Mai Selim is surely worthy of a royal title in the Arab music scene. She is a young, ambitious and beautiful young woman who sings like there is no tomorrow. With hip titles Mai Selim manages to stay at the top, reinventing herself with every song and eventually venturing into cinema. I met with Mai over a cup of coffee in her living room for a chat on music, life and show business.
With “Alby Beyehlam” (My heart is dreaming) she began her career in 2005 after famous director and producer Tarek El Erian discovered her by mere coincidence at a dinner. “I always used to sing when I was little and at school and when I grew older I wanted to study at the Higher Institute of Cinema but my parents convinced me that I would be better of with Business Administration at the Maritime Academy, so I did, when later on I got the chance through Tarek El Erian all took a different turn”, Mai tells. With her first song and clip shooting to the top of the charts Mai Selim became a household name over night. Shortly after followed the hit “Yeba Enta Akeed Fi Masr” (You surely are in Egypt) along side Mahmoud Esseily and Kelany and her place was reserved in the Arab pop world. “This song gave me a solid fan base and I got accepted as an Egyptian singer although I am Jordanian which was a very nice beginning”, Mai explains. “Ahsan Nas” (Best People) followed alongside Hossam Habib, Yara and Ewan creating an even bigger fan base for Mai Selim and claimed her first row seat in the music scene.
With her stage presence and choreographed concerts Mai Selim became a busy woman touring events, proms and festivities animating the audiences with her hit tunes. She was among the view female singers who have a choreographed stage show in the Arab world, “It used to take ages with a choreographer to come up with a good show, but everyone did it after that so I stopped performing with a lot of dancers and fireworks, it became a trend”, she adds.
Soon she developed her own identity and style reflected in the choice of lyrics and sound, “I sing what girls want, what appeals to them like the song ‘Howa Da’ (That’s the One) which talks about this phase when school girls think that a certain guy they meet is The One and it turns out when we grow up that he definitely wasn’t”, Mai states.
Her new clip “Meen Ely Alak” (Who Told You So) is a trip to a Cuban cigar factory with a little bit of drama told and will shortly follow by the album end of May, “I can’t decide on the name yet”, she laughs, “it’s either “Lina Kalam Ma Baaad” (We have to talk) or “Samaak” (I hear you), I was told the first one is too long for an album, but Mais thinks they are both good, so let’s see”.
Speaking of Mais Hamdan one can say that Mai and Mais are two lava hot sisters who share a great portion of talent in the same field yet beautifully manage to maintain an own identity and celebrate their sisterhood and individuality. Although most people push them for duets they rather don’t fall into this cliché and chose meticulously, “we did the song ‘Ehlwet El Ayam’ together and people liked it a lot but other than that there are no good offers until now. I really enjoyed working with Mais on the duet but I wish to work with her on other projects. Mais has a lot of projects this year in TV and cinema and I’m very happy for her”.
Next month the blockbuster “The Dealer” starring action star Ahmed El Sakka and Khaled El Nabawy, a 25 million pound production written by Medhat El Adl and directed by Ahmed Saleh will be released showing us a totally different side of Mai Selim. “I was nominated for the movie by Ahmed El Sakka and Al Motaheda Production Company two years ago, and it was two years of ongoing hard work as we filmed in Ukraine, Turkey and Egypt and I learned a lot from Al Sakka. The whole crew saw that I was the only girl on set and everyone passed their advice to me, I really learned a lot from all of them”. “The Dealer” is a drama in which Mai plays a contradictive character ‘Samah’ who is loved by both El Sakka and El Nabawy. The character goes through a long journey in the movie starting with poverty and ending with addiction, pregnancy and divorce highlighting her shallowness and deepness in one character, “it’s a very hard character to play but El Sakka told me that he’s betting on me and that really means a lot to me. I really hope I’ve done well”.
Her acting ambitions don’t stop at “The Dealer” for she has strong aspiration for this to be just the beginning. “I wish I could play a mute woman. It would be great to act such role experiencing what she goes through as it’s very difficult and challenging not being able to communicate verbally. I would also love to do a musical, but this kind of genre unfortunately vanished years ago”.
Mai Selim is a very grounded ambitious young woman with a great portion of optimism, talent and discipline knowing that hard work pays off. Finding Mr. Right is never easy, especially when you are in the lime light and for successful women things often become more difficult. “Well, yeah it’s very difficult and yes, you are sometimes picky but people should know that an artist is like any other person. I guess what women want is tenderness, a person who is somehow patient and knows about God and that type takes care of his loved ones”. Mai wishes to get married and start a family soon “I hope by next year or something”, she laughs. At the end of the interview she handles me a bottle of icy water ‘for the road’ she insists and says while escorting me to the elevator that she spends her evenings cuddling up in the living room and goes to bed at midnight with very few nights out on her calendar.