said. “I will remain a voice for peace in Lebanon.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 06, 2012, on page 16.

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