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Fairuz - Nouhad Haddad

Nouhad Wadie Haddad (Arabic: نهاد وديع حداد‎) born 21 November 1935, known as Fairuz (Arabic: فيروز‎), also spelled Fairouz, Feyrouz or Fayrouz, is a Lebanese singer who is one of the most admired and influential singers in the Arab world. Her songs are constantly heard throughout the region. She is also known as an icon in modern Arabic music and has sold over 80 million records worldwide, making her and Umm Kulthum the two best-selling Middle-Eastern artists of all time.

She was first noticed at the International Festival of Baalbeck, where she performed many of her songs. She became famous after appearing on the “Lebanese Nights” part of the festival for many successive years. Fairuz is commonly known as “Ambassador to the Stars”, “Ambassador of the Arabs” after the title of one of her albums, “the Moon’s Neighbour” for her song about the moon of Machgara, and the “Jewel of Lebanon”.Fairouz was born to a Lebanese Christian Maronite family.[10][11][12][13]

She is of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith,[14][15][16] having converted when she married Assi Rahbani, one of the two Rahbani brothers who helped shape her singing career.[17] She is also the mother of the Lebanese composer, pianist and playwright Ziad Rahbani, the late director Layal Rahbani, Lebanese director Rima Rahbani, and Haley Rahbani

Nouhad Haddad was born on 20 November 1934 in Lebanon into a Maronite family.[18][11][12] Her father was born in Mardin, Turkey. The family later moved into a home in a cobblestone alley called Zuqaq el Blatt in Beirut. Living in a single room of a typical Lebanese stone house facing Beirut’s Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate school, they shared a kitchen with the neighbours. Her father Wadīʿ was a Lebanese of the Syriac Orthodox faith,[19][20] and worked as a typesetter in a print shop.[14] Lisa El boustani, her mother, also Lebanese, but Maronite Christian, stayed home and took care of her four children, Nouhad, Youssef, Houda and Amal.

Nouhad was a shy child and did not have many friends at school. However, she was very attached to her grandmother who lived in Debbieh (Shuf area), where Nouhad used to spend her summer holidays. Nouhad seemed to enjoy the rural village life. During the day, Nouhad would help her grandmother with house chores and fetch fresh water from a nearby water spring. She would sing all the way to the spring and back. In the evening, Nouhad would sit by the candlelight with her grandmother, who would tell her stories.[citation needed]

By the age of ten, Nouhad was already known at school for her unusual singing voice. She would sing regularly during school shows and on holidays. This was how she came to the attention of Mohammed Flayfel, a well known musician and a teacher at the Lebanese Conservatory, who happened to attend one of the school’s shows in February 1950. Impressed by her voice and performance, he advised her to enroll in the conservatory, which she did. At first, Nouhad’s conservative father was reluctant to send her to the conservatory; however, he eventually allowed her to go on condition that her brother accompany her. That having been said, Nouhad’s family as a whole encouraged her in her musical career.[citation needed]

During their marriage in the Eastern Orthodox Annunciation Church (Arabic: سيدة البشارة للروم الأرثوذكس بالأشرفية في بيروت), Fairuz and Assi Rahbani surrounded by members of their families, 1955.
Mohammed Flayfel took a close interest in Nouhad’s talent. Among other things, he taught her to recite verses from the Koran (in the recitative style known as Tajweed). On one occasion, Nouhad was heard singing by Halim el Roumi, head of the Lebanese radio station and a prominent musician in his own right (also the father of the famous Lebanese singer Majida Roumi). Roumi was impressed by her voice and noticed that it had a rare flexibility that allowed her to sing both Arabic and Western modes admirably. At Nouhad’s request, El Roumi appointed her as a chorus singer at the radio station in Beirut and went on to compose several songs for her. He chose for her the stage name Fairuz, which is the Arabic word for turquoise.

A short while later, Fairuz was introduced to the Rahbani brothers, Assi and Mansour, who also worked at the radio station as musicians, and they discovered her talent. The chemistry was instant, and soon after, Assi started to compose songs for Fairouz, one of which was “Itab” (the third song he composed for her), which was an immediate smash hit in all of the Arab world, establishing Fairuz as one of the most prominent Arab singers on the Arabic music scene. Assi and Fairuz were married on 23 January 1955.

The Church in, Achrafieh, Beirut where Fairouz married.
Fairuz and Assi had four children: Ziad, a musician and a composer, Layal (died in 1987 of a brain stroke), Hali (paralysed since early childhood after meningitis) and Rima, a photographer and film director.[citation needed]

Fairuz’s first large-scale concert was in 1957, as part of the Baalbeck International Festival which took place under the patronage of the Lebanese President Camille Chamoun. She performed alongside the British prima ballerina Beryl Goldwyn and the Ballet Rambert. Fairuz was paid one Lebanese pound for that show. Musical operettas and concerts followed for many years, eventually establishing Fairuz as one of the most popular singers in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.

As the 1960s wore on, Fairuz became known as the “First Lady of Lebanese singing”, as Halim Roumi dubbed her. During this period the Rahbani brothers wrote and composed for her hundreds of famous songs, most of their operettas, and three motion pictures.

In 1969, Fairuz’s songs were banned from the radio stations in Lebanon for six months because she refused to sing at a private concert in honour of Algerian President Houari Boumedienne. The incident only served to increase her popularity. Fairuz made it clear then and since that while always willing to sing to her public and to various countries and regions, she would never sing to any individual.

In 1971, Fairuz’s fame became international after her major North American tour, which was received with much excitement by the Arab-American and American community and yielded very positive reviews of the concerts.

Fairuz in the 1970s
On September 22, 1972, Assi suffered a brain haemorrhage and was rushed to the hospital. Fans crowded outside the hospital praying for him and lighting candles. After three surgeries, Assi’s brain haemorrhage was halted. Ziad Rahbani, the eldest son of Fairuz and Assi, at age 16, gave his mother the music of one of his unreleased songs “Akhadou el Helween” (that he had composed to be sung by Marwan Mahfouz in “Sahriyyi” Ziad’s first play) and his uncle Mansour Rahbani re-wrote new lyrics for it to be called “Saalouni n’Nass” (“The People Asked Me”) which talked about Fayrouz being on stage for the first time without Assi. Three months after suffering the haemorrhage, Assi attended the premiere performance of that musical Al Mahatta in Piccadilly Theatre on Hamra Street. Elias Rahbani, Assi’s younger brother, took over the orchestration and musical arrangement for the performance.

Fairuz made her first European TV appearance on French TV on May 24, 1975, in a “Carpentier special show” called “Numero 1” dedicated to French star Mireille Mathieu. She sang one of her big hits “Habbaytak Bissayf” and was thanked and embraced after performing it by Mireille Mathieu.

Within a year, Assi had returned to composing and writing with his brother. They continued to produce musicals, which became increasingly political in nature. After the Lebanese Civil War erupted, the brothers continued to use political satire and sharp criticism in their plays. In 1977, their musical Petra was shown in both the Muslim western and Christian eastern portions of Beirut.

In 1978, the trio toured Europe and the Persian Gulf nations, including a concert at the Paris Olympia. As a result of this busy schedule, Assi’s medical and mental health began to deteriorate. Fairuz and the brothers agreed to end their professional and personal relationship in 1979. Fairuz began to work with a production team helmed by her son, Ziad Rahbani, and Assi and Mansour composed for other artists such as Ronza.

During the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), Fairuz never left Lebanon to live abroad and did not hold any concerts there with the exception of the stage performance of the operetta Petra, which was performed in both the western and eastern parts of the then-divided Beirut in 1978. However, during that time period, Fairuz held many very successful and record-breaking concerts and tours in numerous countries around the world.

1980s – A new production team[edit]
After the artistic divorce between Fairouz and the Rahbani brothers in 1979, Fairuz carried on with her son, composer Ziad Rahbani, his friend the lyricist Joseph Harb, and composer Philemon Wehbe.

Fairuz made a second and final European Television appearance on French TV on 13 October 1988 in a show called Du côté de chez Fred. Fairuz, who had scheduled a concert at the POPB of Paris Bercy concert hall three days later on 16 October, was the main guest of French TV presenter Frédéric Mitterrand, today France’s Minister of Culture (2009). The program features footage of her rehearsals for her concert at Bercy in addition to the ceremony featuring then French Minister of Culture Jack Lang awarding Fairuz the medal of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. It also includes a video montage of her previous movies and concerts. In that show, Fairuz also sang the three songs “Ya hourrié”, “Yara” and “Zaali tawwal”.

Her first CD, The Very Best of Fairuz was published in 1987 and contained the emblematic song “Aatini al Nay wa ghanni” (Give me the flute and sing)[21] based on a poem in “The Procession”[22] by Khalil Gibran. It was first song in the end of the sixties.[23]

After the artistic divorce between Fairouz and the Rahbani brothers in 1979, Fairuz carried on with her son, composer Ziad Rahbani, his friend the lyricist Joseph Harb, and composer Philemon Wehbe.

Fairuz made a second and final European Television appearance on French TV on 13 October 1988 in a show called Du côté de chez Fred. Fairuz, who had scheduled a concert at the POPB of Paris Bercy concert hall three days later on 16 October, was the main guest of French TV presenter Frédéric Mitterrand, today France’s Minister of Culture (2009). The program features footage of her rehearsals for her concert at Bercy in addition to the ceremony featuring then French Minister of Culture Jack Lang awarding Fairuz the medal of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. It also includes a video montage of her previous movies and concerts. In that show, Fairuz also sang the three songs “Ya hourrié”, “Yara” and “Zaali tawwal”.

Her first CD, The Very Best of Fairuz was published in 1987 and contained the emblematic song “Aatini al Nay wa ghanni” (Give me the flute and sing)[21] based on a poem in “The Procession”[22] by Khalil Gibran. It was first song in the end of the sixties.

Wadi Haddad and Liza Alboustani gave birth to their first daughter Nouhad in Jabal Alarz on the 21st of November 1935. That’s the most accurate date but it’s not definite, some sources suggest that she was born a couple of years earlier. A couple of years later however, they moved to Beirut where Wadi got a job at the Le Jour print house. They were poor as Fairuz remembers but still insists that their lives were happy and they were never needy. While living in a street called Albasta, she also recalls how she would be in the kitchen singing along the songs coming from the neighbor’s radio. She liked to sing the songs of Asmahan and Layla Mourad. As she grew up, She got enrolled in a public school where she joined the school’s choir.

In the early forties Mohamed Flayfel, who with his brother Ahmed, were veteran composers and song writers, was preparing a radio program and was on the look for young people to join his choir. He chose to go to the ‘Hhawed Alwelaya Alrasmia Lilbanat’ school first because it was known for its unique student’s choir. He met with the headmistress Salma Korban who presented the choir. After listening to them, Flayfel picked some of the singers and Nouhad was one of them.
Nouhad’s conservative father was bothered by the idea that his daughter will sing in public and refused to grant his permission to Flayfel in the beginning. He also wanted Nouhad to continue with her school education. But Flayfel eventually convinced Mr. Haddad by assuring him that Nouhad will only participate in singing patriotic songs and that he, Flayfel, will pay for all the expenses of her education at the national conservatoire. After agreeing, Nouhad’s father also demanded that her brother Joseph accompany her. The conservatoire at that time was headed by Wadi Sabra, the composer of the Lebanese anthem, who in turn refused to take any tuition fees from Nouhad and other students referred by Flayfel. But Nouhad’s education at the conservatoire didn’t last. A few months later, and with the help of Flayfel, she joined the national Lebanese radio station’s choir. She received a salary of 100 Liras a month.

Realvideo clip to download
Fairuz recounting a story from her childhood

Nouhad remained singing in the choir for about two months until they auditioned her for solo performances. She chose to sing two songs, a ‘mawal’ and ‘Ya Zahraten Fi Khialay’ originally by Asmahane and Farid Elatarache respectively. One of the station’s managers, Halim Elrumi, realized the potential of Nouhad’s voice and started giving her songs of his. He also gave her the choice of choosing her fame name. He suggested either Shahrazade or Fairuz. Obviously she chose the latter. Elrumi decided to present her to Assy and Mansour Rahbani. Assy too realized the potential, but Mansour didn’t. Masnour latter commented that he didn’t have the foresight that Assy had. By 1951, she had sang songs written by Elrumi, Medhat Asem, Nikola Almani, Salim Elhelou, Mohamed Mohsen, Tawfick Basha, Khaled Abou Naser and many others.

That’s when Assy started considering composing songs for her. At first he and Mansour worked with her on covers of difficult Arabic songs as well as European with Arabic lyrics songs. It wasn’t long before they started developing their special form of the Lebanese song. Fairuz sang the traditional songs in new arrangements like ‘Elbint Elshalabia’ and also totally original songs like ‘Nehna Wel Amar Jiran’. During this time an emotional relationship started to grow between Assy and Fairuz, and in July of 1954, they got married. That’s when Fairuz moved to her husband’s house in Antelias, north of Beirut.With songs like Itab, Fairuz and the Rahbani brothers were starting to become famous in many countries around the Arab world. They were invited many times by the Damascus radio station to present their works. Another radio station, Sawet Elarab from Egypt, sent their leading anchor Ahmed Said to Lebanon to strike a deal with the trio. In 1955 the Rahbani brothers and Fairuz went to Cairo, and it was there where they wrote the most important musical work at that time, Rajioun. Fairuz also sang many other songs including duets with the Egyptian singer Karem Mahmoud.

Fairuz and the Rahbanis returned to Beirut, and on the first day of 1956 she gave birth to her first son Ziad. The following year she sang ‘Libnan ya Akhder Helou’ in Baalbeck. That was the spark which was followed by the incredible works of the Rahbani brothers in Baalbeck. They also showed these and other works on different stages including those of the Damascus festival, Casino Du Liban, Cedars and the Piccadily theater. Fairuz also starred in three motion pictures produced in the 60’s. Fairuz’s talent was not limited to the Rahbani works and she sang songs that were composed by others like Philemon Wehbe, Mohamed Abdelwahab and Elias Rahbani. Fairuz’s social life was very conservative. She disliked the idea of going to parties and other social gatherings, and preferred to stay at home with her children.

In 1971 she went with the Rahbani brothers and troupe on a successful tour in the United States. They also went on tours around the world setting foot in every continent. Fairuz graced many stages and theaters including Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Olympia in Paris. In the late 70’s however, Fairuz’s relationship with Assy and Mansour deteriorated and their work bond was broken. She continued singing the Rahbani songs as well as her son’s Ziad ceative and mainly jazz influenced songs. She also got to work with Zaki Nassif and recently with Mohamed Mohsen after many decades of their last co-operation together.

During the Lebanese civil war, Fairuz decided to remain in Beirut even though she had the financial ability to live abroad, and not even after her own house was attacked with a missile. Fairuz didn’t sing in Lebanon during most of the years of the war because she didn’t want to imply bias to any group. When the civil war ended, she held a concert in Beirut in 1994. Fairuz returned to Baalbeck in 1998 and her concerts were a smashing success. She continues to release new material and perform concerts around the world.

 

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