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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Saad Lamjarred finds success in simplicity

We talk to the Moroccan singer and Arab superstar ahead of his New Year's Eve show at Abu Dhabi's du Forum on Yas Island, which will also feature Lebanese diva Najwa Karam.
Saad Lamjarred. Choukane Mohammed /  Flash Entertainment
Saad Lamjarred. Choukane Mohammed / Flash Entertainment

Charismatic, hip, trendy and talented; four adjectives that nobody denies attributing to Saad Lamjarred – the young Moroccan superstar of the moment. But when we ask the 30-year-old to describe himself in a few words, he surprises us with his response.

“I hope this makes sense: I’m a big dreamer who wants to make it happen,” says Lamjarred. “That’s it.”

There’s absolutely no doubt that he’s “making it happen”: he’s the biggest Arab star of 2015. His latest single, Lm3allem (The Boss), resulted in a Guinness World Record achievement after it received more than 23 million views on YouTube within three weeks of release.

And, as of last week, the video had more than 226 million views and is officially the most-viewed music video for an Arab singer. He is on an upwards trajectory that shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. On Thursday he is set to cap off his amazing year by sharing the stage with Lebanese diva Najwa Karam as part of a New Year’s Eve concert at the du Forum on Yas Island.

It helps that he seems to be able to do it all: sing, rap, write hit singles, act – he plays the lead in the Moroccan TV soap opera Ahlam Nassim – and dance in well-­choreographed music videos. He’s already received a nomination at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2014 for Best Middle East Act and his 2014 single Enty (You) won him a Murex d’Or for Best Arabic Song.

Born in 1985 to parents already well established in the arts – his father, Bachir Abdou, is a classical Arabic singer well known in Morocco while his mother, Nezha Regragui, is a renowned actress and comedian – Lamjarred began singing at age 4. He embraced the art, choosing to study music theory and composition at the National Conservatory of Music in Rabat.

This foundation, says Lamjarred, is a key factor in his ­success.

“My best inspiration in school was and still is my parents,” he says. “They are both my favourite artists and I have to take their opinion before dropping any projects or any songs in the market. Of course, their experience of 30 years can always help me.”

Lamjarred’s rapid rise to fame and popularity is unprecedented, certainly, but he doesn’t credit any one moment as the turning point. Instead, he points to key milestones.

“There are three very important stages in my career and my life,” he says. “The first one is when I went to the US in 2001.” He credits the experience for exposing him to western music and had a defining effect on his style and the type of artist he wanted to ­become.

Then, in 2007, Lamjarred was a contestant on the fourth season of the Lebanese talent show Super Star – modelled on Pop Idol. He came in second in the televised talent competition and began gathering a fan base.

The third and final defining moment of his career, says Lamjarred, is “when I got back to Morocco and I chose my first hit and everything started to change”, especially with the release of his first album, 2012’s Wala 3alik. It’s been hit after hit ever since.

“The simplicity of the words and the music and the arrangement is the secret of all my songs,” says Lamjarred. “The thing that is in common with all my songs is the simplicity. We try to make easy music so the young, the old – all kinds of people can accept it and dance to it.”

Lamjarred’s 2016 plan is to build on his success, including a foray onto the silver screen as well. “I really want to keep going, making good choices and good fusions and sounds, to go really to the next level, which is to be an international Moroccan artist,” he says. One day, he hopes to record duets with international artists such as Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, Jay Z or Justin Timberlake, all of whom he describes as “favourite artists”.

“Also, I love acting and I found that out when I was very little and I used to go with my mum to the theatre to see her comedy shows and her rehearsals,” he says. “So, for now, we are preparing as a team to take an interesting step into cinema soon.”

As for performing in the UAE on this special night, Lamjarred says it will be more pleasure than work: “I love to come and perform here because also I get to go shopping, which is my favourite thing to do.”

Saad Lamjarred and Najwa Karam perform on Thursday, December 31 at the du Forum on Yas Island. Tickets start at Dh650 and go up to Dh1,250, available online at www.tixbox.com

artslife@thenational.ae

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