Lydia Canaan

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Lydia Canaan
Lydia Canaan MTVE Beirut Lebanon.jpg
Lydia Canaan, MTV Europe Concert, 2000
Background information
Birth name Lydia Canaan
Born Brummana, Lebanon
Genres Pop rock, world fusion, pop, hard rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, poet, producer, humanitarian, human rights activist, animal rights activist, United Nations delegate
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1983–present
Labels Pulse-8 Records, SIDI/XEMA
Associated acts Roger Taylor, Robin Scott, Tommy Mandel, Barry Blue, David Richards, The Rapino Brothers

Lydia Canaan is a mezzo-soprano singer-songwriter, poet, humanitarian, feminist, human rights activist, animal rights activist, United Nations delegate,[1][2][3] and musical pioneer hailed by the media as the first rock star of the Middle East.[4][5] Praised by Billboard magazine as having a "four-octave range and perfect pitch",[6] she was dubbed by MTV Europe as "the diva from the Middle East".[7] Her fans have affectionately entitled her the "Lioness of Lebanon".[8]

Canaan fused her English lyrics and Western sound with Middle-Eastern quarter notes and became the first internationally successful Lebanese recording artist.[9] A rebel who defied convention,[10] social stigma,[11] religious authorities,[12] and broke millennium-old gender barriers,[13] her musical splash was historically unprecedented [14] on more than one front; she began her career by risking her life to perform amidst enemy military attacks, her concerts literally being held in vicinities of Lebanon which were simultaneously being bombed.[15]

According to Arabian Woman magazine: "As...A girl who grew up in the midst of a bloody civil war...Canaan was breaking down seemingly insurmountable barriers...She rocked the establishment".[16] As noted by The Gulf Today: "It is incredible that amidst the state of civil war that existed in Lebanon at that time, when most people had no idea if they would see another day, she managed to keep her ambitions alive".[17] Society magazine attests: "In a small country that was ripped by war, there was this young girl making a difference".[18]

In Canaan's own words: "We have an aura about us which becomes stronger when you have faith in yourself. And when your aura is strong, evil dare not touch you."[19]

Early life and education[edit]

Born and raised in Lebanon to the Greek-Orthodox Canaan family of Mount Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War, she is listed as a celebrity in her native village of Brummana. Canaan studied at the renowned Brummana High School (BHS) and later at Lebanese American University (LAU).

From a young age, music, singing, and dancing were Canaan's essential outlet and catharsis. Raised in a conservative family, Canaan's father forbid her artistry and deprived her of musical education and formal training. However, Canaan, a native Arabic and French speaker, defied him, and early in life cultivated the unusual ability to compose and store by eidetic memory melodies, lyrics, and poetry in English unaided by instruments.[20]

At the age of eight-years-old, Canaan, a literary child prodigy, was awarded the first place prize (in a contest in which all grades competed against each other) by her French elementary school, College des Saints-Coeurs, Bikfaya, for a poem she composed about a child who wept for being scolded for trivial matters such as staining her fingers with ink when she writes. Her parents ignored this early achievement.

As reported by the newspaper Campus: "For Lydia Canaan's first gig, she had to throw her trademark short rockish black leather skirt and studs out of her bedroom window in Brummana, put on a long skirt, lie to her conservative father about where she was going, and, after changing into her leather gear, singing her teenage heart out as Angel with the band Equation".[21]

Early career[edit]

Lydia Canaan Performing as Angel at Mont La Salle Theater, Beirut, Lebanon, 1984

In 1983, a preteenaged Canaan under the stage name Angel joined heavy metal band Equation, who until then had been intent on finding a male lead singer. Canaan first donned what would become her trademark revealing leather outfit, sporting her signature hip-length hair. They performed covers of heavy metal bands including Rainbow, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, Deep Purple, Michael Schenker Group, and others. At the height of their success the band drew a crowd of over 15,000.

Canaan's first original composition, "Why All The Hurt", a tribute to a deceased friend that she wrote as a teenager, was a No. 1 hit on the radio charts in Lebanon.

Concerning Canaan's first concert with Equation, The Gulf Today writes: "The first show produced a phenomenal reaction".[22] Society magazine states: "Tickets were sold out but more teenagers stormed in to see the young Angel perform...To accommodate the crowd, the concert organizers had to stamp on each fan's hand as they ran out of tickets. It was...Her first success".[23]

Since her first public appearance, Canaan held over twenty-five sell-out concerts in the country from 1984 until 1988, despite risks and dangers by warring militias and armies, recorded her songs for radio, and topped the charts in Lebanon.

Canaan's last concert with Equation was in 1986. In 1987, she embarked on a solo career, performing her original compositions, such as "To Oblivion and Back", "Does it Need Some Action", "A Hard Situation", "Hey Ritchie", and "The Christmas Wish", all which were radio hits.

As Canaan's music evolved, her fame skyrocketed, affecting a significant expansion of her fan base. Her charming personality, charismatic stage presence, and provocative costumes made her a sex symbol. The Daily Star wrote: "On stage, with her daring looks and style, Canaan became a role model".[24] With Lebanon under Syrian occupation, Canaan's concerts were held in East Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and the north of Lebanon. In Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon, Canaan performed a sell-out concert under tight security after receiving numerous death threats.

In 1987, Canaan performed to a crowd of 20,000 at the Beirut Rock Festival.[25] In 1988, she held sell-out concerts for three consecutive nights at Casino du Liban, the last performer to grace its stage until it resumed activity following the end of the Liberation War [26] in 1990.


Lydia Canaan, First Rock Star of the Middle East

In 1989, Canaan left Lebanon and settled in Zurich, Switzerland, where she became a naturalized citizen. There she took vocal lessons with soprano Anita Monti. Canaan also lived in London and New York City, working with writers, musicians, and producers in Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S., such as Harry Borner, David Richards (Montreux Jazz Festival, Queen, Chris Rea, David Bowie), Barry Blue (Dina Carroll, Patricia Kaas), The Rapino Brothers (Kylie Minogue, Take That, Corona), Noel Cohen (Phyllis Hyman), Keith "Plex" Barnhart (Chaka Khan), and Tommy Mandel (keyboarder for Bryan Adams and Ian Hunter Band).[27]

Canaan recorded duet "Love and Lust" with Roger Taylor (Queen drummer)[28] and duets "Spiritual Man", "Guardian Angel", and "The Bridge" with Robin Scott (of M with hit song "Pop Muzik").[29][30]

In December 1990, Canaan gave an interview for and her songs received airplay on Radio Z in Zurich. In February 1991, she gave a live interview for and her video clip "Hey Richie" was broadcast by NBC Europe in London. In 1993, she gave an interview and performed the duet "Spiritual Man" with Robin Scott on Channel 4 in London.

Canaan was signed for two years to London-based production company Spinny Music of Jim Beach ( manager of Queen) to write and record her original songs produced by David Richards (Queen, David Bowie, Chris Rea, Montreux Jazz Festival) at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland. Thereafter in London, Canaan took vocal lessons with Tona de Brett, who also coached Annie Lennox, Sarah Brightman, Sade, and others.

In February 1995, Canaan's single "Beautiful Life" was presented to radio and media at the MIDEM in Cannes, France.[31] That Spring, Canaan's international release of "Beautiful Life" by London-based Pulse-8 Records,[32] gained her international critical acclaim, eliciting comparisons to Celine Dion, Cher, and Tina Turner (Billboard,[33] Music Week,[34] Music Monitor[35]), radio promo tour in the UK, radio airplay in the UK, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.

Canaan filmed the music video for her song "Beautiful Life"[36] at Canalot Studios and Syon House, the lavish castle of the Duke of Northum­ber­land, in London, England.

Canaan performed "Beautiful Life" at the launch of MTV Europe held in Beirut, with the participation of Pato Banton, Urban Cookie Collective, and Rozalla on May 12, 1995. President of MTV Europe Peter Einstein stated during a press conference: "MTV is proud and privileged to play Lydia's videos on Music-Non-Stop Show...All at MTV have fallen in love with Lydia, her songs, and her performance".[37][38]

Canaan's second single "The Sound of Love" was recorded at the Maison Rouge Studios in London.[39] In 1998, Canaan's recordings, made in New York City at Jay Ward's Dogbrain Music, were exhibited on Billboard's TalentNet and topped the charts for months at No. 1. Iconic radio personality Casey Kasem endorsed her songs.[40]

Canaan's album The Sound of Love, recorded in London and New York City, was released in the summer of 2000 and distributed by SIDI/XEMA in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.[41] Canaan launched her album through a campaign covering all Middle-Eastern satellite networks (Orbit, Music Now, MBC, ART, LBCI, Future TV, Showtime's MTV Arabia, Murr TV, Dubai TV, Bahrain TV), local television stations, radio stations and all pan Arab printed press. Canaan performed in Beirut, Lebanon, Jumeira Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE and Savage Garden Club, and Rifaa Golf Club, Manama, Bahrain in support of the album release.

Canaan filmed the music video for her song "The Sound of Love"[42] at the picturesque palace of Sir Francis Dashwood in West Wycombe, England, and was the first Middle-Eastern artist to have her music videos played on MTV Europe, MTV Asia, MTV Russia, and MTV Arabia.

Canaan was praised by prestigious international Arabic newspapers Asharq Al-Awsat,[43] Al-Hayat,[44][45] and An-Nahar,[46][47][48] one reporting that she was the "...International Lebanese singer whose voice invaded the European market, making its mark".

Canaan was received by General Emile Lahoud, President of the Republic of Lebanon, and the First Lady on January 16, 2002 at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Lebanon.[49] On March 19, 2002, she was again invited by First Lady Andree Lahoud to perform at the Presidential Palace on Mother's Day, in honor of the wives of the Presidential Guard Officers.[50]

In 2004, "Libnan", written and performed by Canaan, is the title song of the advertisement "Rediscover Lebanon", produced and broadcast by CNN to over one-billion viewers, commissioned by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy & Trade to promote Lebanon as a tourist destination.[51]

Internationally acclaimed British author and publisher Naim Attallah (Chairman of Namara Group/Quartet Books, London) wrote: "Canaan's voice, as shown in her repertoire of song, possesses a rare resonance and a devastating effect in its evocation of love and sensuality in the refined area of the poetic dimension".[52]

Brian B. Smith reporting for White Knight News[53] wrote in an article titled "In Praise of Lydia Canaan"[54] that "Few people are good at many things. Fewer still have mastered many things. And even rarer are those who are the epitome of those many things that they innately embody, the divine forces that they channel. But Lydia is one of these rare beings, these truly peerless prodigies, who grace planet Earth with their presence every few thousand years, bringing joy and enjoyment, bravely and selflessly attesting to the truth, and leaving us in awe of both their artistry and heroism; she is one of the most multi-talented and multidimensional people in human history. The singing voice of an angel, the speaking voice of a saint, and the pen of a prophet. Long live Lydia Canaan!"[55]


Lydia Canaan Delivering a Speech at the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 2014

On June 17, 2014, Canaan delivered a speech at the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Hostage to Injustice[56] gained her a standing ovation and media attention.[57]

On March 17, 2014, Canaan delivered a speech at the 25th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Islamophobia and Art gained her a standing ovation and media attention.[58]

On April 30, 2014, Canaan took part in The Arab International Forum In Solidarity With Palestinian Prisoners, with over three-hundred-fifty attendees from the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, in Beirut, Lebanon.

In July 2010, Canaan performed at The Summer University of Palestine in Lebanon, a summer camp to educate and raise the level of awareness of the participants from all around the world on Palestine, the culture of the wider Arab region, and Lebanon's crucial part in it, with speakers such as Norman Finkelstein, Gabi Baramki, and Ghada Karmi, among others. The event was organized by Viva Palestina Arabia founded by British Member of Parliament George Galloway of the Respect Party who also spoke at the event.

Canaan supports the International Campaign to Prosecute War Crimes in Iraq (chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark) in Beirut, Lebanon.

Humanitarian work[edit]

Lydia Canaan at the United Nations MY World Partners Awards Ceremony, UN Headquarters, New York City, 2014

Internationally acclaimed British author and publisher Naim Attallah (Chairman of Namara Group/Quartet Books, London) wrote: "Lydia, through the medium of her art, has whenever possible fought for the disadvantaged, the poor, the infirm, and those in our society who suffer great want and political persecution".[59]

South African President Nelson Mandela chose "Beautiful Life" as the theme song for a charity event in South Africa under his auspices.[60]

Canaan supports the United Nations MY World Millenium Campaign,[61] and on September 25, 2014, she was invited to participate at the MY World Partner Recognition Event and Award Ceremony[62] at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, along with presenters Zoleka Mandela (granddaughter of Nelson Mandela), screenwriter Richard Curtis, actress Michelle Yeoh, TV presenter Femi Oke, and various other celebrities and dignitaries.

On December 5, 2001, Canaan performed at the United Nations International Volunteers Day in Beirut and was awarded for her humanitarianism by Yves de San, Head of UNDP (Lebanon).[63]

In March 2012, Canaan performed in support of International Women's Day in Beirut, Lebanon, under the patronage of Minister Leila Solh Hamadeh, organized by the Women's Committee of the Lions Club District 351 Lebanon.

Canaan performed at charity and fundraiser events including American Women's Club, Beirut, Lebanon, Salmaniyah Hospital Children Care Unit, Manama, Bahrain, Rotary Club, Adliyah, Bahrain, American Community School, Beirut, Lebanon, Association pour la Promotion Feminine, Beirut, Lebanon, CARITAS Liban, Beirut, Lebanon, Centre Renee Wehbe Le Vieillard Malade, Mansourieh, Lebanon and Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA), Beirut, Lebanon, Lion's Beirut Code Club, Beirut, Lebanon, Unite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP), Beirut, Lebanon, Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts, Al-Jana (ARCPA), Beirut, Lebanon, Social Support Society Active Ageing House, Refugee Camp Burj Al Barajneh, Beirut, Lebanon, NASMA Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon, and Association Amour et Partage, Beirut, Lebanon.[64][65]

Canaan was invited as Speaker of the Month by American Community School (ACS), Beirut, Lebanon.[66]

Canaan supports War Child Holland-Lebanon (Syrian refugees), Beirut, Lebanon, and SAWA for DEV & AID (Syrian and Palestinian refugees), Beirut, Lebanon. She also supports Asian Conservation Awareness Programme (ACAP/WildAid), London, UK, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Gland, Switzerland, Le Roselet Foundation, Saignelégier, Switzerland, and Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA), Beirut, Lebanon.

Awards and honors[edit]

United Nations Building(ESCWA), Beirut/Lebanon
Lydia Canaan receiving the International Year of Volunteers Award by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2001
Year Award By
1988 Scoop d'Or Award[67] Scoop magazine
1997 Lebanese International Success Award[68] Lebanese Ministry of Tourism
2001 International Year of Volunteers Award[69] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2003 Association pour la Promotion Feminine Award[70] Association pour la Promotion Feminine
2005 Caritas Award[71] Caritas


Single Release 1995, Pulse-8 Records, London/UK
Lydia Canaan, Single Release 1995, Pulse-8 Records, London, UK
Album Release 2000, SIDI/XEMA, Dubai/UAE
Lydia Canaan, Album Release 2000, SIDI/XEMA, Dubai, UAE
  • "The Sound of Equation" (1985, Radio Release)
  • "Why All the Hurt" (1986, Radio Release)
  • "To Oblivion and Back" (1986, Radio Release)
  • "The Hope Song" (1987, Various Artists, Radio Release)
  • "Does It Need Some Action" (1987, Radio Release)
  • "A Hard Situation" (1987, Radio Release)
  • "Hey Richie" (1988, Radio Release)
  • "Hey Richie" (1988, Video)
  • "The Christmas Wish" (1989, Radio Release)
  • "Me and Little Andy" (1989, Cover Version, Radio Release)
  • "Beautiful Life" (1995, Single, Pulse-8 Records)
  • "Beautiful Life" (1995, Video)
  • "The Sound of Love" (1997, Single, Pulse-8 Records)
  • "The Sound of Love" (1997, Video)
  • The Sound of Love (2000, Album, SIDI/XEMA)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Naim Attallah, Quartet Books, March 18, 2014
  2. ^ Hostage to Injustice
  3. ^ Naim Attallah, Quartet Books, June 23, 2014
  4. ^ Edward D'Mello, Gulf News, November 29, 2000
  5. ^ Fumiya Akashika, RedDeer International, October 10, 2014
  6. ^ David Sinclair, Billboard magazine, May 10, 1997
  7. ^ MTV Europe Press Release, Judith Daniel, MTV Europe Marketing & Publicity Manager, May 12, 1995
  8. ^ Fumiya Akashika, RedDeer International, October 10, 2014
  9. ^ David Sinclair, Billboard magazine, May 10, 1997
  10. ^ Hala Habib, Society, No. 3, February 1997
  11. ^ Press Release, Pulse-8 Records Ltd., January 1995
  12. ^ Jinan Jubayli, The Daily Star, No.10,735, March 18, 2002
  13. ^ Claire High, Arabian Woman, No. 21, September 2000
  14. ^ Russ Kane interview, Capitol Radio, 1995
  15. ^ David Livingstone, Campus, No. 8, February 1997
  16. ^ Claire High, Arabian Woman, No. 21, September 2000
  17. ^ Sudha Chandran, Gulf Today/Panorama, November 24, 2000
  18. ^ Hala Habib, Society, No. 3, February 1997
  19. ^ Sudha Chandran, Gulf Today/Panorama, November 24, 2000
  20. ^ Press Release, Pulse-8 Records Ltd., January 1995
  21. ^ David Livingstone, Campus, No. 8, February 1997
  22. ^ Sudha Chandran, Gulf Today/Panorama, pg. 53, Nov 24-30, 2000
  23. ^ Hala Habib, Society, No. 3, February 1997
  24. ^ Jinan Jubayli, The Daily Star, No. 10,735, March 18, 2002
  25. ^ Beirut Rock Festival
  26. ^ "Liberation War"
  27. ^ Tommy Mandel
  28. ^ Queen Vault
  29. ^
  30. ^ Discog
  31. ^ MIDEM 95 Daily News, No. 5, February 3, 1995
  32. ^ Discogs
  33. ^ David Sinclair, Billboard, May 10, 1997
  34. ^ Nick Robinson, Music Week, May 13, 1995
  35. ^ Paul Sexton, Music Monitor, Apr 21, 1995
  36. ^ "Beautiful Life" Video
  37. ^ MTV Europe Press Release, Judith Daniel, Manager Marketing & Publicity, MTV Europe, Friday May 12, 1995
  38. ^ BLITZ Press Release, June 26, 1995
  39. ^ Maison Rouge Studios
  40. ^ Dogbrain Music
  41. ^ Dogbrain Music
  42. ^ "The Sound of Love" Video
  43. ^ Viviane Haddad, Asharq Al-Awsat, Vol 24 No. 8,477, February 12, 2002
  44. ^ George Hayek, Al-Hayat, No. 12,513, June 3, 1997
  45. ^ Mireille Khalife, Al-Hayat, Issue No. 13,732, October 16, 2000
  46. ^ George Hayek, An-Nahar, No. 211, February 20, 1997
  47. ^ Hanadi Al-Diri, An-Nahar, May 19, 1995
  48. ^ George Hayek, An-Nahar, No. 391, July 28, 2000
  49. ^ Jinan Jubayli, The Daily Star, No. 10,735, March 18, 2002
  50. ^ The Daily Star, No. 10,711, February 15, 2002
  51. ^
  52. ^ Naim Attallah, Quartet Books, July 20, 2010
  53. ^ WKN
  54. ^ Brian B. Smith, White Knight News, August 9, 2014
  55. ^ Brian B. Smith, White Knight News, August 9, 2014
  56. ^ Hostage to Injustice
  57. ^ Naim Attallah, Quartet Books, June 23, 2014
  58. ^ Naim Attallah, Quartet Books, March 18, 2014
  59. ^ Naim Attallah, Quartet Books, March 18, 2014
  60. ^ Jinan Jubayli, The Daily Star, No.10,735, March 18, 2002
  61. ^ MY World
  62. ^ MY World Partners Awards Ceremony
  63. ^ UNDP Lebanon
  64. ^ Gulf Daily News, vol. XXIV No. 217 (GGDN 024), October 23, 2001
  65. ^ Mondanite, No. 75, April 2003
  66. ^ ACS Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 5, February 2001
  67. ^ Scoop, No. 51, December 1987 - January 1988
  68. ^ Lydia Canaan Receiving Lebanese International Success Award
  69. ^ UNDP Lebanon
  70. ^ Mondanite, No. 75, April 2003
  71. ^ Caritas Info, March 2005

External links[edit]