GREECE – Sarbel was born and raised in Southgate, London, England, to a Cypriot father, Elias, himself a singer and bouzouki player, and a Lebanese Maronite mother, a lawyer. Sarbel’s family made frequent summer trips to Greece and Cyprus.
He received a Jesuit education at St Ignatius’ College in Enfield. Sarbel studied music (voice), drama, art, and performing arts. From the age of 5 to 16 he performed at the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and has recorded Tosca in English for Chandos Recordings as the shepherd boy.
He was named after the Maronite Saint Charbel and his name is correctly pronounced “Sharbel”, but since standard Greek lacks a “sh” sound, it is pronounced “Sarbel” according to the Greek transliteration.
Sarbel sang yearly at St Ignatius and other talent shows.
Seeing his growing popularity, Greek television ERT asked Sarbel to compete for a ticket to represent Greece in the Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki, Finland. Sarbel had to compete against established singer Christos Dantis and fellow newcomer singer Tamta.
Sarbel enlisted the help of popular Greek-Swedish composers Alex Papacostantinou, Marcus Englof, and Mack to write his song, who are responsible for many of popular Greek singer Elena Paparizou’s hits.
They wrote the song “Yassou Maria”, which is performed in English with only the word ‘yassou’ (and the name ‘Maria’) being Greek. There is also a version released in a mix of Greek and English.
On 28 February 2007, Sarbel performed the song live against the two singers for the ticket. Although the performance had some sound problems, he went on to receive 39.69% of the combined televotes and jury votes, winning the contest.
In an interview in March 2007, Sarbel made it clear that he doesn’t want an international career by saying
“I don’t care either being famous abroad or starting an international career. I only care for Greece. I grew up abroad but choose to live in Greece. I can’t tell you whether Eurovision helps my career or not, because I don’t know. It’s very dangerous. However, it is an experience I want to live. I want to have fun in the Contest and do my best.”.
Following the win, Sarbel toured Europe to promote his song. He also filmed the video clip for the song and changed the scene performance around a bit. The song eventually placed 7th at the Eurovision Song Contest 2007.
On 12 March 2007, Sahara was re-released as Sahara: Euro Edition and feature the “Yassou Maria” CD single as a bonus. The CD single for “Yassou Maria” was released on 7 March 2007.
The CD single includes “Yassou Maria”, “Yassou Maria (Greeklish version)”, “Enas Apo Mas (Special Holiday Mix)” and a duet with Persian singer Cameron Cartio called “Mi Chica” which was recorded in a mixture of Greek, English, Spanish and Persian and is Latin in style with Greek pop elements.