Grace Ashkar to Asharq Al-Awsat: In “Sit Al-Dunya” life does not stop

In “Beirut Nights”, the positive side of the capital and its people emerges

Anyone who recognizes Grace Ashkar, wife of artist Joe Ashkar, must be infected with her positive energy. They are always armed with optimism, refusing to give in to depressing thoughts. For her, “life is sweet, but we understand it.” Perhaps the support she receives from her husband and family members contributes to her smoothly overcoming any life challenges.

In her new song “Layali Beirut”, adapted from another French song (nuit de folie), Ashkar extends the love of life to the listener and follower of the song’s clip. In her recent work, she focuses on Beirut, “the Six of the World,” which, no matter how hard and challenging it faces, her heart remains beating. Its people do not give up, and despite the many problems that stand in their way, they continue their path with optimism. These topics are addressed by Ashkar in her new work, which she insisted on releasing in this difficult period, to emphasize that nothing can defeat Beirut.

The song is written by Charbel Ghanima, arranged by musician Joseph Kayrouz, and signed by director Jean-Pierre Abdaim. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, she says: “Through it, I wanted to get people out of the melancholy atmosphere in which they live. In order to turn their gaze to Beirut, the beautiful capital, it was flooded with bright colors and joyful scenes to indicate the extent to which the Lebanese are attached to this atmosphere.

Ashkar mixes Arabic and French in the song, “because the Lebanese market does not accept foreign songs much, but rather prefers Arabic over them,” she says. And also to attract the largest number of young listeners who experienced the successes of this song in the eighties.

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Ashkar tells the story of the birth of this song in difficult circumstances and says: “I was talking to the distributor Joseph Kayrouz and by chance he came up with this idea, because, as he mentioned to me, it resembles my positive personality. After several consultations, our choice fell on this melody full of beautiful rhythm. From there, the idea was born and we translated it with words that resemble the Lebanese and what they say in their diaries. I wanted the work to be realistic, highlighting the people’s will to continue their normal lifestyle even in the darkest conditions.”

Grace Ashkar is absent from time to time, to always return with a work that is renewed with him and brings to her listeners an artistic splendor unlike any other. She explains: “It is true that I usually go away and come back with a certain work, sometimes to catch up on a specific occasion, such as the one I presented on birthdays, and other times it tells about my personal choices, such as (I chose the smile) that I issued about three years ago. But today I decided to go on this path, to bring to light successive songs without long distances between them.”

The recklessness on the one hand and her reluctance to enter the field of singing on the other hand, Ashqar, on the other hand, says, about devoting herself to singing. “I was always hesitant, because I sing in foreign languages, which is something that many Lebanese do not like. Finally, I felt that time flies by, and that we are getting old without fulfilling many of our wishes. This stand with the self that the home stone contributed to during the pandemic period, prompted me to change my orientation. I don’t have much time to do what I love, but it is getting tighter and smaller day by day. And because I sing as a hobby, not a profession, I made the decision to devote myself to it better.”

Ashkar relies on the opinion of her husband, artist Joe Ashkar, who gives her his opinion frankly on any work she intends to publish: “He is my first inspiration and supporter, and I do not take any step without consulting him. He has a long history of singing, and he has a lot of experience in this field. He also supported me on how to market the song on social media. He knows the pitfalls of these means, and the rules that must be followed. He has an unerring artistic vision, and therefore he insisted on always taking his opinion.”

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Even her daughters provide her with their opinion on a new work she will release, and she says: “They, like the other young generation, do not like listening to Arabic songs very much. But when I asked for their opinion on (Beirut Nights), they liked it, especially as it is multi-dialects and contains English as well. I don’t know if art will be their choice when they grow up, but my oldest daughter plays the piano and loves to sing. He intervened in the restaurant sector and its management, influenced by me and her father, especially since he owns several cafes and restaurants in Beirut.”

Ashkar continues to practice singing. After her early studies at the International Music Conservatory, she took vocal lessons. She explains: “I am currently rehearsing it with one of the specialists in Geneva, and the artist, Abeer Nehme, is following the same lessons.”

Regarding the singing scene today, Ashkar says: “It is a variety of romantic, rhythmic, folk and others. As in any other profession, there are generations that come and go according to each time. Personally, I admire Saad Lamjarred, Ziad Bourji, and Nancy Ajram, and I love any work that Ajram issues and I follow her constantly because she knows how to choose her works carefully.

The song “Layali Beirut” was filmed in a number of areas in the capital, including in the middle and in the popular Bourj Hammoud area. “It is a densely populated area of ​​different classes, with a popular atmosphere and few financial possibilities, so we wanted to provide people with a positive energy that would generate a love of life for them. And so it happened, and the majority there interacted with us and are happy with what is happening in the streets of the region.”

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And whether she thinks of acting, she replied: “I love him very much, and if I receive a suitable offer, I will not hesitate to do so.”

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