With all the talk of whether the Lebanon should or shouldn’t “return” to Eurovision, I couldn’t help but turn my mind to Samira Said, the only artist to have ever represented an Arab nation at the contest.
Samira took part in Eurovision 1980, singing “Bitaqat Hub”. However, unlike most other contestants she is best remembered for reasons other than her performance. Most notably for being the first and last entry:
– from Morocco;
– to be sung entirely in Arabic;
– from an Arab country; and
– from a geopolitically African country.
She sure was a pioneer!
33 years on Samira is still pumping out the tunes, with her latest single “Mazal” (Yet Still) just being released. The song has been touted as a return to her roots, as it is the first time in years that she has sung in her native Moroccan dialect, having dabbled in genres as diverse as Bollywood and jazz. Such a billing might cause you to think of some fusty old traditional ethnic chant which would only appeal to a very niche fanbase. But you’d be wrong.
“Mazal” represents a culture clash of gigantic proportions, but surprisingly everything works. The western dance beats meld seamlessly with the Arabic instruments and lyrics to form a track which I defy you not to bop along to. It’s leagues ahead of some of the bland and forgettable trash we’ve heard lately from more recent Eurovision divas such as Emmy, Aurela Gaçe and Elena Gheorge.
The song is already proving to be popular. After just 3 days it has managed to rack up almost 120,000 views on Youtube. Impressive. And some say that a singer’s career is over at 30 – Samira is 55! Apparently Madonna is the queen of reinvention. I’d suggest she abdicate and hand the crown over to Samira.
And here’s a reminder of her Eurovision song, the criminally underrated “Bitaqat Hub”. I still can’t believe it came second last with only 7 points.
Samira Said is not the only star of Eurovision 1980 to be troubling the charts. That year’s winner, Johnny Logan, enjoyed his biggest hit in 26 years with “Prayin” back in August.
Photo: Samira Said / Sherif Mokhtar Photography