Syrian singer Asalah Nasri to the Yemen Times:Despite threats, I insisted to visit Yemen [Archives:2008/1134/Culture]

March 3 2008
Asalah during the concert.
Asalah during the concert.
Asalah Nasri is a prominent Syrian singer and daughter of the late Mustafa Nasri, who was a reputed singer. Responding to threats by some Islamic extremists regarding her scheduled performance in Yemen, she stressed that in the past, she performed in Algeria, where conditions were just as dangerous and complicated. She says she has strong faith in God and isn't afraid of anyone or anything.

Nasri said that those who made the threats don't know the difference between singers who present real art and those who present cheap performances, ascertaining that despite the threats, she'll hold her concert in Yemen, praying that she'll be able to meet the expectations of fans who are anxious to attend her performance and hear her sing.

Various media outlets quoted a member of the Yemeni Parliament, who also is an Islamic extremist, as saying openly that Nasri's performance is undignified and against Islamic teachings, maintaining that her performance must be stopped at any cost.

Ahead of her visit to Yemen, the singer announced that she would donate half of the earnings from her Aden concert to children in Gaza and Yemeni children suffering from cancer.

After Nasri's superior performance at the Aden concert, Mariam Saleh of the Yemen Times' Taiz bureau conducted the following interview:

With which singers do you like to perform the “duyuto” (a type of singing)?

Most of the time, I like singing with famed Saudi singer, Mohammed Abdu Ghanim, as well as Iraqi, Kadhim Al-Saher, nicknamed “the Caesar of Arab song.”

In your opinion, what's your best song?

I'm very fond of “Ya, Majnoon” (Oh, madman) and “Mushtaqah” (I'm eager to see my lover). Both songs actually made me and other people happy and I usually am proud of myself while singing the latter, which has increased my popularity.

How do you select your songs' composers and writers?

This usually is based on my personal fondness for a song composer or writer. I mostly prefer that this person be my relative so that I can work with him. I also like my musical band made up mostly of those related to me in order for me to perform well.

Do you like joint performances and cooperation with Yemeni singers?

Of course, I like this and why not? I cordially invite any Yemeni singers to take part in a joint performance and serve Arab song in order to satisfy Arab audiences everywhere.

Why haven't you released a special album of your late father's songs, particularly since his songs were very nice?

This will be done, but after awhile. These days, I'm still in the beginning stages of imprinting my name upon the minds of Arab audiences. There are other projects similar to this, for instance, I'm thinking about producing a special album of sung tales for children. “Chained Dream I Want to Release” is one of the best recorded songs I've performed and its words were written by the Saudi poet Abdurrahman Bin Musa'id , while Ubadi Al-Jawhar , who is from the same country, composed the song.

How did you feel while performing in Aden?

It felt like I was among my own family, which increased my adoration for Aden and indeed all of Yemen. I also appreciated the dear audience, which enthusiastically and joyfully repeated what I said on Valentine's Day. I insisted on visiting Yemen, although I faced threats by some extremists and fundamentalists, who say singing [to music] is prohibited in Islam.

In the future, do you plan to visit Iraq so that you can witness the sufferings of the Iraqi people, particularly since you've visited most other Arab countries and didn't cover Iraq in your itinerary?

This is one of my dreams because I enjoy great popularity in Iraq. I frequently receive telephone calls from Iraqis and I realized that Iraqi radio gives my songs and the way I perform top priority in its programs. Visiting Iraq may be part of next year's program.

Do you have any tendency toward acting (theatrical? performance)?

I don't think this is likely or possible because I can only speak the Shami Arabic accent. Because I react automatically without careful thought, becoming an actress would be very difficult, so it appears to me that I'm not a skilled actress.

Who do you think is the best singer in the Arab world?

Nice singers – whether men or women – are plentiful, but as far as I'm concerned, Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu Ghanim tops the list of Arab singers.

Is there one individual whom you love the most?

In general, I'm one who loves being surrounded by people and friends. It's impossible for me to identify a particular individual I'm most fond of from among those around me because doing so may negatively impact my popularity. However, I can say that my late father was the only one I adored and loved most in my life.

Is it correct that famed television presenter George Kurdahi was the reason behind your divorce from ex-husband, Ayman Al-Dhahabi?

No, that isn't correct. George Kurdahi is a close friend and my relationship with him is based on mutual respect. You shouldn't form a bad impression of me having heard such a false and inaccurate story.

How do you view Syrian singer Dreed Lahham?

For me, Lahham is pure happiness because I've been fond of his songs since I was a child. He has had a great influence on us and the way we perform today.

Having heard that you dislike Lebanese singer Nawal Al-Zughbi, is there any animosity or hatred between you?

I've never met Nawal Al-Zughbi in my life, so there's neither hatred nor friendship between us.

Will you visit Yemen again to participate in any future concerts?

Because I highly appreciate and respect Yemen and I have very nice memories from it, visiting again will top my future plans.

We've heard that you disagree with the late reputed poet Nazzar Qabbani, but is it possible for you to change your opinion of him?

I never met Qabbani in person. I only spoke with him by telephone. My relationship with him was like that of any other reader who is fond of his work. I disagree with his ideas because, according to him, a woman is nothing more than a body, thus, he pays no attention to her spirit and inner feelings.

What are the best moments for you?

My best moments are at home with my children and performing, when I become like a little girl laughing and singing. In that place, I'm happier than you can imagine, particularly when there's direct interaction between me and the audience.

Some of your concert songs, such as “Ya Mal Al-Sham” (Sham's Property) and “Ya Ta'irah Tiri” (Oh Bird, Fly), are believed to have been recorded on tape, so why are they unavailable in the markets?

I'm still studying a proposed project in this regard and I'm due to sign a related contract soon. I have no doubts that such project will satisfy my fans and my audience. However, the idea requires a few months prior to being applied.

Do you get upset hearing other composers or singers perform your songs?

There's no reason why I should get upset. To the contrary, this makes me very happy.

Are you as tough as you seem?

I am tough, but at the same time, I'm kind. I'm stingy but also generous. I think I'm stingy in sharing my work if the audience doesn't deserve it, in which case I can't forgive. This is the persistent problem in my life, since I can't be an ideal character, except in my career.

Additionally, nobody in this world is perfect and the main problem in the Arab region is that those who admit their negatives and bad qualities are very few. Frankly speaking, my personality involves numerous bad qualities and my nature is temperamental or moody.

What achievements have you so far made in your career and where are you on the singing ladder?

I'm not a beginner in my career, nor am I an amateur. For the time being, I feel like I'm living in a world of singing. I'm a singer and I only recognize being a singer. I think I'm in the middle of the singing ladder [meaning seniority, popularity and/or performance].

Do you sing when you're happy or sad?

This mostly depends on my psychological state and my personal feelings. There are particular subjects relating to my own personal sadness or melancholy, as well as other subjects having to do with my own happiness or feeling joyful.

Can you tell us a career-related weakness?

The only weakness I suffer in my career is those songs I can hardly complete because such songs sometimes make me cry.

We've learned that you are a good reciter of the Qur'an. Thus far, how many times have you recited the Qur'an?

My strong relationship to the Qur'an began after my father died and this relationship continues until now. Desiring to reward myself, I did so by reciting the book.

If you weren't Syrian singing star Asalah, what would you like to be?

I would wish to be from Saudi Arabia because I adore and love the lifestyle and everyday behavior of Saudi people.

The singer's profile:

Born May 15, 1969, Asalah Mustafa Nasri is a reputed Syrian singer who has won numerous awards and meritorious certificates in recognition of superior performance throughout her singing career.

Among her 25 awards, two are from the mayor of the U.S. city of Las Vegas and the governor of the state of New Jersey. In 1994, she won the “Singer of the Year” award, followed by other awards and certificates of merit from various Arab countries.

Nasri has been awarded 15 meritorious certificates from those countries where she has participated in concerts and artistic festivals. Following distribution of her album in 2005, she was named “Best Arab Female Singer.”

Throughout her singing career, Nasri has produced 21 albums, most of which are available on the cassette market. She recently was awarded the plaque of Aden's First Artistic Festival after participating in the event accompanied by her husband, Egyptian director Tareq Al-Aryan.