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|THE SOUL OF AMERICA
February 16, 2016 - The GULF Times / Elvis Express Radio
Sometime in August 2013, Lisa Bseiso went to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. The former home of Elvis Presley, the world’s most famous rock n’ roll residence, and one of
America’s most visited private homes with more than 650,000 visitors a year; Graceland is also the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Elvis fans.
COMMITTED: Lisa Bseiso says the mission of the Elvis Fan Club of Qatar is “to celebrate the life, times & talent that he shared & continues to share with all of us.”
As Bseiso took the famous tour of the Graceland Mansion, she chanced upon a moment of clarity, a calling, if you may, that she had to do something else with her time. “It all
started to manifest as I walked past the Jungle Room, that is when I had a deep feeling, a ‘coming home’ realisation, a connection with Graceland and the people of Tennessee, its
beautiful rolling hills and flowing streams, and most importantly, a spiritual connection with the deep southern roots of Elvis’ music,” Bseiso says.
Formed in November 2014, the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar is quite the exception in the Arab World. The first such fan club in Qatar and in the Middle East, it is officially
recognised and approved by Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. With the ongoing Discover America Week hosting three big ticket Elvis events, Bseiso, the president of
the fan club, couldn’t be happier for Doha’s entire spotlight on The King. Community caught up with her for a chat:
THE CLUB: Members of the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar.
That trip to Graceland Mansion must surely have felt fabulous.
I can’t tell you how uplifting and peaceful it felt to be in the home of such a legendary figure in pop culture history. It resonated within my soul and spoke so aloud that I needed to
pursue being a part of his legacy and help others understand him, his life, his dream, his art and his deep love for the human spirit which resonated in all his charitable acts. So my
mission now is to bring that heart of Elvis Presley to the Middle East so that people here can appreciate his legacy and get to know the “soul” of America.
How and why did this fan club come to be formed here in Qatar?
Two years after that, after following the proper steps and under the approval, support and guidance of Elvis Presley Enterprise/Graceland, the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of
Qatar was born. Our mission is to raise awareness and understanding about Elvis Presley, and celebrate the life, times and talent that he shared and still continues to share with all
It must have been a great experience to helm such a club.
Well, last August, I had the honour of being interviewed by Elvis Radio on Sirius XM FM, and on TV during this year’s Elvis Week 2015 in Graceland — it’s on our website www.
qatarelvisfans.qa I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet various official Fan Club Presidents from all over the world, some having been Fan Club Presidents since 1956. They
were so happy to see the presence of new, young energy stepping into the roots of where they had once been and playing a vital role in spreading the legacy, because, as they
had told me, their “era of Elvis fans” is fading out and it was my responsibility to continue it. This sentiment was further echoed by Priscilla Presley and Jack Soden, the CEO of Elvis
Presley Enterprises. After we were introduced, they were both extremely happy and amazed to know that there was genuine interest about Elvis in the Middle East and said they
would love to visit Qatar. So far, we have succeeded in achieving this goal and as we journey forward, we come ever closer to achieving our mission.
With what sort of events and activities The Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar does to keep The King’s legacy alive?
The club is still young, but so far we have had some fun Elvis meet-ups, movie nights and active participation on our web page. The pinnacle so far have to be the three events at
the Grand Hyatt (as part of Discover America Week): yesterday’s (Wednesday) ‘Elvis & Me: My Lifelong Friendship With the King’ talk by Presley’s trust friend and confidant Jerry
Schilling, and then the Jailhouse Brunch tomorrow, and Elvis Under the Stars: Al Fresco Movie & BBQ Nite on Saturday. These events will be the “inauguration” of the Fan Club. We
also plan to represent Qatar this year at Elvis Presley Enterprise/Graceland annual tribute to Presley called “Elvis Week”. Each August, Elvis fans from around the world come
together to celebrate his music, movies and legacy. Elvis Week includes traditional events such as the Elvis Fan Club Presidents Event, Graceland Insiders Event, Ultimate Elvis
Tribute Artist Contest and an Elvis candlelight vigil on the eve of Elvis’ untimely passing, apart from special concerts, panel discussions, dances and much more.
Tell us more about these events and the involvement of the region’s fans.
In 2017, we hope to participate in Elvis Presley Enterprise’s annual event in which they look for the “best representation of the legacy of Elvis Presley.” So, every year, 24 of the
best Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs) from around the world travel to Memphis during Elvis Week to compete. We hope to have a Middle East preliminary ETA competition for Elvis
impersonators in the Middle East to compete and go represent the Arab World at Elvis Week 2017. The winner will receive the title of Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist, recognition by
Elvis Presley Enterprises, a cash prize of $20,000, a contract to perform with Legends in Concert and a selection of other valuable prizes.
How responsive has Qatar and the region been to the Elvis fan club? Do you have fans on social media as well?
We have had a wonderful response so far from the community here in Qatar and we continue to receive enquiries for membership on a daily basis, and anyone who would like to
become a member can mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org However, for us, it’s more about creating a club of quality than quantity, so we like to ensure that every possible member
wants to genuinely and honestly join because he or she wants to be a positive and active figure in the Fan Club and is committed to it. Today, we have 30 loyal fan club members in
Qatar from all over the world and of all ages and backgrounds. We are like a little family. On our Facebook page, The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar, we have 3,050
members and this number continues to grow every day. This is the beauty of Elvis Presley; 39 years since his sad demise, his aura still resonates with that universal power and
charisma, connecting people from all over the world.
How has the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar (AmCham Qatar) supported the fan club’s work?
In September 2015, when I was finalising everything with Elvis Presley Enterprise Inc. for the creation of the fan club, I had approached AmCham Qatar to see how I could work with
them during their annual Discover America Week, to celebrate the spirit of American business, culture, history and music in Qatar, and what better way to do that than by
showcasing and paying tribute to Elvis, the King of Rock n’ Roll. As a result, the partnership between the fan club and AmCham Qatar developed. The Collaboration with AmCham
Qatar has meant a lot to me especially since they were the ones who gave me unconditional support, motivation and the push to really take off. Theresa Backus Dunn, the
AmCham Qatar Executive Director, believed in me and in the mission of the Fan Club, which further energised my hard work.
Personally, what about Elvis’ music do you think makes it timeless?
It’s a question I have tried to answer so many times. At its simplest, the Elvis charm is derived from a unique combination of looks, voice and the extraordinary name. His music
provided the bedrock of affection. An early, untimely death brings its own fascination but even beyond that, his life presented a whole series of plotlines — a rare combination of
fairytale and tragedy. There was the dirt-poor boy who became rich beyond his wildest dreams; the dangerous rebel who outraged the country, and then joined the army; the global
superstar who barely left America. But above all, his voice survived. The sheer beauty of his voice meant it didn’t have to be hyped up or imitative of anyone else to achieve its
effect. Elvis had such great soul. He had the gift to make everyone in the audience think that he was singing directly to him or her. As former American president Jimmy Carter said
in 1977, in his official statement following Elvis’ death, “Elvis had an influence on everybody with his musical approach. He broke the ice for all of us…” John Lennon followed this up
by saying, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”