A Catholic by faith, Janan started singing in 1972, at the age of 17. In 1975, Janan's father forced him to marry. He spent 4 years in the Iraqi army, from 1974 to 1978.
In 1980, Janan fled Iraq and settled in Greece for 2 years. He finally left for the United States in 1982, where he remains a resident. After arriving in the U.S., Janan worked as a taxicab driver for 2 years. It was during this period that he decided to grow his now famous moustache. In 1984, he was hired by a restaurant to sing on a nightly basis. In 1985, he recorded his first studio album, named "Nohadra", the Assyrian name for his hometown, Dohuk. His first single was Chokhe, which became very popular at Assyrian social events. Janan has admitted that Turkish music plays some role in his style of music.
He has been married once and is now divorced, but had two daughters with his ex-wife. Janan is known for his well groomed moustache. He currently resides in Michigan. To date, Sawa has released 23 albums. His brother, Esam Sawa, is also a singer.