Rula in Media

Egypt Today : Making Memories

Rula Zaki’s Debut Album Zekrayati takes the Music World Back to Basics
by Passant Rabie


After being bombarded with music videos, billboards and albums of Arab singers who market sexuality rather than true talent, you naturally get skeptical when told to give a listen to the debut album of yet another female singer. However, as soon as you press play on Rula Zaki’s Zekrayati (My Memories), you travel back to the glory days of Fairouz and Omm Kolthoum, when it was all about the voice and not about the implants.


Zaki first pinged on the music radar five years ago when she garnered second place in the first season of Star Maker, Egypt’s own version of American Idol. Since then, her voice has graced private parties, commercials and the Arabic versions of The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. In September 2007, her Arabic remake of Dean Martin’s 1950s classic, “Sway,” which she turned into “Elby Daa” (My Heart Beat), reached the number-one spot on Nogoom FM’s music charts for three weeks in a row.



What she had not done was release an commercial album. Until last month. Backed by record label Pyramedia, Zaki released her debut album Zekrayati, featuring nine songs, four that she has written herself and five by songwriter Antar Helal.


Zaki’s opera training as a soprano shines through each piece, especially as she hits those difficult high notes while maintaining a strong base.


Zaki sets herself apart with her tendency to mix the melodies of Western classics with Arabic rhythms and lyrics: the Title track “Zekrayati” is a remake of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.  She’s not, however, afraid to look to home for inspiration, remaking the Arabic classic “Helwa ya Balady” (You’re Beautiful, My Country). The album also reprises the Nogoom FM favorite “Elby Daa” (My Heart Beats). Many of her remakes salute their sources with Zaki singing one verse in the original language.


Most of Zekrayati’s offerings are upbeat, with light, lively drumming that will have you toe-tapping along. The pace slows with the mellow ballad “Khodny Ma’ak” (Take Me With You), a remake of “Bésame Mucho,” first released in 1940.


Recommended tracks on the album are the opening song “Ghany Wayaya” (Sing with Me), which shows off Zaki’s vocal range and features a catchy rhythm with Eastern instrumentals. Another standout is “Kan w Kan” (It Used to Be), a strong rendition of Helene Segara’s ballad “Elle Tu L’Aime” (The Woman Who Loves You) with orchestral accompaniment that allows Zaki to make full use of her soprano range.


Zekrayati offers a smooth transition for listeners of Western classics who want to experiment with Arabic songs, or for those longing for the days of mellow, classic Arabic music.


Singing for Peace


By day, Zaki is a music teacher at the Cairo American College (CAC), her alma mater. Having had her pick of seven different scholarships from universities abroad, Zaki chose Lawrence University in Wisconsin, “because it is highly competitive while being more homey than such places as Julliard,” she says.


Over the years, she discovered her passion for entertainment could serve a higher cause: Spreading peace and love across the World. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Zaki released a non-commercial album titled Love the World. We Are One as a message to the outside world that Egypt is a peaceful country.


Her debut album reinforces that message of global unity, as Zaki repaints international favorites with distinctly local colors. “These are famous songs from different countries and sung in different languages,” says Zaki. “It’s time for our region to be represented internationally and for us to interact with the world, which is becoming smaller by the day.”


“Making Memories” published in Egypt Today on March 2010.