Lydia Canaan

Activist Type
Human Rights

Lydia Canaan is a Lebanese activist and UN delegate, but to millions around the world she is better known as “the first rock star of the Middle East.”

Canaan was the first Middle Eastern artist to sing solely in English and her musical career was marked by her rebuking of tradition and breaking through gender barriers that had been present in the region for centuries. Many of Lydia’s early performances in the 1980s occurred adjacent to bombing sites in an effort to protest the raging conflict of the Lebanese Civil War. Despite death threats and the proximity of violence, she continued to perform in an effort to spread her message of unity in a time of war and uncertainty. 
Following her musical success, Canaan would go on to deliver many speeches at humanitarian conferences, including several at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Canaan received media attention for one address in particular in which she criticized many nations for the lack of implementation of human rights initiatives outlined by the United Nations and sang an a cappella verse of her activist anthem “Humanity Wake Up and Fight”. Never afraid to use her platform, Lydia Canaan has more recently been vocal in speaking out against the terrorist actions of groups like ISIS, which have mirrored the violence she once experienced in the civil war of her home country.

Artwork by
Anne Di Lillo

Lydia was the first female rock star in Lebanon. Despite a civil war and a conservative society, she fronted rock bands, wore what she wanted, and took Lebanese music into the 21st century. Her portrait is a collage that I imagine a young fan creating during Canaan’s early years, to give them hope and optimism for their own future.


Lebanon Flag
November 22, 1943
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