Oct 30

Website currently being updated

Hi there,

Thanks for visiting - I am currently in the process of updating this website, so please bear with me as I need to transfer a large amount of files onto my server.

For a copy of my digital portfolio, please email me at rachel@raychm.com - more than happy to send one across.

Thanks!

Apr 10

Apr 01

Explorer magazine - April 2012 edition

(Digital version is available for download here).

Jul 21

Saber Al Rebai: Star Academy fan

Who would have thought major Arab stars had time to watch television talent contests? But it turns out there is a bunch out there who follow these shows from start to finish.

Take Saber Al Rebai for instance, who recently admitted that he was a Star Academy fan. The 46-year-old — considered one of Tunisia’s biggest singing exports after bursting onto the scene in 2000 — admits he could not wait for the finale of this year’s Star Academy, which saw Egyptian contestant Nesma walk away with the title.

At the finale, Al Rebai performed with Nesma and the other two finalists, Ahmad and Sarah, as well as belted out some of his biggest hits. He speaks to tabloid! about his experience.

You performed at last week’s Star Academy 8 finale. What did you think of this season’s contestants?

The students were great this year, very talented and they performed as if they were professionals in the field for years. I love the fact that because it is live there is a lot of interaction with the audience at the studio. It makes a big difference.

Nesma walked away with this year’s Star Academy title. Before the announcement was made, who were you expecting to win?

In my opinion, the winner of this year’s Star Academy was either Ahmad or Nesma. In terms of [third finalist] Sarah, there’s no doubt she has a beautiful voice, but I enjoyed listening to the other two more.

Were you a fan of any of the other students who were eliminated?

Oumayma was wonderful, but I also liked Christine and Gilbert. There’s something special about them.

If you could collaborate with one Star Academy student, who would it be?

I would choose Nesma, without hesitation. Her voice is beautiful.

What advice would you give anyone starting out a career in music?

The most important thing is not to rush, and take your time on everything. It is important to stay true to yourself and be careful of the choices you make. Consistency and hard work will lead to stardom.

Would you ever start your own production company in Tunisia to nurture young talent?

At the moment, this is something I am not planning, due to the current situation in the Arab world. At the end of the day, the number of record companies in the region is declining due to the economic situation, as well as the rise of illegal music sharing.

Speaking of record companies, are you planning on staying with Rotana for your upcoming album?

Yes, I plan on doing so. My new album will be out in September, after the holy month of Ramadan.

"Haifa did an amazing job in Dokkan Shehata. It’s not easy acting in front of [director] Khalid Youssuf. But her character is nothing like my latest one in Kaf Al Amar."

(Rachel McArthur for Gulf News)

Jul 16

Student wins pan-Arab talent show

An Egyptian journalism student has won the eighth season of the pan-Arab televised talent show Star Academy.

Nesma Mahgoub, a student of the American University of Cairo, was crowned the winner on Friday at a star-studded affair evening, featuring live performances by Lebanese singer Najwa Karam, and Tunisian star Saber Al Rebaie.

Mahgoub, who did not receive a single eviction nomination during her three-month stay at the Star Academy house, received more than 50 per cent of the public vote during the live finale. She was one of three contestants up for the prize alongside fellow Egyptian Ahmed Ezzat, who came second, and Sarah Fareh from Syria.

The aspiring singer has been performing since the age of ten, starting out in her school’s choir, before joining the acclaimed children’s choir at the Cairo Opera House under the supervision of maestro Selim Sahab.

She later studied opera with renowned soprano Neveen Allouba, performing at many events in the process.

(Rachel McArthur for Gulf News)

May 26

Arabian Bytes - The Week That Was… May 26

Oh, such a dramatic week. First, Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs – now known to have had an affair with Welsh model Imogen Thomas – put his foot in it by attempting to sue Twitter after some of its users posted his name despite the fact he had taken out an injunction preventing UK media from naming him. The only problem is that it caused so much outrage that Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary priveleges to name him anyway. D’oh!

And today, Twittersphere is buzzing with tweets about Cheryl Cole’s shock sack from the US X Factor – less than a week after her debut on the show. Were producers unfair to the Geordie lass or do you prefer Nicole Sherzinger anyway? Decisions, decisions…

Here’s what else we’ve been hooked on this week:

Dubai TRA praises social media

According to WAM, the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has begun using social media on its own website and is advocating the use of social media in enterprise communications strategies.

“Social media can be defined as an established and evolving channel that needs to be part of overall communications and capacity-building strategies,” said Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, TRA director general. “It is a key component for companies whether they are for profit or non-profit, because it provides them with greater opportunities to share more information about the important work they do, and it helps them in obtaining the required feedback.”

Microsoft gets juicy

At a launch event at the swanky Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai this week, Microsoft revealed its latest Windows 7 update, Mango, which comprises more than 500 new features and will be available for free to Windows Phone 7 customers from September this year.

The new Mango update promises to build on that popularity with popular social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn built into the phones DNA as native apps. (Disclosure: Microsoft is an Edelman Worldwide client)

Twitter buys TweetDeck

Following weeks of rumours, TweetDeck was finally purchased by Twitter this week.

Designed by a computer programmer Iain Dodsworth, TweetDeck was allegedly bought for between $40m and $50m, although Twitter is keeping tight-lipped about the exact sum.

Gaga’s Born This Way is still $0.99

And finally, Amazon.com delighted fans this week by offering the digital version of Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, for a mere 99 US cents via download.

Thanks to high demand, Amazon MP3 just announced in a tweet today: “We’re doing it again and this time we’re ready. Get @ladyaga’s Born This Way album for $.99 today.”

(Rachel McArthur for ArabianBytes.com)

(Source: arabianbytes.com)

May 18

Reporting from the Arab Media Forum 2011

Continuing with its theme, Arab Media: Riding out Storms of Change, the concluding day of the Arab Media Forum 2011 provided some insight into how media is expected to evolve in the region following the Arab uprising.

In a session entitled, Media in a Shifting Arab World, one of the key changes highlighted by the panel’s speakers was the rise of the “citizen journalist” – the concept of members of the public playing an active role in breaking news, as well as collecting and reporting information to professional journalists.

One of the first cases that internationally highlighted the importance of citizen journalists and social media was during the Iranian demonstrations in the summer of 2009, an event which panellist Octavia Nasr – a former CNN journalist – had personally covered.

“The information we received from the public was very important – however, any information or footage also had to be thoroughly checked and analysed by our team in order to avoid using fabricated material,” she said.

Prior to the Tunisian uprising last January, it can be argued that no-one in the Arab world really knew how powerful your average citizen could be when it came to showing real news in real time. But when protestors emerged demanding the removal of now former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, numerous Arab and international news channels relied on videos, pictures and comments from those at the protests in order to report what was really happening.

The same pattern emerged with Egypt. When Al Jazeera’s signal was cut by authorities in the country, and the network’s journalists were forced to hide their identities whilst reporting, it became a case of demonstrators calling up the news channels to report as well. During the first few days of protests, when the Egyptian government cut the internet from the whole country, residents were speaking to friends abroad via landline, and in turn those friends abroad would share information via Facebook, Twitter…etc.

However, and understandably, the panellists warned that the concept of citizen journalism also came with risks, and that information should always be verified.

Reuters, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera have all apparently made the mistake of showing footage older than advertised, as well as footage claiming to be something it is not. Al Arabiya’s editor Nabil Al Khatib told the audience that governments could also play a part in this false reporting.

“There are cases when some of the false news could have been sent by the government so that they can turn around and discredit a news channel,” he said. “When you undermine a channel’s credibility, it then increases the chances of the ordinary citizen believing the regime.”

However, the entire panel of speakers – which also included Abeer Najjar (Assistant Professor from the Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah) and Qenan Al Ghamdi (Editor-in-Chief of Al Sharq newspaper) – noted that there is still a long way before media is 100 per cent “free” in this region.

They concluded that, despite the fact there is a rise in freedom of speech in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt, there is still a long way to go for other countries in the region. However, it is predicted that Egypt could re-build its economy by becoming a base for a range of Middle Eastern news networks and publications, with the concept of free speech being the number one draw for companies and publishers. Let’s see what deals are announced at the Arab Media Forum 2012.

(Rachel McArthur for ArabianBytes.com)

(Source: arabianbytes.com)

May 05

Lebanon’s Hottest New Act… Mashrou Leila

Remember the name Mashrou Leila (Overnight Project), because we guarantee this band will become a household name very soon.

Dubbed Beirut’s Arabic-language rock fusion pioneers, the Lebanese seven-piece group is set to perform live in Dubai this evening — their second appearance in the emirate — and tickets are selling fast.

Comprising Omaya Malaeb (keyboard), Haig Papazian (violin), Firas Abou Fakher (guitar), Hamed Sinno (vocals), Carl Gerges (drums), Andre Chedid (guitar), and Ebrahim Badr (bass), tabloid! chatted with the band ahead of tonight’s performance.

Tell us a little bit more about Mashrou Leila.

We are five architects, a graphic designer and an engineer. We all met while studying at the American University in Beirut. Some of us are still there finishing up our under grads.

Has that encouraged others in Lebanon to follow suit? Do you want to be ambassadors for more students in the region to be encouraged to experiment with music?

The local music scene in Lebanon has definitely been booming, more and more independent acts are forming and concert attendance has been on the rise. It’s hard to say whether our recent success has been a by-product or the cause of this. It’s probably a little of both.

We’ve been actively pursuing performing in college settings throughout the Middle East. I don’t know if that means that we are the ambassadors of independent music in the Middle East, but the hope is that people who come to our shows will get inspired to start listening and writing their own music. Anything other than that Arabic pop rubbish they are flooding our ears with would be a welcome change.

Is it harder to break into the popular music scene when you take on a genre that is not so common (in comparison to the likes of Haifa Wehbe or Fares Karam, for example)?

Sure it’s harder to break into the music scene with that kind of genre. But this is mainly due to the fact that there is a severe lack of infrastructure and funding for that kind of music. A lot of people can’t stand Arabic pop and have to resort to the West for their musical needs. We are hoping to fill that gap by providing local music that isn’t in the stale and formulaic format as Arabic pop while maintaining our Middle Eastern identity.

Has the current Arab uprising inspired you to write songs about the current situation or even influenced the way you write?

The current Arab uprising has definitely been a game changer and has gotten us rethinking about how our music should fit in this new order. We’ve spent the last three months recording and mixing songs we had written when the idea of an Arabic uprising was unthinkable.

We should be getting back to writing soon, how much influence the current situation will have is yet to be seen.

The death of Osama Bin Laden: true or conspiracy in your opinion?

No clue. Guess it’s probably true.

What are your ambitions? What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

Well, we have two goals: the first is a second album with legit production, recording and mixing. This would really be a step up for us, since we literally wrote and recorded our first album between classes and on a ridiculously low budget.

The second is proving that Mashrou Leila is profitable. Not because we are hoping to make a living out of it — after all, we all have our own separate careers on top of Mashrou Leila. But because doing this would get record labels, managers and concert promoters interested in working with local bands and independent musical acts. This in turn would encourage more local musicians to take their music more seriously by making their lives easier.

Is there any artist — Arabic or Western — you would like to collaborate with?

We are always looking to collaborate — whoever, whenever, as long as there is a chemistry.

Those seeing you for the first time, what songs do you recommend them to listen to before heading out to your show?

We love all our songs equally, but if I had to pick I’d say Fasateen, Oubwa, Sheem il Yasmeen and Raksit Leila.

(Rachel McArthur for Gulf News)

My Mashrou Leila interview on MidEastPosts.com

My Mashrou Leila interview on MidEastPosts.com

Apr 14

Arabian Bytes - The Week That Was… April 14

                  

The UAE becomes first Arab country on Twitter’s trend countries

This week, Twitter announced it was expanding its local trends feature on the website, adding 70 new countries and cities to the resource – one of which is the United Arab Emirates.

In a Twitter blog post, the social network revealed:

We first launched Trends as a useful way for people to find out what topics are being talked about around the world, right now. Early last year, we added Local Trends to make it easier to find more locally relevant topics in specific countries and metropolitan locations.

Today, we’re adding Trends for more than 70 new cities and countries – bringing the total number of locations to more than 100.

Here are the current UAE trends (at time of posting): #taxes#dearsomeone#justsaying;#happyendingsRyan GiggsKeralaDohaASAPBarça; and Torres.

Justin Bieber Quits Twitter

The teenage singer broke millions of his fans’ hearts this week after announcing he is staging a temporary separation with Twitter.

Bieber took to his official page to tweet:

I’m just excited at this pt to get on stage and perform. gonna take a little break from twitter and enjoy this time with my family until then.

Great news for us – not so great for the millions of girls obsessed with him.

However, the 17-year-old has since posted a few more residual tweets – so all hope is not lost for Bieber’s fans. Whoop-dee-doo(!)

The Zuckerberg vs. Winklevoss drama continues

The Winklevoss brothers must now accept a cash and stock settlement with Facebook that had been valued at $65 million.After years of litigation in hopes of scoring a bigger slice of Facebook, twins Tyler and Cameron Vinklevoss were told enough is enough on Monday by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

But despite the fact Mark Zuckerberg won the original legal battle against the former Harvard classmates – the feud made famous on The Social Network – he is now in another spot of bother after a New York man filed an amended lawsuit against him this week, citing a 2003 email in which Zuckerberg discusses an urgent need to launch his site before “a couple of upperclassmen” could launch theirs. An apparent reference to the Winklevoss twins, we wonder?

—-

And finally… What’s been trending on Twitter this week:

Doha

The Arab city has been trending in the UAE this week obviously due to the fact that foreign ministers met in Qatar to try to open the deadlock in Libya’s civil war.

But divisions within NATO immediately appeared at the international “contact group” meeting when Belgium ruled out boosting air attacks or arming Libyan rebels. Meanwhile, news reports are suggesting that there is increasing frustration in Paris and London that air strikes have neither tipped the balance of the war in favour of rebels trying to end Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule nor even ended devastating shelling of the besieged city of Misrata.

Johnny Madness

The very first season of Arabs’ Got Talent came to an end last Friday, with Egyptian poet Amr Qattamesh walking away with the programme’s grand prize.

However, it was contestant Johnny Madness, a beat-boxer from Lebanon, who trended on Twitter for ten minutes after his appearance in the live grand finale. The future looks bright for the young star, who is said to be interested in beat-boxing alongside Lebanese superstar Najwa Karam.

Barça-Madrid

Never before have football arch rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other four times in the space of just 18 days.

But this is just what the Spanish football giants will do over the next few weeks after both clubs went through to the semi-finals of the Champions League, which will take place on April 27 in Madrid and May 3 in Barcelona.

But before that, Pep Guardiola’s and Jose Mourinho’s teams meet for a La Liga (Spanish league) clash this Saturday, followed by the Copa Del Ray final on April 16.

(Rachel McArthur for ArabianBytes.com)

(Source: arabianbytes.com)

Amr Qattamesh on winning first Arabs’ Got Talent

Omar Qatamesh

Following months of auditions, and surviving multiple elimination rounds, Amr Qattamesh emerged as the winner of the region’s very first Arabs’ Got Talent.

The Egyptian poet, whose unique approach to Arabic poetry won the hearts of millions of viewers across the region, beat eleven other finalists to win 500,000 Saudi Riyals (Dh489,708), a brand new car, as well as a contract with MBC.

And tabloid! is the first UAE-based publication to secure an interview with the performer.

How are you feeling? It must have been an intense week for you prior to the show.

I am feeling great, and by the way, you are the first Emirati publication I am speaking to, and despite the fact I have been talking to so many journalists, I am not tired or anything. Really enjoying it.

And of course, congratulations on winning Arabs’ Got Talent

Thank you. I am very excited to have won the show, and what you know what I loved the most? The fact that the whole Arab world was happy that I won. For example, in Beirut [where the programme is filmed], I had Lebanese people in the street tell me that they voted for me. The feedback online has been great as well.

You’re an online hit as well. Your semi-final and final videos have been circulating heavily on Facebook.

All I can say is that I thank Allah for providing me with this opportunity. You know, I swear it is not about the money or the prizes for me. It is about having the opportunity to share my voice with millions of others.

I honestly feel that Allah gave me these two-and-a-half minutes per show to share my message with viewers, which is why I took it very seriously. This is an opportunity that will not come very often.

The judges were fans as well, especially Amr Adeeb.

It was an honour to have the support of the judges, but let me tell you something, Amr Adeeb did not support me because we were both from Egypt, because at the end of the day, Amr also rejected a lot of Egyptian contestants in the audition round. It is not about nationality, but in the end, near the finals, he really started to warm to my work.

The competition must have been tough at some points, considering the recent violence that has been occurring in Tahrir square.

Yes, and I actually changed my material at the last minute for the semi-final and final show, because of the constant changes occurring. Thankfully, the Arabs’ Got Talent producers were supportive of this.

It was hard, because I was one of those who were camping out in Tahrir Square in January and February until the regime was overthrown. I lived the protests, and I am sad about what is happening right now.

What was the atmosphere like between the contestants?

We are like one big family, and even though I am back in Cairo now, we are all in touch, and will remain in touch.

If you were not one of the finalists, who would you have voted for?

I cannot choose one, because they are all my friends, all so very talented, and all deserve to be in the final. They are the best talent the Arab world has to offer.

And what are your plans now?

I would like to continue what I am doing, and perhaps tour so I can continue to spread my message to others.

Finally, what do you want to see happen to your home country?

I have no preference when it comes to the future president. I just have one dream that the whole of Egypt becomes like the community that was witnessed in January and February in Tahrir Square. 

(By Rachel McArthur for Gulf News)

Did You Know?

Apr 05

[video]

Mar 28

Egypt to hold parliamentary polls in September -

Praying for change… :)

Mar 24

Shakira + Pique: One of the cutest couples IMO… ❤

Shakira + Pique: One of the cutest couples IMO… ❤

Mar 23

Love them!
(Via buhlooga)

Love them!

(Via buhlooga)

(Source: mentality-to-reality)