PROFILE: The golden voice of Egyptian singer Nouran Abu Taleb

PROFILE: The golden voice of Egyptian singer Nouran Abu Taleb
Nouran Abu Taleb is an Egyptian singer. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 25 February 2021

PROFILE: The golden voice of Egyptian singer Nouran Abu Taleb

PROFILE: The golden voice of Egyptian singer Nouran Abu Taleb
  • The Egyptian singer has made a name for herself performing covers, but is now prepping an album of original material

CAIRO: Anyone who grew up in Egypt in the 1980s will almost certainly remember the theme song for the opening credits of soap opera “Zay Al-Hawwa,” performed by Ali El-Haggar and Hanan Mady. That’s why a recent cover version by Egyptian singer Nouran Abu Taleb — accompanied by bassist Samer George — triggered intense bouts of nostalgia among Egyptians of a certain age.

Abu Taleb’s version of this TV classic is delicately intimate, her hypnotic voice giving it a touch of magic. 

“Covering songs help you mature as an artist and curate your own vision. I’ve also found that nurturing different music influences helped me figure out what kind of music I wanted to be making,” Abu Taleb tells Arab News. 

The cover is part of an ongoing series from Abu Taleb and George, which has so far included a version of Egyptian singer Mohamed Mounir’s “Shababeek,” which earned Abu Taleb an invite perform the song live with Mounir; and a rendition of Kuwaiti band Guitara’s “Ya Ghali,” originally released in 2003, which garnered 16 million views on YouTube. 

The aim of Abu Taleb’s collaboration with George is not to simply reproduce the original songs, however. Beyond their nostalgic quality, what has attracted people to their work, Abu Taleb says, is the unusual sound of a vocalist being accompanied only by a bass guitar — something that allows them to experiment with the compositions.  

“Samer has been doing these voice-and-bass collabs for a while now, but mainly in English jazz, where they are more common. People are not really used to seeing a bass guitar accompanying a vocalist. So to use bass as a solo instrument in Arabic songs was completely new,” she says. 

Abu Taleb only joined forces with George in 2018, after they had both performed separately on the same bill. “Samer is one of the most well-established jazz musicians in Egypt,” Abu Taleb says. “The bass guitar has a Western sound. My background, on the other hand, is more in Arabic and Oriental music, and I perform in Arabic.” That blend led George to suggest performing a tribute show to the iconic Lebanese diva Fayrouz — “(her) songs have a bit of both worlds,” Abu Taleb explains.

That show was a hit, and the duo went on to repeat their performance on a number of occasions. With things going so well, they decided it was time to expand their sound, and formed a band with percussionist Hany Bedair and clarinetist Mostafa Said — once again performing covers, with the exception of a Sufi-themed song written by Abu Taleb. (These days, the band also includes pianist George Nabil and drummer Marwan Wahid Zaki.)

Eventually, though, they did release an original track, 2019’s bossa nova-inspired “Fawazeer.” Other singles followed including their own soap-opera theme for the opening credits of 2019’s “Alamat Istifham.” In October, Abu Taleb released “Fil Lail,” a pop track that has garnered more than 130,000 views on YouTube. 

Genre-hopping has been a distinctive feature of Abu Taleb’s career so far, and one that looks set to continue on her debut album, which she hopes to release this year. The record will see her collaborating with the poets Nada El-Shabrawy and Hazem Wefy, among others, and will span several genres, she says, including electronic and slow rock. 

While Abu Taleb writes both music and lyrics, she also enjoys collaborating with other writers on both and is especially proud of mostly collaborating with other female writers on her lyrics so far. 

“The quality of lyrics is particularly important to me,” she says. “So is poetic imagery.”

And while love songs are seen as outdated and cheesy by many of her peers, Abu Taleb says she will not shy away from them — not wanting to limit her creativity. 

“I know our generation has grown bored with love songs, particularly since underground music made an appearance about a decade ago. We were looking for something different that talked about the people,” she says. “But I enjoy singing about everything, including love.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
Updated 49 min 23 sec ago

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
  • The museum opened its 25th branch in Dubai last week

DUBAI: Additional Middle East personalities could join the list of famous Arab figures on display at Madame Tussauds Dubai.

“We listen to our customers; we listen to their feedback. So, we will always be updating the figures and enhancing the products,” Sanaz Kollsrud, general manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai, told Arab News.

The museum opened its 25th wax attraction in the city on Oct.14, making it the brand’s first branch in the Middle East. 

Maya Diab at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

The famous attraction has a total of 16 figures from the Middle East region. These include talents from the music industry — such as Lebanese singers Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab — and athletes that were made exclusively for the branch in Dubai.

“At the moment, Madame Tussauds has 25 wax attractions around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia. I’m sure that the brand will look at opportunities to expand at a later stage,” Kollsrud said.

Dubai has been a perfect choice for the Middle East branch, as it is a global tourist destination. The general manager said the museum is also located near a major attraction in the city, Ain Dubai, and is surrounded by a variety of retail and dining options.

Donald and Melania Trump at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

When asked how the museum chooses the figures it wants to display, Kollsrud said there is a lot of research behind figure selection, including customer research.

“It took about 18 months to put together a figure list, during which we looked at the popularity of the celebrities regionally and globally, especially within the UAE,” she said.

To keep the figures clean and protected, a team of artists works daily to make sure the statues are in perfect shape, the general manager said.

Lewis Hamilton at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

She added that a team of 20 artists completes one wax figure within four to seven months. 

They even insert real hair strands, which can cost $190,605.

"There is a sitting involved with the talent, where they come and we do around 500 measurements, including head to toe," Kollsrud said.

The tourist destination consists of seven themed rooms and includes over 60 lifelike wax figures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

 


Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser

Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser
Nassar proposed to Gates last January. Instagram
Updated 18 October 2021

Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser

Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser

DUBAI: Jennifer Gates, the daughter of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has married Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser, it has been reported.

The two tied the knot at her farm in North Salem, New York.

The 25-year-old wore a custom Vera Wang gown, as per reports. Media outlets also reported that the newlyweds held a private Muslim ceremony the night before Saturday’s 300-guest celebration.

Nassar, 29, proposed to Gates, who has a degree in human biology, in January during a ski trip.

In September, Gates posted a picture on her Instagram of the two in a sweet embrace.

Nayel commented on the post, “Can't wait for forever with you.”

She also shared another photo in May from what appears to be their engagement photo shoot, writing, “I can hardly wait to marry you!”

The two have been together since January 2017, bonding over their passion for equestrian sports, with Gates also being an equestrian athlete who competes frequently, but not on a professional level like Nassar. Both belong to the Paris Panthers, a riding club which competes in different forms of equestrian sporting events.

In an interview with equestrian-focused publication Sidelines Magazine, the 23-year-old Stanford graduate said: “Nayel always reminds me to believe in myself, which is so important. I’m so lucky to have him as a partner.”

He’s incredibly supportive, humble and loyal, and someone that I look forward to building a life with.”

Nassar was born to millionaire parents in Chicago in the US, but was raised in Kuwait.

His parents run an architecture and design firm which relocated to the US in 2009.

Nassar, who graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics, began riding when he was five, and was jumping by the age of 10. He first qualified in 2013 for the FEI World Cup Finals, an annual international competition which includes the most skilled and talented show jumping horses and riders.


Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 

Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 
Updated 18 October 2021

Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 

Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 

DUBAI: The BFI London Film Festival unveiled its winners for the 2021 edition on Sunday, and two regional films made the cut —“Hit the Road” and “Costa Brava, Lebanon.”

“Hit the Road” won the Best Film award. 

Iranian director Panah Panahi’s drama, which showed at the Cannes Film Festival, is all about the journey. It follows a chaotic family-of-four that goes on a road trip in a borrowed car.

“Costa Brava, Lebanon” stars Saleh Bakri and Nadine Labaki. (Supplied)

“Costa Brava, Lebanon,” which stars Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri and Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki, won the Audience Award.  

Lebanese director Mounia Akl’s impassioned feature film debut is an eerie family drama set amid a raging climate crisis in near-future Lebanon.

Read on for the full list of awards:

“Hit the Road,” Panah Panahi, Official Competition (Best Film Award)

“Playground,” Laura Wandel, First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award)

“Becoming Cousteau,” Liz Garbus, Documentary Competition (Grierson Award)

“Only Expansion,” Duncan Speakman, Immersive Art and XR Competition

“Love, Dad,” Diana Cam Van Nguyen, Short Film Competition (Short Film Award)

“Costa Brava, Lebanon,” Mounia Akl, Audience Award


Actress Jamie Lee Curtis talks ‘Halloween Kills’ and the franchise’s legacy of horror

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis talks ‘Halloween Kills’ and the franchise’s legacy of horror
Updated 18 October 2021

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis talks ‘Halloween Kills’ and the franchise’s legacy of horror

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis talks ‘Halloween Kills’ and the franchise’s legacy of horror

LOS ANGELES: Iconic horror villain Michael Myers has returned once again in “Halloween Kills,” but this time the town of Haddonfield is fighting back, led by the protagonist of the original Halloween film played by actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

“It’s a much more brutal telling but it feels like it’s also synonymous with the times,” said Jamie Lee Curtis, returning once again as protagonist Laurie Strode. “The times are really violent right now and it’s just sort of a mirror image of what’s going on around the world.”

Curtis made her film debut in 1978’s “Halloween” when she was only 19 and was surprised to be cast as the shy, bookish main character. “I was perfect for the cheerleader and perfect for the smart alec because that’s who I’ve been my whole life. So, it really gave me an opportunity to be an actor,” shared Curtis.

But as she’s continued in her life and career, Curtis has found more in common with her star making character.

“She is a mother and a grandmother and David Gordon Green wrote a family into the 2018 movie,” Curtis said. “I am a devoted mother, not a grandmother yet but I am a devoted mother and so I do feel like giving Laurie a family was crucial.”

The “Halloween” franchise has gone in a lot of directions over the years, but the modern films are focusing on legacy, with Laure’s daughter Karen stepping up to deal with the threat of Michael Myers even as the town turns into an angry mob.

The film is directed by David Gordon Green. (YouTube)

“Being a voice of reason in that hospital where everyone is losing their mind and it’s frustrating. I think she is playing catch-up really quickly,” said Judy Greer, making her second appearance as Karen Strode, after the 2018 film.

“But she’s also become the warrior. The roles have been replaced,” Curtis added. “Karen and Allyson are the warriors now. Laurie is the one being taken care of.”