Fairuz at Carnegie Hall in 1971
Fairuz (also spelled Fairouz) (Arabic: فيروز) (born 21 November 1935?) is a Lebanese singer greatly admired throughout the Arab world.
Fairuz was born Nouhad Haddad, her father is Wadee Haddad, mother Lisa Alboustani. Her family was an Orthodox family in the town of Jabal Al Arz and grew up in Beirut. She began her musical career as a member of the chorus of the Lebanese state radio network. Her talent was soon recognized and she was engaged for solo performances.
Shortly thereafter Fairuz began a long and fruitful collaboration with Assy and Mansour Rahbani, who wrote many songs for her. (Mansour wrote the lyrics and Assy, whom Fairuz married in 1954, composed the music). They started to receive invitations to travel to Cairo, Damascus, and other Arab cities to perform.
In 1971, Fairuz and the Rahbani brothers made a successful tour of the United States followed by visits to many other countries. Fairuz performed in Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Paris Olympia.
Fairuz's early recordings were an innovative mixture of Arab instruments and musical idioms with European instruments, such as violins, and dance rhythms, combining Fairuz's distinct vocal timbre with lyrics that expressed nostalgia for village life. Later recordings featured jazz-tinted compositions, some of which were written by her son, Ziad Rahbani.
Fairuz also starred in three motion pictures produced in the 1960s.
Her original name is Nouhad Haddad. She was born on November 21st, 1935 in a small house in 'zoukak el blatt' in Beirut. Her mother was a housewife and her father worked in a printing press. She was the oldest of her siblings, Yousef, Houda and Amal. Nouhad came from a relatively low-income family and lived in a one room-house with a kitchen shared by neighbors. She was a very shy child and did not have many friends at school. Instead, she was attached to her grandmother who lived in 'debbieh' village.
Since she was ten, Nouhad became well known in school for her beautiful voice, so she would sing at festivals and eids. One time, Mohammed Flaifel and his brother, well known Lebanese musicians, happened to be attending one of the festivals at her school. After hearing her sing, they negotiated with her father to have her come and study music.
Therefore, in December of 1946, Nouhad became a student in Flaifel's class in the Conservatoire (The National Music Institute) where she learned for four years theories of oriental and western music and how to sing and chant. Her parents encouraged her. Even though they couldn't afford much, one day her father surprised her with a radio [not sure if this is the right word in English??? not a boom-box since it had no tapes].
After graduation, she started her first job as a choir singer in the Lebanese Broadcasting Radio Station (al-iza'a al Loubnaniah). There she met Assi Rahbani and they worked together. In 1954, at nineteen years of age, Nouhad married Assi. Soon thereafter, the Rahbani brothers, Assi, Mansour, and Ellias formulated their company and began composing music for Fairouz (as Nouhad now came to be known). Her first official appearance was in 1957 in Damascus and as they say the rest became history in terms of her music career. The Rahbanis were mostly famous for their musical dialogues which they used in the many musical plays they wrote and directed. some focused on historical events and others on love and simplicity in the Lebanese countryside: 'Petra', 'Loulou', 'Al-mahata' (The Station), 'Mayess el-Reem', 'Hala wa al-Malek' (Hala and the King), 'Al-shakhiss' (The Person), 'Jebal al Siwan' (Siwan Mountains), and many more. They also had their share of movie production which included 'Safar Barlek' and Biya'h al-Khawatem' (The Ring Peddler). Fairouz performed in most countries around the world and was known for her songs about Lebanese nationalism and love and peace.
They had become Fairouz and the Rahbani Brothers, yielding smash records and performances month after month. They became the most famous music producing team of their time, as they spread beyond the Arab World and into Europe, the Americas, and Australia.
On the personal side, Fairouz had many struggles throughout her life. She gave birth to Ziad, then Hilli, Lial and finally Rima. Hilli became sick soon after his birth and became paralyzed for the rest of his life. She still takes care of him to this day. During that same time, her mother got sick and died. All these events left a great impact on her. Many believe that the song 'Bi Koukhna ya Bni' (lyrics by Michel Trad) talks about her son.
Some of the other obstacles that Nouhad had to face were her husband and his company. Assi and his brother interfered with every thing. They monitored Fairouz' every single move on and off stage. They first did not want her to act on television because they felt that people would not like her face up close. They also did not agree for her to work with other important musicians such as Mohamad Abd el Wahab and Philemon Wehbi. While traveling for a performance, she was not allowed to go out with the team, but had to stay in the hotel room to prevent illness. She was not allowed to talk with reporters unless questions were scrutinized and answers were prepared earlier. She knew nothing of the financial situation and never had money of her own.
When she decided that she wants to have plastic surgery for her nose, Assi thought the idea was unacceptable. As she insisted and finally had the operation, she felt stronger and that she could change things about her life. Ounsi el Hajj, a famous Lebanese poet and a good friend, wrote about her in the newspaper encouraging her to take control of her life and explaining the importance of financial independence for a women's liberty.
In 1972 her husband suffers a severe brain stroke that leaves him half-paralyzed. The last song he composed after that was Layali Shimal (The Nights of the North). Her son composes his first song for her titled "The People Asked Me" and dedicated to the fact that she appears on stage without her husband for the first time...
Assi's brother Mansour was the one who demanded control over all while Fairouz resisted insistently, until Assi had a massive brain stroke in 1972. The stroke damaged his brain and left him partly paralyzed since then. Assi took over and Fairouz worked along until they broke their partnership as she decided that he was moving away from the initial artistic line the three had created 20 years before in their songs, plays, and movies.
Ziad (15 years old) and Layal both left the home at a very early age because they were unhappy with the situation. She finally got the courage to leave Assi and they separated in 1979.
Now she realized that there are many musicians whom she could work with including her son Ziad. She produced five CD's with Ziad: Maarefti Feek (Knowing You) 'Keefak Inta' (How Are You?) in 1991, 'Ila Assi' (To Assi) in 1995, 'Mish Kayen Haik Tkoun' (That's Not How You Should Be) in 1999, and 'Wala Keef' (No How) in 2000 which were very controversial. People were not in general very willing to accept another image of Fairouz that Ziad and Fairouz wanted to create. They were too accustomed to the angelic, goddess-like, aloof image that Assi and his brothers created. The albums were massive successes though and they resonated with the younger generations at great scales and added masses of young fans to her all ready-wide fan base, and were highly appreciated by the older fans.
Fairouz once said in an interview that she had oppressed her smile in the past because she was put in the cage of formalities, but that she will always smile (we actually hear her smile in 'Keeifak Inta' CD). She also produced another CD with Zaki Nassif 'Fairouz sings Zaki Nassif' in 1994 and another of works with Philemon Wehbi 'Ya Rayeh' (Departed) in 1994. Fairouz said about Filmoun Wehbi "those you left behind have missed you, and all those who are still coming are going to love you". The two were very close friends and all critics agree that in spite of the few songs he'd given her (about 23) they are undoubtedly her best ever...
In 1986 her husband died after 7 years of total estrangement and 12 years after a massive brain stroke left him half-paralyzed. Philemon Wehbi dies a few months later after a long struggle with illness. He was one of her best friends, one of the most talented composers who'd given her her most emotional and successful songs, and the only composer she worked with outside the Rahbani structure. Her daughter Layal died a year after of a suicidal drug overdose. Her son Ziad then got into a messy divorce from his wife after one year of their son's birth. Another very close friend of the family, a famous doctor Fahim Dagher (who'd delivered 2 of Fairouz's children and was engaged to her sister, the singer Huda in the 60's) also goes through a a very public and difficult divorce from his notoriously famous wife.The scandal reaches its utmost when the wife tried to kill her own son and then tries to interfere into Fairouz's son's destroyed marriage. The final blow culminated in the death of her close friend, the doctor's older sister Alice Dagher due to kidney failure and pneumonia complications... Fairouz held on through all these difficulties and never failed to stay aloof all the pain.
During the war, Fairouz never left Lebanon and decided to stop singing because it pained her to see the Lebanese killing each other. She has held a number of huge, big-scale concert recitals in the past couple of years including one historic appearance in Baalbek (1998) after 20 years of absence. Another highlight is the massive concert at the Las Vegas MGM Arena (1999) which broke box-office sales records and over 14,000 Arabs flocked the city from all over the American continent and Europe to attend.
Some of her most excellent CDs include 'Fairouz Qased' (Fairouz Poems), 'Al Quds fil el Baal' (Jerusalem on Our Mind), 'Ma'akoum' (With You), 'Raj'oun' (We Are Returning), 'Qassidat Houb' (A Love Poem), 'Bi Layl wa Chiti' (At Night and in Rain), 'Christmas Carols', and 'Andalusiyat' (Andalusians).
She has sung about 1500 songs and sold millions and millions of records around the world, but what remains her greatest achievemnt in trms of vocal performance is the CD of the Ortodox Great Friday Prayers that she recorded in 1965 and then again in 1985, both live in churches. Her voice simply transcends the human hearing range and nature to reach an ethereal state that takes you beyond a mere hearing experience. Any one around the world who has the chance to hear her holy prayers, no matter what religion or sect, has the chance to experience heaven on earth...
This is what others have said about Fairouz:
"To the Arab world Fairouz came suddenly, as a miracle. At a time when Arabic singing was weighed down with convention and predictability, and spirits were nationally at their lowest, her voice rang, as though from the beyond, the notes of salvation and joy. Arabic music has never been the same since. Nostalgic but vibrant, sad but defiant, folkloric and yet so new, hers has been for nearly 30 years perhaps the only voice that seems so capable of jubilation in an almost cosmic sense. By turns mystic and amorous, elegiac and fiery, her singing has expressed the whole emotional scale of Arab life with haunting intensity. Often singers give listeners pleasure, as they expect. She often gives them, beyond their expectation, ecstasy"
Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (Syrian Author)
"After Years of thirst, a voice like fresh water has arrived. A cloud, a love-letter from another planet: Fairouz has overwhelmed us with ecstasy. Names and figures of speech remain too small to define her. She alone is our agency of goodwill, to which those of us looking for love and poetry belong. When Fairouz sings, mountains and rivers follow her voice, the mosque and the church, the oil-jars and loaves of bread; through her, every one of us is made to blossom, and once we were no more than sand; men drop their weapons and apologize. Upon hearing her voice, it is our childhood which being molded anew" Nizar Qabbani (Syrian Poet).
"The glory does not only lie in the fact that I live in the age of Fairouz, but also that I belong to her people. I have no country but her voice, no family but her people and no sun but he moon of her chanting in my heart" Ounsi el- Hajj (Lebanese Poet) [my translation].
-1957: Fairouz faces her audience for the first time through the TV show ‘Days of Harvest’ where she sang ‘Lebanon the Beautiful Green’.
-1957: The Rahbanis let down a request for Fairouz to sing at the presidential palace at the honor of the Shah of Iran, who was visiting at that time…
-1959: Baalbeck International Festivals.
-1960: Damascus International Exhibition Festivals. Civil unrest starts in Lebanon as the PLO refugees from Jordan settle in Lebanon.
-1961: Damascus International Festivals.
-1961: In Brazil and Argentina.
-1962: Fairouz in Albert-Hall in London.
-1962: Fairouz sales pass the 10 million mark to become first Arab female singer to achieve this number after Oum Koukthoum.
-1963: Baalbeck International Festivals.
-1964: In the Cedars Festival where she first sang Gibran’s ‘Give Me the Flute and Sing’. The song establishes her as the Arab World’s most prominent name in the music world.
-1966: In Kuwait.
-1966: In Damascus where she sang ‘The Bells of the Return’ for the Palestinian cause.
-1968: In Tunisia and Algeria.
-1969: In Damascus International Exhibition Festival where she sang for the first time, ‘Sheikh Mountain’, and ‘My Fear of the Night’s Dark’.
-1969: Fairouz records the Orthodox Great Friday Liturgy Hymns for the first time at the St, George Church in Achrafieh. The event set a tradition of Fairouz holding the Great Friday Funeral ceremony at a different church every year according to the Assyrian Orthodox liturgy.
-1969: Fairouz’s popularity soars to newer heights as her music is banned in her own country Lebanon by order of the government because she refused to sing at the honor of the Algerian president Hawari Bou Medyan.
-1970: In Morocco, Brazil, and Argentina.
-1971: A sold-out 11-city tour in the USA.
-1971: Release of “Fairouz in America’ a documentary about her tour, produced by Parker and Associates. The documentary became TV’s highest rated show in the Arab world.
-1972 (June 27): Assi Rahbani’s brain explodes, he suffers a severe hemorrhage that leaves him half-paralyzed.
-1973 (winter): Layali Shimal (The Nights of the North) is the last song to be composed by Assi Rahbani. Ziad Rahbani, their eldest son, composes the first song for his mother Fairouz title Saalouni Nnas (The People Asked Me), which relates to the absence of her husband from her side.
-1974: In the Kingdom of Oman.
-1975: In Baghdad, Iraq.
-1975: Fairouz refuses to sing at the honor of the Shah of Iran in the prestigious Pheonicia Hotel in Beirut during his visit to Lebanon.
-1976: In Cairo, Egypt. The biggest crowd in a stage ever since Oum Koulthoum sang in the same place 12 years before. Both ladies drew nearly 4500 people inside and well over 15,000 crowded outside and the area had to be blocked off for security.
-1976: In Morocco, where the king of Morocco attended personally at the Capitol’s Stadium, an exception to the tradition that a artists usually performed at the royal palace’s auditorium.
-1977: Good Friday prayers held in Sidnaya Holy shrine in Syria. The area was shut down one week before the event for security reasons as about 1600 people camped around the premises. About 6500 people attended the event and for the first time she sang ‘La Tanouhi’ (Don’t Weep).
-1978: In London, where she first sang ‘The Bus’, the last appearance with Nasri Shamseddine.
-1979: In Al-Sharika in the UAE.
-1979: In the Olympia Stadium, Paris, where she sang ‘I Love You Lebanon’ for the first time and one week after the PLO-Lebanese Phalange war expands to become a civil war between the Lebanese Christian Phalange and the Islamic Extremist Movements. It is also the last concert with husband Assi Rahbani before their separation. Fairouz total sales pass the 20 million for the decade of the 70’s.
-1979: Arab media goes into shock as the separation between Fairouz and husband Assy is officially announced. Ziad slowly takes over the reins of his mother’s musical career as composer and artistic manager.
-1981: In Brazil with son Ziad Rahbani.
-1981: In USA and Canada where ticket sales pass the 1 million mark.
-1982: In Egypt where she sings ‘Your Lute Is Loud’ for the first time in celebration of the PLO’s annihilation within Lebanon and the exile of Arafat out of Lebanon to Tunisia. In spite of its political inclinations, the song became the most successful for the year.
-1983: Jericho International Festivals.
-1984: In Australia, last concert with sister Huda as the two separate professionally as well.
-1985: Another Arab media shock wave as the professional separation of Fairouz and sister Huda is officially announced.
-1985: In Abu Dhabi, UAE.
-1985: In France.
-August 1985: In Basra International Festival, Syria. The biggest venue ever held in the Middle East, entrance was free and there were no tickets for sale. About 30,000 people camped outside several days before the event and 13,000 filled up the stadium by dawn time. All roads to the area were completely shut down the day of the concert. The concert started at 09:00 pm and ended by 01:00 am. The crowds were out of control and beyond reason with elation as they carried Fairouz’s car on their shoulders after the concert, all the way to Damascus, crossing well over 7000 Km. At Damascus, and for the first time and exception to tradition, president Hafez al-Asad bows to her as he greets her. “Bowing to the greatness of the Great One’ was the title of the next day’s newspapers. President Asad gave her the highest of honors in the nation.
-1986: In London, the Royal Hall Festival where ticket prices reached 1000 SP, she eclipsed Frank Sinatra at the ticket sales box-office, his concert was scheduled to take place two weeks after hers.
-1986: Good Friday at St, Elie church in Antelias area, in East Beirut. The Lebanese Forces militia had shut down the area for security precautions as 3500 people flocked to the area from all the over the divided nation and well over 1250 tourists also attended, in spite of the unstable security in Lebanon..
-1986: Fairouz is rushed to the hospital for exhaustion, at the same time her husband, after an estrangement of 7 year dies in the same hospital in the floor above. The two never divorced but were totally estranged for 7 years.
-1987: Tour in the USA.
-1987: First appearance on TV, the MBC Channel, since death of husband Assy. She sang for the first time ‘Ma2deret Nseet’ (I Couldn’t Forget) which was dedicated to her late husband. The show was the highest-rated of the year in the Arab World and the song became the most played song of the year on the radio stations.
-1987: In Bahrain, biggest Fairouz venue in the Gulf, VIP ticket prices reached $1,500 and well over 2,500 attended.
-1988: In Bercy, Paris.
-1988: In the Cathedral of Notre Dame where an Orthodox mass is held for the first time ever at the Catholic cathedral for the Orthodox Great Friday. Fairouz sang the traditional Orthodox Great Friday hymns. Well over 4500 people attended and 85 million people in the Arab world watched via satellite.
-1988: Death of daughter Layal of a suicidal drug overdose, after 3 years in rehabilitation.
-1989: Concert in Cairo. The Cancellation War starts in Lebanon.
-1989: Cancellation of a concert in London, due to the death of Alice Dager in Lebanon, one of Fairouz’s closest friends. Fairouz and Huda meet for the first time since 6 years at the funeral.
-1990: Concert in Dubai.
-1991: In Qatar. No tickets were released for sale, it was an all-invited event.
-1991: For the first time at the St.Charbel shrine, her first public appearance in Lebanon, where she holds the Great Friday ritual funeral prayers. Prayers for Lebanon and the martyrs are lifted upon the end of the 30-year civil war. Well over 750 people attended inside and around 1000 listened outside in spite of the strong rainstorm and still-insecure situation. She sings for the first time ‘With Us Is the Lord’ as it is enrolled into the Orthodox liturgical repertoire in Russia. It has been 90 years since a liturgical hymn has been added into the church’s official repertoire.
-1992: Good Friday prayers held in Balamand Monastery with out any advance notice. About 600 people were all ready present and about 1000 rushed to the area when the news spread.
-1993: Fairouz sues Madonna for $2.5 million for plagiarism over the Arab section-sampling in her song ‘Erotica’. The song contains a section of a Christian Great Friday hymn that translates ‘Today, He is held to a cross’ while Madonna repeats over her voice ‘All over me”. Upon the song’s release, the Vatican bans Madonna from entering its lands and she is banned on its radio stations. The song and its accompanying album are also banned in Lebanon. Sales of the song soar and reach 5 million units and an undisclosed settlement is reached between Fairouz and Madonna.
-1993: In Dubai, where she cried as she sang ‘Don’t Be Scared, Salem Is Sleeping and Not Feeling Cold’ (a song for the martyrs of Lebanon).
-1993: Good Friday prayers held at the St.Charbel shrine.
-1994: In London.
-1995: First concert in Lebanon since the end of the war, held in Sodeco square, the separation area between East and West Beirut, as to reunite the divided nation. Over 5,000 attended and the free event broke TV ratings as 125 million Arabs watched her via satellite. Millions were said to have cried as a video of the Lebanese war was shown while she sang the song ‘To Beirut’. The King of Saudi Arabia declares, “It was when Fairouz’s voice soared from its heart that we knew Lebanon is finally back.”
-1997: In Dubai, where she first sings ‘Greet Him for Me’.
-1998: In Bahrain.
-1998: In Tunisia, fist time since 1968.
-1998: Return to the Baalbeck International Festivals since 20 years of absence. Tickets sell out within the first day of sale and well over 16,000 people fill up the three massive stadiums of Baalbeck pillars.
-1998: The release of ‘Fairouz’ a documentary about the living legend’s childhood, life, the trip to glory with her husband and brothers in-law and how she became the symbol of a dying nation’s hope.
-1999: In the Kingdom of Oman.
-1999: At the MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, where she is reported to have brought in the biggest crowd ever since the late Frank Sinatra. Well over 14,000 people were estimated to be inside the stadium and over 5,000 outside.
1999: The release of “Arrab al Mowaed’ (The Time Is Approaching), a behind-the-scenes documentary of the legend’s record-breaking concert at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. The show was another record-breaking broadcast in the Arab World.
-2000: The Beiteddine Festivals.
-2001: The Beiteddine Festivals.
-2001: In Dubai.
-2001: In Kuwait.
-2001: In Switzerland.
-2002: In Dubai where she dedicated the event to the Intifada.
-2002: At St. George church, Achrafieh for the Orthodox Great Friday Funeral Ritual.
-2002: In Paris after 14 years of absence since the Great Friday mass in Notre Dame. Well over 2500 attend.
-2002: In Beiteddine. Fairouz performs for the first time without her son Ziad.
-2003: In Dubai, where she first sings ‘Small Thing’ and ‘He’s a Loss’.
-2003: At the St.Georgeos Church in Downtown Beirut for the Orthodox Great Friday Funeral Ritual. 3500 camped outside the cathedral a few days in advance and 600 came on the day of the event. Fairouz had to be flown along with her crew and assistant in a helicopter.
-2003: In Doha, Qatar.
-2003: Beiteddine Festivals where she sings new songs for the first time since Wala Kief.CD.
-2003: First major multi-state USA tour since the 70’s, and announcement of a new CD release by 2004.
-2003: Fairouz blocks the release of ‘We Loved Each Other so Much’ in Lebanon. The documentary was made by Dutch director Jack Janssen and it talks about the old Lebanese days of economic growth and luxury and the fall into the bloody chaos as Fairouz’s voice remained the only ray of hope. The movie is screened in several festivals around the world but not inside Lebanon…
-2004: At the Church of St. Elias al-Kantari in West Beirut, near Downtown. An Orthodox Great Friday mass is held in the middle-sized Maronite church. Well over 2000 people crowded the inside and about 3000 camped outside.
-2004 (Sept.): First appearance in the year at the University Arena in Jordan, the tickets sold out in 1 day and well over 6,500 attended the event.
-2004 (Dec. 12): Tickets sell out completely for 2 venues in Montreal, Canada for Feb. 13 and 14, 2005.
-2005 (Feb.): The biggest venue in Canada, 6000 attend the first concert and 11,000 the second concert a night later. Her first concert in Canada after 24 years, since her Legend and Legacy Tour in 1981.
-2005: Fairouz declines to perform the Western Great Friday Funeral Mass due to the returned civil unrest in the country that followed the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri a month earlier. The only statement her media office released to the press was “I will not sing to a divided people…”
-April 05, 2005: A Gulf-based business magazine makes a poll about the Arab World’s most powerful singers and she places in at second place with a fortune worth $ 36.9 million, an artistic archive of plays, concert performances, and photos worth an estimated $ 20.8 million, and a music back catalog worth an estimated $ 30 million.