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August 6, 2000

Fairouz mesmerizes emotional Beiteddine
Saturday, August 05, 2000 (Cyberia Editorial Team)

Fairouz, Lebanon’s “neighbor of the moon,” mesmerized the audience at Sahrat Fairouz wa Ziad al Rahbany, the closing and crowning act of the Beiteddine Festival.

When Fairouz entered the stone courtyard of Beiteddine palace Friday night, the entire audience gave her a standing ovation. Her beautiful singing – untarnished by age - left many with tears in their eyes, and in the end they just would not let her leave.

Looking more modern than usual in a fire-engine red wraparound dress, her auburn hair cut bluntly above her shoulders and simply coiffed, Lebanon’s living legend stood on stage in her characteristic stiff-backed pose and, occasionally moving her left hand for emphasis, delivered a selection of old and new songs, channeling all her emotions into her instantly recognizable voice.

Chosen by her son Ziad, who produced the concert, the 30 featured songs and orchestral pieces were received with almost religious joy by both the graying Fairouz fans and the younger set who hold Ziad – a rather revolutionary character whose irreverent music is much influenced by Jazz and Blues - in the same esteem as his iconic mother.

Under a crescent moon and the occasional shooting star, Fairouz was accompanied by her son on piano, a 50 person orchestra (conducted by Karen Dugaryan) and 14 person choir.

The show featured a few of the nostalgic, nationalistic anthems of the war years but even the new compositions weren’t unfamiliar to the receptive audience. Most of the songs were either composed by Ziad or taken from the hugely popular Rahbany brothers musicals that hurtled Fairouz to fame in pre-war Lebanon.

Fairouz’s singing, which had kept the hope of the Lebanese people alive throughout the dark years of the civil war, evoked again the powerful emotions of those times, especially with the older songs. When she sang Btitloj il Dinni (When it snows), taken from The Return of the Baalbek Soldiers musical, telling the story of a woman who has lost her love to the war, tears were streaming down faces as they sang along. “When it snows/ and when there is sunshine/ O Lebanon I will love you until the end of the world/ I will hide you in my eyes/ and tell you a song/ your snow is love/ and your sunshine is freedom.”

The audience was silent and contemplative at times and raucous at others with people standing on their chairs to dance and clap to old numbers like Nassam alayna al Hawa (The wind is blowing upon us) in which she asks the wind blowing in from the valley to take her back to her country. Another song evoking party-mode in the audience was one of Ziad’s own, Talfan Ayyash (Ayyash phoned), never sung by Fairouz before, taken from Ziad’s album Be Ma Inno.

The climax of the concert was Sabah oo Masa (Morning and evening) a previously unreleased plaintive love song. Accompanied only by Ziad on piano, Fairouz sang: “Morning and evening/ something that cannot be forgotten/ I left love/ and took sadness/will my love return?/ morning and evening.” The audience, hearing those words for the first time responded with shouts of appreciation and applause. Even members of the chorus and orchestra, stopped and watched her with transfixed expressions.

After two intense hours the audience still wanted more and demanded that Fairouz came back on stage for an encore. She sang three more songs for them, and even tried to appease them with classics like Nahna wil Qamar Jiran (We and the moon are neighbors) and Oudak Ghannan (Your oud is a singer). But this still wasn’t enough. In the end Fairouz came out dressed in sparkling white just like her neighbor the moon, and graciously thanked the audience before walking off stage for the last time.

Fairouz is performing on Saturday August 6 and Tuesday August 8.

Written by: Munira Khayyat


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