The icing on the cake for eniGma’s 8th Celebration of Arab Glamour and Success in Dubai was the musical performance of Anthony Touma, the wonderful Lebanese singer, who wowed the crowd and had them singing along with him. The twenty-nine-year-old singer, a past The Voice France contestant with many viral songs like Show Me How You Dabke to his name, is known to constantly reshape pop music in the Arab region.
Born in France to a mother who loved music, Touma was surrounded by music from a young age. An aspiring artist herself, his mother was a source of his musical inspiration. “It was a bit harder for women to be musicians at the time,” says Touma about his mother, “but despite the difficulties she faced, her love for music was always present in her renditions of French songs which she played on the guitar for me.”
Anthony’s dad was no less of a music fanatic himself. “He listened to rock and jazz, and I got a different taste of music through him,” Touma recalls. In a household where different kinds of music from the pops to the rocks were constantly played, it is hard to imagine the young Touma not developing a musical sense himself. He started piano classes when he was six years old and began singing in his school choir as a young boy. When he was a little older he joined his mother on stage, performing a song written by her for Mother’s Day. “It made me fall in love with music and being on stage,” says Touma.
Touma’s career in music really started when, at 21, he took part in the French version of the popular singing competition, The Voice. “My mother told me to audition, but I didn’t really think they would be interested in a young kid who lived all the way in Lebanon. She ended up sending them a video of me singing, anyway; and they actually called me back!” he recalls with a laugh. Having loved Michael Jackson’s music for a long time, he chose to sing Jackson’s Billie Jean before the judges. In a moment that he describes as life-changing when he started to sing, all four judges turned their chairs in admiration to see the young Lebanese singer performing Jackson’s 80s hit.
With his performance at The Voice, Touma’s stardom skyrocketed in his homeland and a Lebanese media team flew to France to document his amazing journey all the way to the semi-finals of the huge international competition. Touma describes his feeling about his success as bittersweet, noting that it was only after succeeding outside that he was recognised in his own country. “I wish we would start searching for talent internally within our region. I believe that we could be the ones setting trends and not just following them” he laments.
Touma recalls how in the past he has felt burdened by having been constantly on the move from a young age. “I struggled to find my identity, especially musically,” says Touma, referring to several of his earlier multilingual albums. Looking ahead, he notes that in his upcoming album, Ana Meen?, is finding a way to fuse his diverse backgrounds, express his many layers and create music that is personal to him and his experiences. “I stopped limiting myself and saying that a song has to sound a certain way to be good,” he says, with excitement. “Ana Meen? is going to be unfiltered. I think it is a song that a lot of people will relate to.”