Charismatic, striking, and immensely talented, Amr Diab is considered one of the Arab world’s most popular singer-songwriters of all time. Diab has been producing albums since 1983, and achieved worldwide fame in 1988 with his wildly successful album Mayaal (Susceptible).
Since that time, his fame and artistic output has continued unabated, enchanting fans throughout the Middle East, Europe, and South America. His music blends Western rhythms with Middle Eastern styles, and is often referred to as “Mediterranean Music.”
Amr Diab’s Early Life and Career
Diab was born Amr Abdel Basset Abdel Azeez on October 11, 1961 in Port Said, Egypt. He inherited his singing ability from his father, a porter for the Suez Canal Corporation, who also possessed a notable singing voice. He encouraged his son to dance and sing at street festivals at a very young age.
Diab’s first performance took place on July 23, 1967 at the Festival of Port Said, where he visited the local broadcasting station and sang the Egyptian national anthem, “Biladi, Biladi, Biladi.” His efforts were noted by the Governor of Port Said, who awarded him a guitar.
After Diab graduated from primary school in 1982, he is admitted to the High College for Arabic Music. A year later, he released his very first album, Ya Tareeq. While the album was not particularly successful, it marked his entry into the music business. Diab persisted, however, and produced three more albums between 1984 and 1987: Ghanny Men Albak (Sing from your Heart), Hala Hala (Welcome), and Khalseen (We’re Even). Amidst all of this creative activity, he graduated from the Cairo Academy of Art in 1986.
Launched Into Fame and Film
In 1988 Diab releases his album Mayaal, which propels him into stardom practically overnight. That same year, he launched his film career, starring in the movie El Saginatean (Two Prisoners) alongside Elham Shaheen and Youssef Shaaban. Two years later, he starred in the movie El Aafareet and became the first Arab artist to make a music video. In 1992, Diab starred in Ice Cream Fi Gleem, and the movie soundtrack was released later that year. He then played opposite internationally recognized actor Omar Sharif in Deahk We La’ab (Laughter and Fun), which made its debut at the 1993 Egyptian Film Festival.
Amr Diab’s Music from 1991 – 1999
The 1990’s saw Diab continuing his prolific recording career in tandem with his acting. From 1991 to 1995, he released six more albums in addition to the Ice Cream Fi Gleem soundtrack: Habibi (My Love), Ayyamna (Our Days), Ya Omrena (Our Life), Weylomony (And They Blame Me), Zekrayat (Memories), and Ragaeen (We’ll be Back).
In 1996, Diab released his watershed album Nour El Ain (Light of the Eyesight). Sales of this album reached Triple Platinum and became the best selling album ever produced by an Arab artist. The album’s title track “Nour El Ain” was a hit all over the world, from South America to India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and was remixed for dance floors all over Europe. “Nour El Ain” was also a featured song for the Brazilian telenovela O Clone. The success of Nour El Ain earned Diab awards for Best Video, Best Song, and Artist of the Year at the 1997 Annual Arabic Festival, and he became the first Egyptian recipient of a World Music Award in 1998.
His 1998 follow-up album, Awedooni, was released to high acclaim and reinforced his status as an international star. The Best of Amr Diab, released in early 1999, featured a tribute to Arabic music legends such as Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez titled “Maham Kibrit Sugheir” along with his most popular hits from the ’90’s. Diab released Amarain (Two Moons) in July of the same year; his duets with Algerian Rai megastar Khaled and Greek singer Angela Dimitrou are highlights of the album. Amarain is still considered to be one of his best albums to date.
Amr Diab’s Music from 2000 to the Present
Amr Diab’s status as a musical heavyweight continued into the 21st century. In 2000 he released Tamally Ma’ak (Always With You), an album notable for incorporating the Spanish guitar into many of the songs.His next much-anticipated album, Aktar Wahed, is released in 2001. Like the previous album, it broke new musical ground with the song “Wala Ala Balo,” a dance mix featuring trance and techno rhythms along with a guest appearance by rap artist Sandman. Two years later, Diab released R&B-influenced Allem Alby (Teach My Heart). From 2000 to 2003 he maintained a rigorous touring schedule and continued to accumulate awards, including Best Video Clip at the 2001 Arabic Video Clip Festival in Alexandria and his second World Music Award for Best Selling Middle Eastern Artist in 2002.
2003 also saw a change in Diab’s career when he ended his long-standing contract with Egyptian music label Alam El Phan and signed on with Rotana Records, the largest record label in the Middle East owned by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. His first album with Rotana, Leily Nahary (My Nights and Days), was released in late summer 2004, and followed up with Kammel Kalamak (Keep Talking) in 2005. Kammel Kalamak sold 3 million copies within its first month on the shelves.
Diab’s most recent album, El Leila De (Tonight) was released in July 2007 and sold over a million copies in five days. He is also reported to have left Rotana Records to sign on with a new label, Good News 4 Music.