It was simply without words, just mood expressed through haunting Arabic vocalizations by the Lebanese soprano Oumeima over a sweet melodic hook and dance beats fused with some Arabic flavors. “Mazaj” became the millennium anthem for the Beirut clubs DJs and was to later be the platform inspiring and influencing a new genre and generation of dance acts. “Mazaj”, was written by the composer Hani Siblini, and produced by Mohamad Kebbe. It was the hit of Oumeima’s album, of which its first single was signed by EMI Music Arabia’s A&R Dergham Owainati in 1999. In 2000 Mohamad composed and produced the enigmatic dance anthem “Drive me to Beirut”, which was to be released in several mixes on white label independently in 2001 in Beirut under the name Biloma.
The name was inspired by Mohamad’s two sons: Bilal and Omar. This single was to be the highest new entry in Beirut’s Radio One, reaching number 2 in the radio’s Top 20 charts. The single was later to find its way on the internationally successful compilation “ARABIANights Club & Chillout Classics” produced by Dergham and released by EMI Music In 2002. That same year Mohamad met Dergham through a mutual friend Abed, who was to be the animator behind the project’s second single’s video “X-ray”. They discussed the idea of a Biloma album and other independent artist productions, which of the biggest attraction was the Lebanese female singer Rudy Dagher, an ex-contestant of the very popular talent show Studio Al Fan, by legendary producer Simon Asmar.
The result of the meeting led to a consolidation and development of ideas and projects, into a rebirth of what was to be an umbrella project whose name was now extended to be Beirut Biloma. Beirut was added to the name to give it a stronger twist as well as be relevant to the projects/talents which were mainly born in Beirut. Beirut Biloma was to be pioneering a new music production formula in the Middle East. It was basically to be a faceless (very un-pop idol) conceptual act driven by Mohamed’s engineering/production skills, with various featured artists with main vocals by Rudy, and a&r’d by Dergham. The act was very much the result of team work by various people.
The focus of the act was not on the artists, but on the music outcome as a whole. This concept was also reflected in the packaging and marketing. The project was also to serve as a launch pad for many of its featured acts. Existing tracks were fine-tuned, new tracks were produced, and more artistic collaborations were worked out, all to be consolidated into creating Beirut Biloma’s debut album. The album included 14 tracks, being a mixture of originals, Arabic classics remakes, remixes, and featured various guest artists including the young rapper Lix and the young Angels of Harem, Beirut underground rap act Aks’ser, and the international soprano Sarah Brightman.
Moreover the album was very varied in its style, including club, lounge/chillout and R&B. Off course it included the hit single “Drive me to Beirut” in as a new and improved version titled “Take me to Beirut”, a chillout remix of “Mazaj” featuring Oumeima, and a new sequel to “Mazaj” featuring the vocals of Rudy called “X-ray”. The album was a success and reached the top 5 in the charts of most major retailers (like Virgin) in the region, especially in the UAE & Lebanon. Tracks from the album were also compiled on several Arabic and international compilations. “B-sides”, an EP, was released in March 2004, and included dance mixes of “X-ray” & “Take me to Beirut” by some of the hottest DJs in Beirut including DJ Dany, DJ Supreme, & DJ Said Mrad. With influences ranging from the rich Turkish fusion sounds like Tarkan & Mustafa Sandal to French electronica acts like Air and Ahmad Medzawey (producer of Madonna), Beirut Biloma’s philosophy is to produce crossover and eclectic Middle Easter music regardless of genre making it a maker rather than a follower of fashion. Apart from its own productions, Beirut Biloma has also ventured into the advertising world and has produced jingles for various clients including remixes of popular jingles for Future International TV, as well as productions for MBC. Moreover Beirut Biloma has established itself as a premium producer for other acts.
Most of these projects have been fusion acts, and collaborations between Dergham and Mohamed. They include English diva Sarah Brightman, Iraqi legend Kadim Al Sahir, ex-UK Pop Idol contestant Haifa, Jordanian/British Raad, Lebanese TV presenter/popstar Dania, Moroccan Hasna, Lebanese underground rappers Aks’ser, beautiful Lebanese singer Katia, Iraqi crossover pioneer Ilham Al Madfai, the short lived girls act Angels of Harem, LBC’s Star Academy, beautiful new Lebanese entertainer Maria and most recently the prince of Rai Algerian Cheb Mami & new Lebanese diva Elissa. An album of tribute to Arabic classics, titled “Basics”, is also under progress by Beirut Biloma and is expected to be released by mid 2005. The album includes remakes and some of its new remixes of Arabic classics by various artists. The best is yet to come. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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