Fadl Shaker: Arab Pop Star Turns Salafi
By: Rabih Farran
Published Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Lebanese-based singer Fadl Shaker surprised many when he made an appearance at an anti-Assad Salafi rally in Beirut on Sunday, prompting many to criticize him for supporting a movement which generally forbids singing.
“Yes, I will sue Al Jadeed TV because it is an unsuccessful, politicized, and racist channel,” singer Fadl Shaker (b.1969) told Al-Akhbar, in response to the station associating his name with that of a radical Islamist militant.
Shaker commented on the attacks against him on social media sites, which targeted his participation in the Salafi protest in Beirut on Sunday, by saying: “I do not care. May God dishonor them.”
Director of news at Al Jadeed, Maryam al-Bassam, chuckles in response to the singer’s statements.
“We love him and we will continue to listen to his songs. But we reject this accusation. He participated in a protest along with people who adhere to [Salafi] political thought. He has to take criticism if he’s going to get involved in politics,” al-Bassam responded.
But what drove Shaker to the ranks of the Salafis? The question does not appear to puzzle the artist’s followers, especially since he hails from the religious Shmandar family.
Shaker lived a life of poverty and memorized Warda and Um Kulthoum songs at an early age.
The late Syrian Lebanese businessman, Tawfik Bayrakdar, was the one who convinced Shaker to go to the city to sing.
And so, in the post-civil war 90s, the young man sang at the Sahara Nightclub in Antelias (north of Beirut) and at Every Night in the capital, which Bayrakdar invested in as well.
However, what Bayrakdar was offering the young man financially was not able to satisfy him as his career progressed.
Shaker decided to enter into private production after dozens of his songs were distributed to street vendors, especially in popular areas such as Sabra, Tariq al-Jadideh, and parts of Sidon.
At the time, Rami Hamdan, creator of Shaker’s artistic glory, managed the singer’s business.
In 2005, Hamdan chose to abandon his job as manager of Shaker’s shows and insisted on playing the role of friend and consultant.
After the release of Ya Ghayib (Oh Absent One) in 2003 and the “hysteria” that accompanied it, Shaker became a huge star. Ever since then, his life began to change on both the artistic and personal levels.
Hamdan, for his part, became the office manager of a prominent Qatari businessmen.
In 2007, Shaker canceled a Europe tour and paid the penalty fee in order to retreat with his Qatari friends. Ever since then, the singer began to consider retiring.
Following the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005, he was quickly drawn into the sectarian tensions that followed. He started to distribute money during the Eid Muslim holidays and interact with the faithful much more directly.
Shaker also started receiving financial support from close sources abroad, by way of Hamdan and the Qatari buisinessman’s office.
He even engaged in sectarian skirmishes with other singers, such as Ragheb Alama and Ayman Zbib, and began to publicly show support for Sidon’s rising Salafi preacher Ahmad al-Assir.
Nevertheless, Shaker says, “We are not funded by anyone. Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir is above being dependent on anyone.”
He denies accusations of Qatari funding and justifies remaining as an artist in order to help the poor, despite the fact that the idea of retiring is always on his mind.
His contradictory loyalties have been subjected to wide criticism from his fans, particularly given that the Salafi current considers singing forbidden.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.