Seven years ago Carole Samaha was a rising star in the making who made it on to our cover. It was her first magazine cover. Armed with both a bachelors and masters in theatre and eight years of acting experience (including working with Rahabna – Beirut’s biggest musical group), she was about to launch her debut album Helm (Dream). Four blockbuster albums and numerous hit singles later, we dropped our pre-planned cover the moment we secured Carole’s interview… that’s how far she’s come. That’s how right we were about her. On the eve of her latest single release – Ma Bakhaf (I am Fearless), it turns out she’s still fabulous, still fantastic and still fearless. In this Enigma exclusive, Omnia Zaied meets the irrepressible Lebanese singing sensation…
How has life been since your last Enigma cover? It’s been seven years now…
Wow, seven years already! I was still working on my first album Helm and now I’ve just released my fourth album Hodoudy El Sama (The Sky is the Limit). I’ve grown up, big time! I started off as one of those broken kind of girls who suffers in her relationships. Now I am more of the strong type who won’t settle for being hurt and taken advantage of. I have learnt that it’s nice to be in love, but it’s even better to do it with dignity.
That strength is a quality that’s increasingly obvious in your songs…
I am strong and independent, in the sense that I say what’s on my mind. In the Arab world we have this hypocrisy where what we say is not necessarily how we feel; this is never the case with me. I know how to be diplomatic and have a balance between what I want and what society will accept. I am also a very calculated and adventurous person by nature, which comes out in every single music video and song that I work on. I hate routine and sticking to one genre just because people like me in it. That’s the problem with most artists, they are too afraid to change or take risks. They succeed in one genre and stick to it; they don’t like to leave their comfort zone. Some colleagues think I’m insane; but isn’t that the reason we love art? Because of the freedom, it allows you to express yourself and show your emotions. And I personally get to be fearless.
So the title of your new single – Ma Bakhaf (I am Fearless) – rings true?
Fear does overcome me sometimes, but I never let it control me. I get over it very quickly. Because I don’t cry over spilled milk; I just move onto the next bottle. I allow myself a maximum two days of worrying over something, try to make quick decisions and just turn the page. Fear paralyzes you, it makes you unable to make decisions, and you spend more time hesitating than doing. It stops you from progressing and I don’t want to look back and regret not doing anything.
Do you ever censor yourself?
Yes of course. If I know saying or doing a certain thing will bring bad vibes, I avoid it. We don’t have the freedom that artists in the Western world have.
What is freedom to you?
Freedom is made for those who can handle it, some people really abuse it. It is being able to act on the outside the way you feel on the inside. In our society, freedom is hindered by what others think of us. We are all afraid of what others might say. Even if a man wanted to marry a girl, he always asks about what people say about her, what his extended family thinks of her etc., no matter how educated he is. His confidence and love for her is defined by what people say and that’s why no one is free in the Arab World.
You have worked very hard on your career, and worked very hard to get to the top. What do you think of the Arab music scene and its growing crop of one hit wonders?
I’m very proud that I took it step by step. Art is all about experimenting, I always try to go for something new. I am never satisfied with my work and I always feel there is something missing and that I can do better. It would have been really easy for me to do all of my songs in the same style of Ettala Fia (Notice Me), which was a big hit. But I always wanted to one up myself and not be afraid of failure. I am my own biggest competitor. Maybe it’s because I am very selfish in my art; I want to do things that please me before pleasing the fans.
Why did you put an end to your acting career?
I didn’t stop acting, and I never will. I love it. I would love to do movies and have been offered lots of scripts to read, but I haven’t yet found one that would make me do it again. The first experience is always the hardest and I have to be very careful with my first choice. I also have to find a director that I can trust, because no matter how good a script is, the director can make it or break it.
What about your personal life?
I’ve always been ready to take time for my personal life and myself. But I always meet the right person at the wrong time. I guess I just haven’t been lucky. When I am in a relationship, I never cut corners. I try my best to balance between my busy schedule and my man. They both become a priority, but if I had to choose I would definitely choose my career. And I did choose already, 10 years ago I lived my love story – fireworks, butterflies and the whole shebang – and we were about to get married but it didn’t work out because he couldn’t adapt to my job. I was just acting back then and when I started singing, he got scared and wanted me to change my career. I couldn’t and it came down to telling him, “Change yours. If you really love me you have to take the whole package, it would be selfish of you to ask otherwise.” And I walked away.
I am working on a couple of music videos for singles on my latest album. I also have a surprise coming up at the end of this year, but I can’t reveal it just yet!