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  • التاريخ
    03-Jan-2011

Fairuz's voice; opium for Arabs or symbol of peace?

ميدل ايست اونلاين -

Lebanese Diva Fairuz continues to captivate Arab listeners following decades of success.

Fairuz in Syria: a uniting voice

On the 7th and the 8th of October of last year, the Lebanese Diva Fairuz, 74, sang in Beirut her old songs and a number of r new songs from her latest CD, "Eh, Fe Amal" , which means "Yes , there is hope"!

Over seven thousand people attended the concert the first night; Lebanese Syrians, Jordanians and Egyptians. Fairuz has been singing for over five decades. She sang for dozens of famous Arab poets including American Arab writer Khalil Gibran, and his famous poem, "Give me the Flute and sing…."

In her new release, "There is Hope" she has a song, whose lyrics are of Gibran's poem "give me your hand…" a call for peace, with her soft voice, those lyrics flows.

Mrs Fairuz, as she is called most of the times, hardly moves or smiles while singing. She is always covered with long sleeves and wears long dresses. She sang in most Arab capitals, as well as Paris and London. But she never praised an Arab king or a president in a song. They come and go, but Fairuz's voice remains forever!

Despite the tension between Syria and Lebanon in recent years, Fairuz accepted to sing in the Syrian capital Damascus in 2006. She does not represent any party. But her voice tranquilizes Arab nations. Every morning her celestial soft voice visits every Arab house for at least half an hour as if it is a morning prayer, not only through radio, but now on many satellite TV stations.

For the love of Fairuz, the American singer Madonna is banned in Lebanon after she used Fairuz's song without permission: "El Yom 'Ulliqa 'Ala Khashaba" is a sacred song from Fairuz's album Good Friday, 1962, Eastern Coptic songs. Madonna sampled the hymn in her explicit song "Erotica" and before that in "The Beast Within". Fairuz sued Madonna and a settlement took place in an undisclosed location.

Fairuz consumes lots of time. There is Fairuz's voice, in taxis and buses, in houses while drinking morning coffee, and while doing homework. Even in phone ring tones. In Damascus four years ago, I met a young American Pakistani student learning Arabic: Omar asked me "Do you love Fairuz?" my answer was positive of course. Then he told me "I don't like her voice, and why is it that every time I ask an Arab if he or she likes her voice, I never get a NO?"

I remember when living in Baghdad during the years of the Iraq-Iran war; each time there was hot combat, when the Iraqi army attacked the Iranian army; the local radio station and television would broadcast Fairuz's songs. We associated her with battle, "There must be a combat going on…" and sure enough after it's over, it would be in the news.

In the eighties, when some tune in into the Israeli radio broadcasting in Arabic, there were always Fairuz songs, at least one hour in the morning and one at night. They know that Fairuz's voice would distract Arab listeners in the West Bank from the major Palestinian cause.

We are born listening to Fairuz, when she appears in television, every one stops talking. In a Sunday church service I attended a few years ago, the guest speaker - a Lebanese pastor - was preaching against the earthly pleasures and how we should not listen to secular songs. He mentioned Fairuz as one of the things we should refrain from. I murmured in the ear of the person sitting next to me, "I don't care what he says, I would always listen to her!"

A few weeks ago, I asked a 15 year old Syrian girl "Do you like Um Kalthum?", she replied "I don’t know her!"

Not knowing the Egyptian Diva Um Kalthum is like someone in France doesn't know who Piaf is! But you would never meet an Arab speaking person born in an Arab country or abroad that does not know Fairuz. No one remembers the first time hearing her voice. Her songs are closer to hymns than songs.

Yes, there is hope! Even with the cultural clashes we see in the Arab world, and also with the prices of meat and vegetables that have been raising in the last a couple of years in the Arab world. As unemployment hits the highest rates in the Middle East, there is hope only in Fairuz's voice, to help us forget about our problems! Life is beautiful only through her songs and we forget our daily struggles. There is hope. When Arabs are divided, Fairuz's voice unites them but she remains the Opium of the Arabs.