||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2010)|
Ema Shah in her concert in Kuwait
|Born||7 June 1981|
|Genres||Arabic music, eastern music, classical music from Western culture|
|Occupations||Singer, musician, composer, dancer, pianist, guitarist, writer, puppeteer, theatrical actress, and theater director|
Ema Shah (Arabic: ايما شاه) (born 7 June 1981) is a Kuwaiti singer, composer, pianist, guitarist, actress, writer, dancer and director. Her father is Kuwaiti and her mother is Iranian. At the Winter Film Awards of 2014 in New Your City, she won the award for Best Music Video, and received Five awards at the Best Shorts Competition of 2013 in California and won Finalist Best Short Film at the Back in the Box Competition 2013 and received six nominations at the Best Shorts Competition and one in St Albans Film Festival of 2014 in UK for her Music Video Masheenee Alcketiara. in 2012, She sang to the Kuwaiti Prime minister the prince Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, a Song of the Kuwaiti heritage Sung by Abdel Halim Hafez.
- Early life
Emma Shah studied opera, photography and films. She has attracted attention through her activism, radical views, humanitarian often controversial points of view and eccentricity. In addition to being a founding member and president of troupe Anthropology, she is a member of Team Force of the Rising Sun for brides in Kuwait, Kuwait Cinema Club, National Democratic Youth League, Kuwait Democratic Forum, Dubai Community Theater, Kuwaiti Human Rights Association and Club Business and Professional Women in Kuwait.
She made her debut stage appearance in Silence by Harold Pinter, followed by The rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco 2004, The old women and the poet by Yukiomicemia, Debate between night and day by Mohammed Affendi Al-Gazairi, the clown "Monodrama Bantomim" (at the Mediterranean People Festival-Italy) and The Meteor by Dorinmat.
In 2006, Emma established her group "Anthropology",joining actors from different nationalities, with performances, spectacles and songs in different languages, including Arabic, English, French, Japanese, Spanish. She has performed as a singer, pianist, composer and actress at various local and international events.
In 2011, she starred a short movie called "Swing", she also acted on a short movie called Mooz (Banana). The film containing sexual allusions won the jury prize at the Dubai International Film Festival.
She composed a collection of musicals inspired by books like "Jesus, the Son of Human", and The Prophet, written by Gibran Khalil Gibran, and performed them using piano and guitar on the Kuwait National Museum. She has also sung covers for many well known and international artists. She also took part in the musical We can not write on a black page. Her singles include "Shah" about her grandfather Shah Khan. She has sung lyrics written by, amongst others, Lebanese Elia Abu Madi, Saudi Malek Asfeer and Australian Miranda Lee.
Ema Shah is an anthropologist in Arts, a modernist, an actress, both on theatre and in cinema, a singer, musician, composer, as well as a guitar and piano player; she’s also a marionettist, a dancer, a song and theatre writer, and a theatre producer. As a singer and musician, her work is in Classic and Pop. In theatre, her themes are: musicals, absurdity, surrealism, Dadaism, symbolism, fantasy, expressionist dancing, masks, and realism. Ema is Kuwaiti, an authentic Middle Eastern, with a diverse ethnic background: Arab, Iranian, Afghan, British, and Asian.
As far back as she can recall, her mother used to sing to her at her bedtime “sleep, sleep, sweet kid”, “once upon a time, there was a knight prince who met a poor girl, bought her fancy clothes, and married her. The animals in the forest were joyful, and she lived with him happily ever after in his palace.
Between the age of 3 years old and 9 years old, she used to run over the tables of the big library where her father worked as a secretary. She used to skim through the books with passion, looking at their pictures, and learned to read in no time when she was 4. She often visited her disabled grandmother, and her grandfather who played number games with her. She read about dermatoglyphics and criminology when she was 9 and 10, when her father kept big boxes from the library during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which he returned back to the library after the liberation.
She started her career as a musician and actress since 1985, when she was just a child, participating in many musical events, most important of which was the feast of the minister in Al-Ahmadi region, playing on live TV classical piano sonatas by Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, and Schumann, as well as orchestra classics like Fantasy, The Barber of Seville, and Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II. Her performance of that polka was attended by Abdelaziz Almofarrej, nicknamed “The Singer of the Golf”, who told her then: “it’s supposed to be slow, you’re playing it too fast”. Ema was distinguished by her very quick piano playing technique, which she didn’t lose, though she practiced concertos more than popular songs. She was an outstanding musician, especially on accordion, and in many other school activities, so much that people easily recognized her absence when she didn’t play the national anthem in the morning, which rarely happened. In primary school, she used to ask calmly, with her usual distractedness, for permission to go to the bathroom, when her real motive was to spend some time playing piano by herself.
She started singing Arabic songs in touristic festivals in 1996, with the Egyptian “Captain” Fu’ad, who presented her as “Aziza” to audiences in hotels and theatres. On the same year, she decided to end this venture telling Captain Fu’ad that that was her last performance, because she didn’t think it was what she wanted and dreamed of. In 1998, she went to the High Institute of Musical Arts in Kuwait for one year. She left after an argument with the administration of the institute, which involved an exchange of swear words, over their intrusion in her private meditation and tendency to spend time alone in the hall. She didn’t feel that the place was home to arts and mad imagination, but she learned much from Rashed Al-Hamli, and took his tunes to sing his songs in her shows, like “Shakwaya li lah” (My Grievance to God) and “Birouhi Al-ban” (The Tree in my Soul), written by the Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawki. She was taught by Abdellah Abdelmalek as well, and later sang the poems “Fi Al Hawa” (In Passionate Love) and “Ahinno Shawqan” (I Yearn So Much).
In 1999, at the age of 19, a friend of hers asked her how she could work as a journalist, at which point Ema responded “it’s easy”, called some contacts at the press, and presented her friend to them. That friend later became a famous journalist, while Ema herself worked in journalism for a few months, and then stopped because the office did not deal with her professionally, and the friend she helped was plotting to get her out of the field of journalism. Artists and journalists alike were astonished by her quick success, and how she obtained many important contacts, made interviews on artistic, economic, and social news, and received her press ID card. When she was a trainee, the newspaper editor asked both Ema and her friend to write on a free subject, as a test. Ema wrote a story titled “A Day at Churches”, while the other journalist wrote “Leila and the Wolf”. The director read both stories, and said to Ema: “you will become a writer”. Ema is obviously happy that she didn’t pursue a career in journalism.
She bought a cheap guitar, for 100 dollars, and learned 3 chords only before she stopped, frustrated, because of the annoying sound the cheap guitar made. In 2001, she started working at “Ghadir” company as an animator in children parties and schools, then in 2002 with her American trainer Ricardo in a glass factory, where she designed and manufactured a guitar made of glass. This surprised Ricardo who told her “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life even in the US. Never did someone before make a guitar out of glass”. Ema’s glass products were shipped and sold in Dubai. In 2001, she decided to change her musical and singing style, to sing “typical style”, starting with a youth theatre workshop, where she became a festival actress. In her first experience as an actress, meeting doctor Sherif, she didn’t know which kinds of roles to take. On her way from the museum, she was reading “The first Adventure of the Mind” by Fares Sawah, and immediately and spontaneously improvised, standing suddenly, her back to the doctor, and acting the roles of three different characters, her facial expressions and voice changing with each one of them. The doctor was taken aback and said “what’s that? Where did they get her from?”
She later came to know the producer Abdelaziz Al-Haddad, who made good use of her slenderness, her movements, and her dancing abilities. She used to be a gymnastics player in 1993, winning third place with the school athletic team, and made use of it as an “expressionist dancer” in theatre. Abdelaziz Al-Haddad used to tell her always when he saw her standing on one foot, and massaging the other one, while speaking to him or to someone else: “you like your feet so much”. He benefited from her ability to change her voice, and her musical, composing, and expression skills, and always said about her abilities: this is not yours, this is a gift.
Her career in typical theatre started while she was still singing “typical” in 2002. It started and did not end with world-renowned theatre pieces like “the meteor”, playing the role of the beautiful wife of a laureate of the Noble Prize for literature. She also played the role of a romantic girl in love in the play “Love Song”, as well as the role of a 7 year-old girl in “Now you’re my friend”, a theatre play for children, in the Institute, which flabbergasted the director who told her after the show: “because of you, we’ll seriously start working on theatre projects for children. Are you one of our students?”
She played other roles in theatrical festivals, as in the play “Rhinoceros”, by the absurdist writer Eugène Ionesco, where she was a crazy absurdist who becomes a rhinoceros; and in the same festival she acted the role of Eve in the play “Uniglobe” by Shakespeare, Yack Carsonia, Raoul Hasman, Wilfred Grodte, Horst Horsi, Habens Müller, Matia Pekovic, and Stevan Orsy, produced by Ylda Abnus. She won the best prize as a secondary actress, but felt disappointed, and decided seven years later to throw the prize in the dustbin of a theatre, after she asked the head of the jury, artist Mansour Al-Mansour, to know why she was given the prize of the secondary actress, and why the title was actually changed from “primary actress” to “secondary actress”; he responded that if she were to get the primary prize, what would the other actress, daughter of a famous artist, receive? Ema pursued her work in absurdism theatre, and “trifled” with Noble Prize winning English playwright Harold Pinter in his play “Silence”, produced by Ibrahim Boutaiban, in the role of a British country girl, dancing, singing, and playing piano.
She later became an effective member of the group “The Shining Sun”, with producer Mohamed Al-Haddad, in the puppet theatre, as an actor, a producer, a coach, a marionettist, and a lighting technician. Mohamed Al-Haddad coached her, and presented her to audiences and schools in educational theatre for children between the years 2004 and 2010, through workshops of the Russian band “Luda and Igor”. Mohamed Al-Haddad had much hope that puppet theatre and children’s theatre would succeed and spread in Kuwait, as it was the case with the theatre play “Karkura”, starring Ema, where she sang the song “Peace” for children. She became the executive producer later when the Egyptian producer Shukri Abdallah went to Egypt, and presented with him the comedy play “Pay attention” for adults, for which she had been lionized by Kuwait Oil Company. With the same band she presented the children’s play “An Evening with Puppets”, produced by Dr. Hussein Al-Muslim, and “Huhu Nunu” produced by the Russian “Luda and Igor”. Starting 2004, she wrote her first theatrical play titled “Al Serkaliyya”, followed by many eccentric plays, like “A Bath stuffed with Pork Grease”, which features characters representing swine, inspired from Eugène Ionesco. She also wrote “Mitari Yulier”, which features two characters representing spermatozoa, as well as “The Verdict is Proof of Justice”, “The Scissors”, and “A Serpent in my Camouflaged Bag”. She wrote the screenplay of the nihilist philosophical movie “Void”, half of which only was shot, and her work was classified in the National Kuwaiti Library.
Apart from theatre and music, Ema became a follower and member of “Al Minbar Al Dimokrati” (the Democratic Platform), and National Democratic Youth Association, but soon left the latter, when she realized the truth of their intentions. She joined the Cinema Club, but after a change in the membership, she was expelled due to many conflicts with the new head of the administration. Many members withdrew, and some of them appealed against him in court for verbal or physical assaults. Ema became a member of the Human Rights Association, and Businesswomen Club, then later withdrew all of her memberships, except from the Human Rights association, and “The Shining Sun” band. In the same period, in 2005, she was attacked and beaten by a producer and the director of the Theatrical Institute, for her defense of a 17 year-old Syrian actress who was mocked in front of a theatre; the girl later married a Star Academy singer. Golf newspapers spread the news of the assault quickly; and a year later she had been attacked again by the son of a theatre producer because she had been doing rehearsals at the theatre. She won both cases, but Kuwaiti justice didn’t punish any of the attackers and did nothing.
During the major transformations of Ema’s life, entering the fields of theatre and singing, she traveled around without boasting in front of the media in her meetings, despite many offers that were made to her by producers and directors to become a TV series actress or a show singer; but she refused all of them, because she cared most about the creative substance and the results. Her refusal to be promoted by the media caused much embarrassment with producers and directors, especially when the producer “Ahmed Al-Halil” was shocked when she turned down his request to take photos of her and promote his play, because she didn’t like taking photos. He remained silent for a while on the stage, and then said to her: “I’ll buy a camera and take photos of you every day, at every moment”. Later Ema went to a shop, and started taking photos of every minute of her life, even taking photos of other people, and making some of them feel embarrassed, while others were enjoying it; many people from many countries actually called her asking for those rare photos of their life moments. Artist Mansour Al-Mansour, used to say about her: “If she doesn’t attend a festival, something is missing. There’s a girl taking photos, where’s Ema?” Ema became an expressionist dancer on stage, and was honored during a seminar on freedom of expression, by Abdelaziz Al-Haddad, from the regional UNESCO office in Doha, and the UNESCO Kuwaiti National Comity in 2006, as a “movement expressionist” artist. In most of her plays, she performed modern expressionist dancing, and sometimes Ballet.
In 2007, she performed as an actress in the plays “The King”, and “Simmerg” in English with Loyak, and the French band “Les Plasticiens Volants”, in the role of a peacock, and was lionized by the band itself. She was also the coach and the producer of the play “The Obstacles” by the engineer and producer “Munther Al-Isa”, and she improvised a silent scene with the producer “Razi” in the American University.
Emma sparked a big controversy after singing "Hava Nagila" in Hebrew which led to her being accused of promoting Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel. International news agencies, Arab and Israeli media covered the story and Los Angeles Times ran an article about the affair under the headline "Diva blasted by Islamic clerics for singing in Hebrew at club" including reports of putting her on trial. There were also reported threats on her life. Shah explained that she sang the song as she wanted to go beyond borders, and break barriers in support of universal peace between nations.
- "Jesus the Son of Man" written by Gibran Khalil Gibran (song)
- MOOZ (Banana)- actress (2009)
- Swing - actress (2011)
- I wish we were Dancers - actress (2011)
- Choose to See - Director "Music Video"(2012)
- Hey Mister - Director "Music Video"(2012)
- Masheenee Alcketiara - Director "Music Video"(2013)
- "Kuwaiti singer sparks furor for singing in Hebrew". Gulf News. 5 April 2010. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
- Alexandra Sandels (6 April 2010). "Diva blasted by Islamic clerics for singing in Hebrew at club". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
- alqabas.com.kw article
- interviews with Emma on AL sabah Tv
- Khabab site: Biography of Emma Shah
- Annahar site
- Los Angeles Times: KUWAIT: Diva blasted by Islamic clerics for singing in Hebrew at club
- interview with Ema Shah "alhurra TV – Very Close"
- interview with Ema mbc TV
- interview with Ema Shah Almarina FM Radio
- The event will feature world-famous composer, singer, actress and peace activist Ema Shah