Fairuz: the Arab world's most celebrated living voice

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, June 22, 2024

Fairuz: the Arab world's most celebrated living voice
A file photo taken on October 7, 2010 shows Lebanese diva Fairuz (Fairouz) performing during a rare concert in the Lebanese capital Beirut. The Arab world's last living music legend Fairuz, who French president Emmanuel Macron is to visit Monday in Beirut, is a rare symbol of national unity in crisis-hit Lebanon. Since the death of Egyptian diva Um Kulthum in 1975, no Arab singer has been so profoundly venerated as 84-year-old Fairuz -- a stage name that means "turquoise" in Arabic. Joseph EID / AFP.

by Rana Moussaoui

BEIRUT (AFP).- The Arab world's last living music legend Fairuz, whom French President Emmanuel Macron visited Monday in Beirut, is a rare symbol of national unity in crisis-hit Lebanon.

Since the death of Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum in 1975, no Arab singer has been so profoundly venerated as 85-year-old Fairuz -- a stage name that means "turquoise" in Arabic.

For decades, she captivated audiences everywhere from her native Beirut to Las Vegas, including the grand Olympia in Paris and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

She has sung of love, Lebanon and the Palestinian cause, in ballads that have revolutionised Middle Eastern music.

Fairuz is "certainly one of the greatest Arab singers of the 20th century," expert in Middle Eastern music Virginia Danielson told the New York Times in 1999.

When she sang, she appeared as if in a trance: eyes glazed over, expression stoic, small smiles flashing quickly across her face.

"If you look at my face while I am singing, you will see that I am not there, I am not in the place," she told the New York Times in a rare interview.

"I feel art is like prayer."

Fairuz has been dubbed "our ambassador to the stars" by her compatriots -- not just for her celestial voice, but because she is a rare symbol of unity for a country bitterly divided by a 15-year civil war.

'I love you, oh Lebanon'
Born Nouhad Haddad in 1934 to a working class Christian family, she studied at the national music conservatory as a teenager.

During her time with the Lebanese state radio choir, composer Halim al-Roumi nicknamed her Fairuz and introduced her to composer Assi Rahbani, whom she married in 1955.

Fairuz, Assi, and his brother Mansour revolutionised traditional Arabic music by merging classical Western, Russian and Latin elements with eastern rhythms and a modern orchestra.

Fairuz shot to fame after her first performance at the Baalbeck International Festival in 1957.

Her reign as the queen of Arabic music was partly thanks to her championing the Palestinian cause, including "Sanarjaou Yawman" or "We Shall Return One Day", an elegy to Palestinians exiled by the creation of Israel in 1948.

The star is an immortal icon in her native Lebanon.

Many of her most popular songs are nostalgic odes to pastoral times. Others are poems by the likes of Lebanese legends Gibran Khalil Gibran and Said Aql that are set to music.

She has largely disappeared from public life in recent years, but her soaring voice remains ubiquitous, blaring every morning from radios in street cafes and taxis.

"When you look at Lebanon now, you see that it bears no resemblance to the Lebanon I sing about, so when we miss it, we look for it through the songs," the diva told the New York Times.

Fairuz also won national acclaim for remaining in Lebanon throughout the country's civil war from 1975 to 1990, and for refusing to side with one faction over another.

Tens of thousands of people swarmed her first post-war concert, in 1994 in Beirut's downtown.

"I love you, oh Lebanon, my country, I love you. Your north, your south, your valley, I love you," she croons in one of her most well-known songs.

Political, family controversies
Fairuz is famously protective of her personal life.

"When she wants to, she can be really funny. She's also a distinguished chef. Very humble, she loves serving her guests herself," journalist Doha Chams, her press officer, told AFP.

But she hates "the invasion of her private life".

Fairuz had four children with husband Assi Rahbani, who died in 1986.

Their daughter Layal died at a young age of a brain haemorrhage, their son Hali is disabled, and Rima, the youngest, films and produces her mother's concerts.

Her eldest son, Ziad, followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle as a musician and composer.

Fairuz worked closely with Ziad, known as the "enfant terrible" of the Lebanese stage and song, to compose music with a jazz influence.

The Lebanese star's recent past has been marked by a string of family and political controversies.

In 2008, when Lebanese political factions were fiercely divided over support for the regime in neighbouring Syria, Fairuz performed in Damascus.

Two years later, the Lebanese judiciary prevented her from singing tunes co-written by the Rahbani brothers without the authorisation of the sons of her brother-in-law Mansour.

Fairuz spent several years without new material until 2017, when her daughter Rima produced her last album, "Bibali".

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

September 2, 2020

Ashmolean uncovers painting from Rembrandt's workshop

Clyfford Still: The Late Works catalog investigates the artist's late works in painting and drawing

This unsung genius has a solo show in Georgia

City of London reviews monuments linked to slavery

Gandhi's iconic glasses sell for $340,000 in UK

Tom Joyce joins Gerald Peters Contemporary

Rothschilds' portrait of young Elizabethan adventurer falsely accused of being part of the Gunpowder Plot comes to aucti

Roanoke's 'lost colony' was never lost, new book says

The Chinese Art Market: Christie's Education announces virtual international academic conference

Joe Ruby, a creator of 'Scooby-Doo,' is dead at 87

Aldir Blanc, lyricist who pushed Samba's boundaries, dies at 73

The 1938 Superman comic book that helped take down a cheap imitator called Wonder Man heads to auction

There'll be a theater season. But how and where and when?

Adirondack Experience Museum announces building project to create new space for fine art collection

Fairuz: the Arab world's most celebrated living voice

Bruneau & Co. announces results of Estate Fine Art & Antiques Auction

Petzel appoints Ricky Lee as Director of Communications

Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino's new gallery tower to feature expansive, interactive art program

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson presents a new commission from Jibade-Khalil Huffman

Up on the roof, flesh and blood dancers move and connect

Whimsical, romantic exhibit opening at Missoula Art Museum

Guild Hall announces outdoor installation by inaugural community-artist-in-residence Monica Banks

New Orleans Museum of Art unveils commissioned work by Roberto Lugo

Tips on How to Get a Job for College Students

Helpful Tips for Storing Art Properly

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful