King of Arabic pop back on the scene

Arabic pop royalty Lebanese superstar Ragheb Alama is back with his first album in four years (PATRICK CASTILLO)

Ask any Arabic music fan to name one of the longest-running and most successful Arabic male artists, chances are Ragheb Alama's name will certainly pop up. With a career spanning more than 25 years – and having played some of the biggest concerts worldwide, including at the Royal Albert Hall in London – it's no surprise the Lebanese superstar is one of the most respected names in the industry.

Now the Beirut-born singer is back with a new album, called Baasha'ak (I Adore You), the follow-up to 2004's immensely successful El Hob El Kebeer (The Biggest Love), and his 15th in total. Judging by the sales, the record is set to do very well in the region, and it has already reached number one in some album music charts in the UAE.

This could have something to do with Alama's wise choice of the first single and music video. Wana Wayak (When I'm with You), the album's debut single, has been receiving a lot of radio airplay, and the music video, which was filmed on The Pearl island project in Doha, by French director Thierry Vergnes, steers clear of the stereotypical Arab video – scantily clad girls dancing provocatively.

The result? Huge demand for the video on Arabia's well-known music channels. "I always like to create a story with my videos, and each time we try and choose a different location," Alama tells Emirates Business.

"We chose to film the video in Qatar due to the authenticity of the country, and the warmth and sophisticated taste of its people."

Another reason the album is doing well could be his shrewdness for the business side of things. Since his departure from the record company Alam El Phan, he has refused to sign on with any other label, saying he doesn't want anyone else to have control over his music.

According to a report published in Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper at the time of his departure, the singer said he did not like to limit the airing of his music to one channel because it would lessen the success he strived to achieve. He confirmed this to us when asked if he is to join the Saudi record company giant, Rotana, as has been speculated.

"No, I have no desire," he says. "If I joined them, they would restrict me to their channels, which I have no interest in. No real innovation can be achieved under these restrictions."

However, it is apparent that for Alama, it's not all about the money. Known for donating to several charities regularly as well as helping out during the 2006 war in Lebanon, Alama's latest act of selflessness happened in Dubai when he donated the returns of the first edition of his album to the Dubai Cares, charity.

News of this quickly circulated prompting one UAE-based company to buy an album for Dh30,000, with another offering Dh10,000.

Baasha'ak, which was recorded in Beirut, Cairo and Paris, comprises 12 songs, eight in Egyptian, two in Lebanese and two in Khaliji.

One of the songs featured is a duet with UK-based Iranian singer Liga.

"I think there is a clear similarity in the music pattern, as is the case with Turkish music," he says, when asked why he opted for an Iranian song for the album.

"Liga is a good friend of mine, who wanted to reach an Arab audience. If I can do my bit to help, I will."