DUBAI: She is the Arab world’s biggest residing musical icon, however Fayrouz stays an enigma. She retains a sometimes-infuriating aura of thriller, hardly ever giving interviews and ardently defending the privateness of her household. On stage she seems devoid of emotion — immobile and expressionless. These traits have themselves change into iconic, with Fayrouz’s putting however impassive options adorning all the pieces from purses and posters to Beirut’s metropolis partitions.
Born Nouhad Haddad in 1934, throughout the course of her profession Fayrouz has recorded lots of of songs, starred in dozens of musicals and flicks, and toured the world. From 1957 onwards, when she first carried out on the Baalbeck Worldwide Competition, she has change into one of many Arab world’s most beloved singers. And in doing so she would unite her often-fractious homeland.
All Lebanese bear in mind the primary time they heard Fayrouz. For Tania Saleh, it was throughout a drive to Syria to flee the start of the Lebanese Civil Battle. She remembers one tune specifically — “Roudani Ila Biladi” (Take Me Again To My Homeland).
“That tune actually marked me,” says Saleh, a singer-songwriter and visible artist. “My mom was crying whereas she was driving and the tune created this actually intense emotional second. And I bear in mind pondering, ‘How can a tune have an effect on somebody a lot? It’s only a tune.’ Nevertheless it affected me, too, in a fashion that I didn’t perceive again then.”
Fayrouz remained in Lebanon for everything of the conflict and refused to take sides. Though she continued to sing in venues the world over, she didn’t carry out in Lebanon till the battle was over. This neutrality, and the patriotic nature of a lot of her songs, meant she was a uncommon image of nationwide unity, with all sides listening to her music all through the 15 years of civil conflict. She was, as Saleh says, an “emotional anchor for all Lebanese throughout the conflict,” no matter faith or political views. When she launched “Li Beirut“ (organized and tailored by her son Ziad Rahbani) in 1984, Fayrouz and Beirut turned inseparable. Greater than ever she embodied the very essence of what it meant to be Lebanese.
None of which might have been potential with out the music of the Rahbani Brothers. Fayrouz, who was a refrain singer at Radio Lebanon within the early Nineteen Fifties, met Mansour and Assi Rahbani by means of the composer Halim El-Roumi in 1951. She went on to marry Assi just a few years later and collectively the trio would revolutionize widespread Lebanese music. The Rahbani Brothers fused musical genres, together with Levantine folkloric traditions and the music of Latin America, and included each Western and Russian components into their compositions. It was Fayrouz, nevertheless, who gave voice to their musical imaginative and prescient.
Fayrouz sang of an nearly legendary Lebanon. She sang of affection and need, but in addition of an idealized Lebanese mountain village, of olive bushes and jasmine, of vineyards and streams. “Lyrically, they created the Lebanon we now love,” says Saleh of the brothers, who adopted within the footsteps of writers resembling Khalil Gibran and Mikhail Naimy, who helped to forge a romanticized picture of Lebanon that a lot of its residents nonetheless cling to immediately.
Because the Palestinian poet and movie director Hind Shoufani notes, Fayrouz represents “the village lady, the tales of affection, the fetching of contemporary water, the mountain, the resistance, the ability of the folks; that form of easy, stunning each day existence that’s in concord with nature.” As such, her songs have an extra, heartbreaking poignancy, as a result of the Lebanon she sings of bears no resemblance to the Lebanon of immediately. She sings of a fading dream — one that’s shared by a lot of the Arab world.
That imaginative and prescient was rooted in Lebanon’s golden age, with Fayrouz intimately linked to the formation of a nationwide cultural id within the years following independence from France. Because the acclaimed indie-music producer Zeid Hamdan says, Fayrouz would carry that id “with magnificence and depth like no different singer.”
Fayrouz and the Rahbani Brothers modified widespread Arabic music without end. Umm Kulthoum, one other icon of the Arab world, sang songs of affection that would final for as much as an hour and had been deeply embedded within the tarab custom. The songs of Fayrouz and the Rahbani Brothers, nevertheless, had been far shorter, utilized the Lebanese dialect, and embraced new melodic varieties.
“As a musician, I’m very impressed by the dialect that Fayrouz sings,” says Hamdan, “arguably finest often known as one half of the trip-hop duo Soapkills. “It’s not solely classical Arabic, it’s typically fashionable Lebanese, and the Rahbanis — from Assi to Ziad — used the Lebanese dialect in a really intelligent means all through their repertoire.”
Hamdan was launched to Fayrouz within the late Nineties by Yasmine Hamdan (no relation), his Soapkills associate. Inspired by her, he purchased a double K7 cassette of Fayrouz’s “Andaloussiyat” and instantly fell in love with three tracks, considered one of which was “Ya Man Hawa.”
“The lyrics are merely unimaginable,” he says. “It’s a type of poetry that’s a number of hundred years outdated known as muwashshah and I want I might do justice to the fantastic thing about the phrases.” One other was “Yara El Jadayel,” on which, at a sure level, Fayrouz “sings at a really excessive pitch and really softly, the melody nearly whispered on a piano arpeggio”.
It’s the surprise and flexibility of Fayrouz’s voice that continues to entrance audiences the world over. El-Roumi thought her voice so stunning that he gave her the nickname Fayrouz (Arabic for turquoise) and went on to change into the primary individual to compose for her.
“Fayrouz has some of the distinctive voices within the Arab world,” says Egyptian-Belgian singer Natacha Atlas, who has labored with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Nitin Sawhney. “One can at all times inform that it’s (her) voice. It’s as delicate as it’s stunning and powerful, and her voice’s capability to (carry) such sturdy feelings is at all times extraordinary. She is considered one of my biggest influences. After I hear her, I typically soften in tears on the sheer great thing about her voice and the way it additionally evokes a deep nostalgia in me for the Center East because it as soon as was, and the way all the pieces has modified nearly past recognition.”
Fayrouz’s fame exterior of the Levant can be traced again to her help of the Palestinian trigger. As early as 1957, Fayrouz and the Rahbani Brothers launched “Rajioun” (We Will Return), a group of pro-Palestinian anthems. This was adopted in 1967 by the discharge of “Al-Quds Fil Bal” (Jerusalem In My Coronary heart), and as lately as 2018 she was nonetheless dedicating songs to Palestinians killed on Gaza’s border with Israel.
When her husband’s well being started to fail within the Seventies, Fayrouz started to collaborate extra intently along with her son Ziad — the eldest of her 4 youngsters. One of many albums composed and organized by him was “Wahdon,” which was launched on the Zida file label in 1979 and contains the tune “Al Bosta.”
“I cherish and love her expertise with Ziad,” says Saleh. “The albums that she did with him took her to jazz and bossa nova and generally to funk. This gave Fayrouz one other dimension — that of the chance taker. She went out of her consolation zone, and that’s very uncommon.”
This helped to cement her popularity with a youthful technology and she or he continues to evoke a deep sense of nostalgia, not solely among the many Lebanese, however throughout the Levant and North Africa. Many Lebanese nonetheless begin their day listening to Fayrouz’s songs and, regardless of household disputes over royalties, her controversial efficiency in Damascus in 2008, and accusations of plagiarism directed on the Rahbani household, her standing as a cultural icon endures. When the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon in 2020, he selected the house of Fayrouz as considered one of his first ports of name, not these of the nation’s political leaders.
“They described this stunning Lebanon and so they made us dream that that is our nation, which was truly only a image they’d created,” says Saleh of Fayrouz and the Rahbani Brothers. “We had been on the lookout for it: ‘The place is that this Lebanon you’re speaking about guys?’ We had been at all times looking for it however we by no means did. However fortunately they did create this picture, as a result of the bond that we’ve got with our nation is principally due to them.”