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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Quincy Jones' protege Xriss Jor is back with World Cup single

Former Voice Arabia contestant joins hip-hoppers the Layali Project

Lebanese singer Xriss Jor has recorded 'Ana Arabi'. Courtesy Xriss Jor
Lebanese singer Xriss Jor has recorded 'Ana Arabi'. Courtesy Xriss Jor

You may remember Xriss Jor from her successful run to the quarter finals of the 2012 series of The Voice Arabia – a feat the Lebanese singer admits surprised her, as she sang almost exclusively in English during the show. If not, perhaps you recall her winning the Quincy Jones Talent Search at Dubai Music Week 2013, in which she was awarded a contract with Quincy Jones Productions.

Jor was back in the spotlight in 2015, when her cover of Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us, released in protest at the Lebanese rubbish crisis, caught the attention of the global media.

It had been fairly quiet from the songstress since then, who currently settled near the town of Bordeaux in the South of France, and is working on new material.

She says she released one new song, along with a video, late last year. The song and video had something of a political tone though, complete with a Donald Trump impersonator in the promo clip, and Jor admits that following Trump’s win in the United States presidential election in November 2016, the song lost its message, resulting in her removing online links to the song and a decision not to pursue promoting the track.

Now, however, she’s very much back in the spotlight, having recorded a World Cup theme song, Ana Arabi, with Swedish-Arab hip-hop outfit the Layali Project. Jor says she’s not the most likely performer to record a football song. “I’m not really a fan of football, I must admit,” she says. “If you asked me about tennis that would be totally different. I could tell you everything about tennis.”

Click to listen to Ana Arabi:

She did, however, have her reasons for taking part in the project. “It’s so amazing that four Arab teams have qualified for the World Cup this time,” she says. “If someone had told me that would happen, I’d never have believed them.

“I may not be a big football fan, but I know what an amazing achievement this is and it makes me so proud.

“I probably still won’t be watching every game – there will be tennis on – but I’ll definitely be checking the headlines for all the scores and I wish Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Morocco the very best of luck.”

Just as Jor may be an unusual choice for a World Cup cheerleader, her collaboration with Layali Project’s Ali Jammali and Ibrahim Namro was somewhat unconventional too. Jor says: “We were introduced by my manager, who’s worked with them quite a lot too, but with them being in Sweden and me in France, we didn’t actually meet until we were on set for the video shoot in the Mediterranean.

“Everything we did together up until that point was by WhatsApp or email, just sending messages and files backwards and forwards. I don’t think we’d even spoken on the phone at that point, so it was kind of weird to be there recording this song we’d made together with these guys I’d never met.” Fortunately, the new virtual friends hit it off right away. “There was a chemistry there as soon as we met up on the set and we had a great time making the video,” Jor says.

“In fact, we hit it off so well that they asked me there and then to join the Layali collective as a permanent member, so that’s where we are now.”

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Read more:

Lebanese singer Xriss Jor impresses Quincy Jones at Dubai Music Week

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Listen: the highs and lows of the World Cup's official anthems

Spain's World Cup anthem sung by captain Sergio Ramos

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Although Jor can now consider herself a member of Sweden’s premiere Arab hip-hop outfit, we’ll be hearing more of her own work in the not too distant future too – the singer has been writing tracks with Killing Joke bassist and legendary producer Martin “Youth” Glover, and with five tracks almost ready to go, she hopes to release an EP later this year.

Youth’s previous production work has included U2 and Pink Floyd, and although Jor’s time on Quincy Jones’s label may not have yielded too much physical production so far, she is in no doubt about the benefits she has gained from it. “That’s how you get to make these sort of connections. Even if I never released a single track with Quincy, just to have that relationship on your CV is an amazing honour and opens so many doors. The man is a legend and I’m eternally grateful to him for everything.”

Ana Arabi is available for download on all major digital platforms and an official video is on Layali Project’s YouTube channel