Major Event – Fairuz & Lebanon: A Tangled Tale
Fairuz & Lebanon: A Tangled Tale
A year and a half since the pandemic hit in March, Istanbul&I finally decided to throw its first special Introduction to Culture night for its internal volunteers to bond and socialize at the Istanbul&I office. The culture night’s theme was a smooth walkthrough of Fairuz and the Rahbanis’ influence on Lebanese music. The event was led by our fellow volunteers, Hajar Elassi and Ahmad Remmo, who were joined by Ghais Alhasan during the singing part. Our twenty attending volunteers enjoyed the thorough presentation that Hajar and Ahmad gave, afterward savored authentic Lebanese goodies, and finally sang along with the trio of volunteers who performed a selection of iconic Fairuz songs.
Hajar and Ahmad made sure to give an accurate portrayal of their topic to the volunteers. The reason Fairuz songs are familiar and relatable to any listener, they explained, lies in the music or melody of the songs. When the Rahbani Brothers composed the songs, they drew inspiration from regional folklore and international classical music. The presenters showed that the song, Li Beirut (To Beirut) was originally based on Concierto de Aranjuez Second Movement, and Ya Ana Ya Ana’s (Either I) progression is the refrain of Mozart’s 40th Symphony. At first, it might sound like the Rahbanis intentionally attempted plagiarism to compose their music. However, that is an unfair claim to make. One ought to consider the 1960s setting of the Rahbanis and Fairuz when restrictions on copyright infringement were quite loose; thus, it was not stealing per se, as much as it was adapting the music to fit a Lebanese context. That allowed for cultural blending, thus elevating the musical scenery and the Lebanese acclaim as a cultural hub. When the Rahbanis readapted Western classics to Eastern/Mediterranean instrumentations, they gave Fairuz the chance to levitate to international fame while still preserving her authentic Lebanese roots.
The audience was excited to learn further details about an iconic facet of Lebanese music. They also had questions of their own to contemplate. An attendee wondered why Fairuz’s prominence declined. The presenters answered that the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) added to the personal problems that divided the Rahbanis’ household name, thus dissolving the Lebanese Music project that the Rahbanis envisioned. Fairuz and the Rahbanis remain a legacy, the presenters noted. Despite the magnitude of Lebanon’s current catastrophic events, which might draw contrasts to the light tone of the presentation they gave in the culture night, Hajar and Ahmad ensured that Fairuz transformed into a beacon of hope.