A gem in her own right, Oumeima el Khalil has spent the better part of the last 3 decades building a colorful career for herself. Between her collaborative and solo projects, her multidimensional identity invokes a humanist quality to her presence and art, which immediately catches the attention of all who know her, and love her.
Starting her career at the ripe age of 4, Oumeima spent more time singing and composing than socializing. Initiating her stage presence at that time through end-of-year performances at the cultural center in her hometown of the West Bekaa. According to Oumeima, her biggest supporters and mentors were her father and Father Hanna, the community’s priest. Sending her to the Lebanese Conservatory for Music in the midst of the civil war, Oumeima honed in on her raw talent and acquired skills through practicing by performing pieces by the greats Asmahan, and Fairouz.
After making her TV debut in a documentary special on France’s Canal 9, and on Sharif el Akhawi’s radio show, Nozha Promenade, in which a 5-year-old Oumeima was placed center stage. As such, the large audience bases attracted a lot of attention and ultimately put the spotlight on Oumeima; becoming one of the many stepping-stones of her career.
By the time she was 7 years old, Oumeima met a young up & coming talent, Marcel Khalife. Still finding his own sound and niche in the industry in the early ‘70s, Marcel was interested in mentoring and after a trip to the West Bekaa in the late ‘70s where Oumeima auditioned for him; he invited the young starlet to his home studio in Beirut where the Mayadeen Group was born.
In 1979, in the thick of the Lebanese Civil War, Oumeima began traveling out of the West Bekaa in to Beirut to regroup with Khalife and the Group, recording and performing under the guidance and direction of Khalife. Renowned singles such as “Asfour”, “Nameh ya Zgheere”, “Amar il Mraye”, “Ya M’alimti” (“il Wlad Wil Deeb”), which the little songstress had memorized and recorded at Khalife’s home studio in Beirut in under a week. This also marked the beginning of the annual recordings such as “Khodarjiyeh”, “Police is-Sharah”, and “Shaware’ Beirut”.
By 16, with her father’s blessings, Oumeima was already on her first American tour which took her and Marcel to over 16 states, as well as Panama, Columbia and Venezuela, to play non-profit concerts to raise money for the Najdi Hospital in Nabatiyeh. This would later define both Oumeima and Marcel’s humanist approach to performing arts. As Oumeima would put it, “a voice with a purpose”.
At the ripe age of 18, Oumeima enrolled at university to major in Psychology, and continued travelling, touring and recording which ultimately took precedence over her studies. For Oumeima, the stage felt like home and offered her a platform to experiment musically. She got her first shot at recording with an orchestra under Ahmad Al Arabi, with Ziad Rahbani at the helm of the mixing board as producer.