Lydia Canaan, first rock star of the Middle East
|Birth name||Lydia Canaan|
|Also known as||Angel|
|Genres||Rock, pop rock, pop, world|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, recording artist, columnist, United Nations delegate, humanitarian, women's rights activist, human rights activist, animal rights activist|
|Labels||Pulse-8 Records, SIDI/XEMA|
|Associated acts||Roger Taylor, Robin Scott, Tommy Mandel, Marco Sabiu, Barry Blue, David Richards, The Rapino Brothers, Keith Barnhart|
Lydia Canaan is a Lebanese singer-songwriter, poet, humanitarian, and activist listed in the catalog of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Library and Archives as the "first rock star of the Middle East."
A mezzo-soprano that Billboard notes as having a "three-octave range and perfect pitch", Canaan's unique style fuses Middle-Eastern quarter notes and microtones with anglophone rock. The first internationally successful Lebanese recording artist, Canaan's music videos were the first of any Middle-Eastern artist's to be played on MTV Europe, MTV Southeast Asia, MTV Russia, and MTV Middle East.
Canaan began her career performing amid enemy military attacks in protest of the Lebanese Civil War, holding concerts in vicinities of Lebanon that were simultaneously being bombed. Society writes that "In a small country that was ripped by war, there was this young girl making a difference". The Gulf Today notes: "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".
Canaan's unprecedented musical debut defied tradition, challenged convention, and transcended millennia-old gender barriers. According to Arabian Woman, "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".
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Activism and humanitarian work
- 3 Film and literature
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Honors and awards
- 6 Videography
- 7 Discography
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Life and career
Early life and education
Born and raised in Brummana, Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War to a prominent Greek Orthodox Christian family, Canaan studied at Brummana High School (BHS) and later at Lebanese American University (LAU).
From a young age, singing and dancing were Canaan's essential outlet and catharsis. Raised in a conservative family, Canaan's parents forbid her artistry and prohibited her from having a musical education or any formal training. However, Canaan, a native Arabic and French speaker, defied them, and early in life taught herself English and cultivated the unusual ability to compose and store melodies, lyrics, and poetry in English—unaided by instruments—by means of eidetic memory.
At the age of eight, Canaan 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.
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".
In 1984 the teenaged Canaan under the stage name Angel joined heavy metal band Equation, who until then had been intent on finding a male lead singer. Canaan's talent, personality, and stage presence brought her to prominence among Lebanese youth. She first donned her trademark, trend-setting revealing leather outfits with studs and dramatic capes and her signature hip-length blonde-streaked hair that would characterize her early look. Off stage, Canaan's Alma Mater, Brummana High School (BHS), voted her "Best Dressed". On stage, her provocative costumes made her a sex symbol. The Daily Star wrote: "On stage, with her daring looks and style, Canaan became a role model". 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". 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".
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. Her last concert with Equation was in 1986.
British author and publisher Naim Attallah writes:
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.
In 1987 Canaan embarked on a solo career, performing her original compositions, such as "To Oblivion and Back", "Does it Need Some Action", "A Hard Situation", "Hey Richie", and "The Christmas Wish", all which were radio hits.
As Canaan's music evolved, her fame grew. 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. 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 in 1990.
Canaan received praise from prestigious international Arabic newspapers Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Hayat, and An-Nahar, Al-Hayat reporting that she was the "... International Lebanese singer whose voice invaded the European market, making its mark".
In 1989 Canaan left Lebanon and settled in Zurich, Switzerland, where she became a naturalized Swiss citizen. There she took vocal lessons with soprano Anita Monti. In 1990 she was interviewed by Radio Z in Zurich, where her songs received airplay.
In 1991 Canaan began working with record producer David Richards (producer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, and David Bowie). In 1991, she gave a live interview for NBC Europe. That year she 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 at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland. The same year she recorded the duet "Love and Lust" with Roger Taylor (Queen drummer).
Thereafter Canaan took vocal lessons with Tona de Brett in London. In 1993 she gave an interview and performed the duet "Spiritual Man" with Robin Scott (of M with hit song "Pop Muzik") on Channel 4 in London, recording the song along with other tracks with Scott that year.
In February 1995, Canaan, who had up until that time performed under the stage name Angel, dropped the moniker, and under her birth name Lydia Canaan presented the single "Beautiful Life" (produced by Barry Blue and the The Rapino Brothers) at the Midem in Cannes, France. That Spring, Canaan's international release of "Beautiful Life" by London-based Pulse-8 Records gained her international critical acclaim, eliciting comparisons to Celine Dion, Cher, and Tina Turner (Billboard, Music Week, Music Monitor), radio promo tour in the UK, radio airplay in the UK, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.
Canaan performed "Beautiful Life" at the launch of MTV Europe held in Beirut, on May 12, 1995. Dubbed by MTV Europe as "the diva from the Middle East", 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.
The Sound of Love
Canaan's second single "The Sound of Love", produced by Barry Blue and the The Rapino Brothers and recorded at the Maison Rouge Studios in London, was released in 1997. In 1998, Canaan's recordings, made in New York City at Jay Ward's Dogbrain Music, were exhibited on Billboard magazine's TalentNet and topped the charts for months at No. 1 and were endorsed by Casey Kasem.
Canaan's debut studio album, The Sound of Love, was released in the summer of 2000. Recorded in London and New York City, it was distributed by SIDI/XEMA in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Canaan launched the album through 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 major pan Arab printed press. In support of the album release, Canaan performed various venues in Beirut, Jumeira Beach Hotel in Dubai, and UAE, Savage Garden Club, and Rifaa Golf Club in Manama, Bahrain.
Canaan wrote and recorded "Libnan" in 1993. In 2004 it became the title song of the advertisement "Rediscover Lebanon", produced and broadcast by CNN to over one-billion viewers and commissioned by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy & Trade to promote Lebanon as a tourist destination.
Never Set You Free
In 2014 Canaan was awarded by the UK Songwriting Contest as Semi-finalist for her song "Never Set You Free".
Activism and humanitarian work
Former Bosnian Foreign Minister and United Nations Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey writes:
Lydia Canaan stands out as global citizen and diplomat artist. Lydia is a world renowned music talent, with the spirit of ambassador for the future where inclusiveness and peace are the answer to exclusion and conflict.
In addition to her lifelong humanitarian and charity work, in 2014 Canaan, called a "high-profile" celebrity by ABC News, was compelled toward activism as a United Nations delegate for Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (KRC) to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
On March 17, 2014, Canaan delivered her speech, "Islamophobia and Art", at the 25th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, gaining a round of applause and kudos.
On June 17, 2014, Canaan delivered her speech, "Hostage to Injustice", at the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, receiving a standing ovation and drawing media attention.
On March 13, 2015, Canaan delivered her speech, "Humane Evolution", at the 28th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, winning her extended applause.
On November 3, 2015, Canaan delivered a speech condemning governments worldwide for failure to implement UN human rights recommendations at the UNHRC's 23rd Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), attended by over twenty-five delegations and representatives from Great Britain, Germany, Norway, France, the European Union, Denmark, Australia, Ireland, and Lebanon, among others at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, receiving media coverage of both her speech and an a cappella verse of her activist anthem "Humanity Wake Up and Fight".
On March 18, 2016, Canaan delivered "Fighting Terrorism Without Violating Human Rights", her impassioned speech in defense of innocent civilian victims of counter-terrorism, at the 31st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. It was streamed live on YouTube by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
According to Naim Attallah:
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".
In 2014 Canaan participated in the The Arab International Forum in Solidarity With Palestinian Prisoners, held in Beirut, Lebanon, with over three hundred fifty public figures and other international attendees, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
In 2015 Canaan took part in the International Forum for Justice in Palestine, held in Beirut, Lebanon, with over five hundred attendees from the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Canaan supports Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (KRC), Solitary Watch, John Legend's Free America campaign, Human Rights Watch, War Child Holland-Lebanon, SAWA for DEV & AID, Azarieh Nun's Order School, and the International Campaign to Prosecute War Crimes in Iraq chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Throughout her life, Canaan has donated her money, music, and time to many charities, particularly those concerned with children, animals, and the elderly. While this side of her personality is not well known to the general public, throughout both the arts community and the charity community she is known for her compassion and altruism.
Canaan reportedly made generous donations to the Children's Care Unit of Salmaniyah Hospital, Child Fund International (CFI), and St. Jude's Hospital, and has performed at charity and fundraiser events including American Women's Club, Salmaniyah Hospital (Children's Care Unit), Beirut Rotary Club, American Community School, Association pour la Promotion Feminine, Caritas Internationalis (Liban), Centre Renee Wehbe Le Vieillard Malade, Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA), Lion's Beirut Code Club, Unite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP), Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts, Al-Jana (ARCPA), Social Support Society Active Ageing House, NASMA Foundation, and Association Amour et Partage.
Canaan supports the United Nations MY World Millennium Campaign, and in 2014 she was invited to participate at the MY World Partner Recognition Event and Award Ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
Support for animal welfare
Canaan, an outspoken animal welfare supporter and animal rights activist, supports the Asian Conservation Awareness Programme (ACAP/WildAid), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Le Roselet Foundation, Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA),
In 2001 Canaan was invited as Speaker of the Month by American Community School (ACS) in Beirut, Lebanon.
Film and literature
In 2014 Canaan was interviewed by America-based Global Sorority Foundation for their documentary film series as a prime example for young girls worldwide to overcome adversity and raise awareness for gender equality.
American author Robert W. McGee mentioned Canaan's songs "So Much To Give" and "Never Set You Free" in his two novels Justifiable Homicide (2014) and Annie and the Senator (2015); Canaan and her songs "Shine", "Fallin'", and "Libnan" were referenced in all three volumes of McGee's The Iraqi Girl Trilogy (2015). McGee's characters often risk their lives to listen to Lydia Canaan's music.
In addition to being widely regarded as the "first rock star of the Middle East", inherent in Canaan's historic milestone is another notable first: she is also the first female rock star of the Middle East, each of these landmarks in their own right qualifying Canaan for future nomination to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2015, Canaan was cataloged as a musical pioneer and historic figure in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Library and Archives.
Honors and awards
Canaan was received by Lebanese President Emile Lahoud at the Presidential Palace on January 16, 2002, in Baabda, Lebanon. President Lahoud thanked Canaan for her devotion to, affection for, and altruistic services rendered to her country.
On January 28, 2002, Canaan was received by First Lady Andree Lahoud at the Presidential Palace, who expressed her gratitude and admiration for Canaan for putting a positive cultural and artistic face on Lebanon.
On February 15, 2002, Canaan was again received by the First Lady Andree Lahoud at the Presidential Palace, who requested that Canaan hold a concert at the Presidential Palace in honor of the wives of the fallen Republican Guard Officers.
On Mother's Day, March 21, 2002, Canaan was once again received at the Presidential Palace when, upon the request of First Lady Andree Lahoud, she performed for a presidential ceremony in honor of the wives of the fallen Republican Guard Officers.
|1988||Scoop d'Or Award||Scoop magazine|
|1997||Lebanese International Success Award||Lebanese Ministry of Tourism|
|2001||International Year of Volunteers Award||United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)|
|2003||Association pour la Promotion Feminine Award||Association pour la Promotion Feminine|
|2014||Lebanese Army Award||Lebanese Armed Forces|
|2014||UK Songwriting Contest Semi-finalist Award||UK Songwriting Contest|
|2016||Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement||Global Music Awards|
|Broadcast by LBCI and NBC Europe|
|Filmed at Canalot Studios and Syon House, the castle of the Duke of Northumberland, in London, England.|
|The Sound of Love||
|Filmed at the palace of Sir Francis Dashwood in West Wycombe, England.|
|Hostage to Injustice||
|Footage of the speech Canaan delivered at the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland widely circulated on the Internet.|
|Fighting Terrorism Without Violating Human Rights||
|Footage of the speech Canaan delivered at the 31st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland streamed live on YouTube by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).|
|1985||"The Sound of Equation"||Radio|
|1986||"Why All the Hurt?"||Radio|
|1986||"To Oblivion and Back"||Radio|
|1987||"The Hope Song"||Radio|
|1987||"Does It Need Some Action?"||Radio|
|1987||"A Hard Situation"||Radio|
|1989||"The Christmas Wish"||Radio|
|1989||"Me and Little Andy" (cover)||Radio|
|1995||"Beautiful Life"||Pulse-8 Records|
|1997||"The Sound of Love"||Pulse-8 Records|
|2014||"So Much to Give"||Internet|
|2014||"Gimme Some Truth" (cover)||Internet|
|2014||"Never Set You Free"||Internet|
|2017||"Never Never Never" (cover)||Internet|
|2017||"And You Call Me"||Internet|
|2000||The Sound of Love||SIDI/XEMA|
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- "Blitz Press Release", Beirut, May 12, 1995.
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