With a message of peace and hope for the world, her powerful voice comes from the core of her being.
Music, according to her, is a powerful tool for expressing emotions and ideas, with the potential to transform the world.
Remi Bendali, the Lebanese singer known for her hit song “Give Us the Childhood,” who has inspired generations of kids worldwide, returns to the spotlight in an exclusive interview with Arabesque London.
In this interview, Remi Bendali shares untold personal and artistic details, revealing her musical upbringing and message through music.
Interviewed by Bidaa Qatlish
The voice that sparked hope more than 40 years ago, in your own words, who is Remi Bandali?
To put it plainly, Remi Bandali is a sincere individual who is incapable of passing for someone else. I give everything I do my all. Remi is a highly diligent and professional individual, and I enjoy bringing joy and happiness to everyone around me.
It has been about 39 years since “Give Us Childhood,” the start of your artistic career. Tell us about this song that has influenced and still influences children across the Arab world.
I’ve always thought that “Give Us Childhood” is the ideal song. I always get a lot of memories back when I sing this song, both happy and painful. Likewise, I’ve always been astounded by this song’s capacity to unite people from all over the world around a single message: Let kids live in peace and leave childhood alone.
I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who contributed to this song, beginning with my father René Bendley, who wrote the simple, restrained melody that becomes ingrained in your mind, and concluding with the poets who penned the lyrics. The words were a collaboration of three poets. George Yammine, a poet, wrote the Arabic verse, and I wrote the words. My grandmother Lina Abu Rostom wrote the words for the English language clip, while my mother Hoda Sidawi wrote the French language one.
I appreciate how much people adore this song. Because of their love, “Give Us Childhood” was able to continue by being taught in schools and shared by families for their children to hear. This is the only way to keep this song relevant for as long as possible.
“I’ll keep singing, Give Us Childhood, for Lebanon and for all children everywhere.” You now travel the globe singing on stages in support of peace, love, and childhood. What influence can art and music have on promoting peace, in your opinion?
In my opinion, music plays a significant role in communicating certain messages because it inspires and motivates people of all ages to do good deeds. However, I hope that music is used to express meaningful and constructive words rather than just harmonious phrases. This is simply what I believe. Sadly, a lot of songs damage both our hearing and our kids’ hearing, so I encourage parents to carefully consider their song selections and listen to music before letting their kids listen to it.
Who are the musicians who have impacted your musical career after inspiring Remi since her early days?
I was first exposed to my relatives’ music when I was a young child, followed by Diana Rose and Michael Jackson’s. Growing up in Canada, I was introduced to the music of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, which started the immediate impact of music in my life. My father also had a deep appreciation for numerous other artists, including the Beatles. To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to a lot of older Arabic tarab songs, but they also made me feel a little depressed. I was never really inspired by this kind of music.
“Amani Under the Rainbow” is a unique cinematic experience and creativity that began at an early age. Where did you find yourself singing or acting more?
I absolutely see myself as a singer, but I’m an easygoing person, so I act when I sing my songs because I understand the meaning. Through emotive gestures, I authentically communicate the words to the audience.
When I was younger, expressive movements helped me remember song lyrics better. I also used this technique for expression and memorization when I worked as a teacher, but I have to admit that I never had any other chance to perform. My journey would have been different and interesting if I had pursued an acting career, in my opinion.
How do your character and life experiences come through in your music?
In 2015, my songs served as a means of reintroducing myself to the world following my unexpected absence, which continued for a while
To give the audience a glimpse into my life, I wanted my debut album—which I released following my return—to include a fresh take on the old Remi. This included everything from my departure from Lebanon and my longing for my native country, to my recounting of the tales my grandmother used to tell us when the electricity went out. In “Why” and many other songs from the “I Don’t Forget” album, I opened up to the audience about some of my most intimate moments, including being heartbroken.
“A different kind of artistic training.” Remi Bandali has made a lasting impression on the singing instruction field. Tell us about the trainer Remi.
I developed “TechniVok,” my unique vocal training method, in 2020. I give my students what they want—practice singing without focusing on books and theories—by using this method. They just want to sing, so I help them apply all of their academic knowledge to find the pitch that works best for each of them. As a result, students have more fun and less stress.
I always remind my students that singing is an enjoyable, liberating, and expressive art form; therefore, they should let go, loosen up, find their voice, and most importantly, enjoy the process.
I assist students in honing their voices by having them practise songs they enjoy and songs of their choosing—without copying other people’s performance style—and focusing solely on their voices. Along with vocal exercises, I also teach them proper pronunciation, breathing techniques, and singing techniques. Since I only require them to sing, I also don’t make them read sheet music unless they select to.
ThechniVok’s only goal is to enhance each person’s individuality and foster their creativity. Although the work is undoubtedly challenging, both they and I are quite pleased with their performance and progress.
“We stay alive through singing.” Which songs are you currently working on, as you always say?
I have no songs or music projects underway right now.
What message do you hope to convey through your music?
Through my stories and experiences, I hope that my music conveys various messages that resonate with listeners in different ways. My own songs should inspire and promote optimistic thinking. Even though a few of the songs have a slight melancholy undertone, I hope that the listener sees past that and resists giving in to melancholy.
How do you select your songs? What factors influence your decision?
If I’m not the one writing the song, I start by listening to the melody. If I like it, I then read the lyrics to see if I can relate or feel something.
The majority of the time, I add my touch to the song so that, even though I didn’t write the lyrics, I can sing it as I truly feel in the details rather than just how I was told. If I’m writing a song, I must comprehend and feel the lyrics, and if I do, the melody usually comes to me quite quickly. It can take some time and be a very simple process to compose the melody.
I sometimes write two distinct takes on the same song, each with its melody. Occasionally, I might not be happy with the outcome and feel that I should reconsider what I produced. I experienced this while working on the “What I Forgot” album, notably in the song “I Hear Your Name,” where I had to combine two different melodies to finish the song. It’s a pretty intriguing method of writing music. You combine two entirely distinct melodies to create a single song. I could have written three distinct songs using the same lyrics. There are no boundaries at all in music.
What are your favourite musical moments so far?
I will always remember the time I sang “Give Us Childhood” and the audience would still join me in singing it. For me, “Give Us Childhood” has become a hymn of immense significance.
I need to emphasise that each concert I have done has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Upon speaking about Lebanon, the audience spontaneously began reciting the names of their respective countries. I can still clearly recall some of the children’s faces from that day of the 2019 concert in Toronto, Canada. The stage was packed with people even now. The ability to bring people together from various nations was a truly lovely moment. Singing in the same hall with them, united in our hearts, was a genuinely exceptional and life-changing moment.
Do you plan to work on any future projects with other artists?
Right now, I don’t have any upcoming projects planned.
What are your future goals? What are the objectives you want to accomplish in your musical career?
I can only add that I have numerous plans and objectives for the future. As music is an integral part of who I am, I sincerely hope that I will be able to sing and dance on stage with my friends more often, make new memories, and remember our childhood experiences.