Birth Date: 21 Nov 1935
Arabic: فيروز, also spelled Fairouz or Fayrouz
is a distinguished Lebanese singer and legend. Born Nouhad Haddad (Arabic: نهاد حداد) in Jabal al Arz Cedar Mountain , Lebanon, on 21 November 1935, Fyrouz is known as Our (Lebanese) Ambassador to the Stars , The Arabs Ambassador , Neighbour to the Moon , and The Poet of the Voice .
1935-1950s - The early years
Fyrouz (Nouhad Haddad) with her mother Liza al-Boustani, crossing Martyr s Square in Beirut, 1945.
Nouhad Haddad, later known as Fyrouz, was born on 21 November 1935 in Jabal al Arz , Lebanon, to a modest Syriac Orthodox family. Wadi Haddad, Fyrouz s father of Western Assyrian (Syriac) background, originally came from the city of Mardin, formerly in the Ottoman Empire, (now in Turkey), and settled in Lebanon after he married Lisa el Boustani ( Fyrouz s mother), a Maronite Lebanese. The family later moved to the cobblestone alley called Zuqaq el Blatt in Beirut. They lived in a single room of a typical Lebanese stone house facing Beirut s Patriarchate school, and shared a kitchen with the neighbours. Wadi worked as a typesetter in a nearby print shop and Lisa stayed home and took care of her four children, Nouhad, Youssef, Hoda and Amal.
Nouhad was a shy child and did not have many friends at school. However, she was greatly attached to her grandmother who lived in Debbieh , a village in the mountains of Lebanon, where Nouhad used to spend the summer. Nouhad adored the simple village life. During the day, she helped her grandmother with house chores and fetched fresh water from a nearby water spring. She used to sing all the way to the spring and back. In the evening, Nouhad used to sit by the candle light with her grandmother who used to tell her stories from her voyage to the United States.
Fyrouz in 1946.
By the age of ten, Nouhad was already well known at her school for her beautiful voice. She would regularly sing during school festivals and holidays. This is how she came to the attention of Mohammed Fleifel, a well known Lebanese musician and teacher at the Lebanese Conservatory, who happened to attend one of the school s celebrations in February 1950. He was greatly impressed by her voice and performance and advised her to enroll in the conservatory, which she did. At first, Nouhad s conservative father was reluctant to send his daughter to the conservatory; however, he allowed Nouhad to attend classes at the conservatory on one condition, that her brother accompany her. Nouhad s family encouraged her even though they could not afford much, and one day her father surprised her with a radio.
Fleifel cared for Nouhad s voice in a fatherly way. Most importantly, he taught her verses recitation from the Quran (Recitative style known as Tajweed ). And one day, prominent Lebanese musician and head of the music department at the Lebanese Radio Station Halim El Roumi (the father of famous Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi) happened to hear Nouhad sing. He was deeply impressed by her voice and noticed that it had a rare flexibility that allowed her to sing both oriental and western modes admirably. At Nouhad s request, El Roumi appointed her as a chorus singer at the radio station in Beirut and composed several songs for her. He chose for her the name Fyrouz , which is the Arabic word for turquoise.
Fyrouz and Assi Rahbani on their wedding day surrounded by members of their families, 1955.
A couple of months later, Fyrouz was introduced to the Rahbani brothers, Assi and Mansour, who also worked at the radio station as musicians. 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 Fyrouz as one of the most prominent Arab singers on the Arabic music scene. Assi and Fyrouz got married on January the 23rd 1955, and Fyrouz then converted to Greek Orthodoxy (Assi s sect).
Fyrouz 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.
The early works of Fyrouz and the Rahbanis were innovative mixtures of oriental and foreign modes (especially Southern American music influenced by Eduardo Bianco) combining Fyrouz s distinct vocal timbre with ingenious music by Assi and poetic lyrics that expressed innocent love and nostalgia for Lebanese village life.
Fyrouz s first large-scale concert took place in 1957 as part of the Baalbeck International Festival, sponsored by Lebanese president Camille Chamoun. Musical operettas and sold-out concerts followed for years, establishing Fyrouz indisputably as Lebanon s most beloved singer, and as one of the Arab world s most popular singers, and simply as a singer unlike any other the Arab world has ever seen.
1960s - The establishment of a new star
Fyrouz became the First Lady of Lebanese singing (Halim el Roumi) during the 1960s. At that period the Rahbani brothers had written and composed for her hundreds of famous songs, most of their operettas, and 3 motion pictures. In 1969, as popular as it was, Fyrouz s music was banned from radio stations in Lebanon for six months by order of the Lebanese government because she refused to sing at a private concert in the honor of the Algerian president Houari Boumédienne during his visit to Lebanon. Despite that, Fyrouz s popularity soared even higher. Fyrouz made it clear that she would not sing to any one individual, neither king nor president, but she would always sing to the people.
1970s - International fame and the Lebanese Civil War
In 1971, Fyrouz 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. Many consider the 1970s the most important phase of her career, with a maximum of voice power and maturity as well as an abundance in music production by the Rahbani brothers.
During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), Fyrouz 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. It pained Fyrouz greatly to see the Lebanese suffering and dying at the hands of foreigners and their own. She would not sing for them as they were killing each other and destroying the once beautiful and prosperous Lebanon. However, during that time period, Fyrouz held many very successful and record-breaking concerts and tours in numerous countries around the world.
1980s - A new production team
After the artistic divorce between Fairouz and the Rahbani Brothers in 1979, Fyrouz carried on with her son, composer Ziad Rahbani, his friend the lyricist Joseph Harb, and composer Philemon Wehbe. Together, they forged new albums that yielded tremendous success reinforcing Fyrouz s image as the constantly evolving and most prominent Arab singer.
Joseph Harb gave Fyrouz some of his best lyrics/poems while Philemon Wehbe offered her timeless purely oriental music cherished by the masses. Ziad, on the other hand, offered Fyrouz very original jazz-tinted songs at times and masterfully orchestrated oriental songs at others .
In the 1990 s, Fyrouz produced three albums and held a number of large-scale concerts, most notably the historic concert held at Beirut s Martyr s Square (September 1994) to launch the rebirth of the downtown district that was ravaged by the civil war. She appeared at The International Baalbeck Festival in 1998 after 25 years of absence where she performed the highlights of 3 very successful plays that were presented in the 1960s and 1970s.
Fyrouz now works exclusively with her composer son Ziad. An Album, (wala Keef), was her latest. It released in 2002.
Another huge success was the massive concert at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Arena (1999) which broke box-office sales records and was attended by over 16,000 Lebanese who flocked to the city from all over the American continent and Europe. Ever since, Fyrouz has held sold-out concerts at the Beiteddine International Festival (Lebanon) from 2000 to 2003, the United States (2003), Montreal (2005), Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Baalbeck, BIEL (2006) and Athens (2007).
Assortment of images of Fyrouz
Fyrouz has performed once or more in each of many countries around the globe including Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, France, The United Kingdom, Switzerland, Greece, Canada, The United States of America, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and of course, her very own Lebanon.
Fyrouz has performed in many internationally famous and prestigious venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1962, the New York Carnegie Hall in 1971, the London Palladium in 1978, L Olympia de Paris in 1979, London s Royal Festival Hall in 1986, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles (1971, 1981, and 2003), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C (1981 and 1987)... among many others (for the complete concert chronology, see Fyrouz Concerts).
Fyrouz has yielded record-breaking performances month after month, year after year in almost every concert she has held around the world. Fyrouz, Assi, and Mansour have become the most famous and dominant music production phenomenon in the Arab world, and their success has spread beyond the Arab world to Europe, the Americas, and Australia.
Of Fyrouz s numerous concerts, only the Olympia 1979 concert (audio only, video released in the 80 s) and the Las Vegas 1999 concert video only) have been officially released. Pirated versions of other concerts exist: Kuwait 1966, Syria and Egypt 1976, Olympia 1979, Australia 1984, Syria 1985, Bahrain 1987, France 1988, London 1994, MGM Grand Arena (Las Vegas) 1999(this concert is relased as a whole DVD with the make over of the concert), and parts of the four recent Beiteddine concerts (2000 - 2003).
Musical plays or operettas were the cornerstone works of the Rahbani Trio, Fyrouz, Assi and Mansour. The Rahbani Brothers produced 25 popular musical plays (20 with Fyrouz) over a period of more than 30 years. They were possibly the first to produce world-class Arabic musical theatre.
The musicals combined rich storyline, poetic lyrics and dialogue, ingenious musical composition varying widely from Lebanese folkloric and rhythmic modes to classical, westernized, and oriental songs, masterful orchestration, and the hauntingly beautiful voice and acting talent of Fyrouz, who played the lead role alongside singers/actors Nasri Shamseddine, Wadi El Safi (the most prominent Lebanese male singer), Antoine Kerbaje, Elie Shouayri (Chouayri), Hoda ( Fyrouz s younger sister), Siham Chammas (Shammas), Georgette Sayegh and many others.
These plays are ample proof of Fyrouz s outstanding talent as a singer and actress. The Rahbani plays expressed patriotism, unrequited love and nostalgia for village life, comedy, drama, philosophy, and contemporary politics thereby embodying the very soul of Lebanon. The songs performed by Fyrouz as part of the plays have become immensely popular among the Lebanese and Arabs around the world.
The Fyrouz-Rahbani collaboration produced the following musicals (in chronological order):
· Ayyam al Hassad ( Days of Harvest - 1957)
· Al Urs fi l Qarya ( The Wedding in the Village - 1959)
· Al Ba albakiya ( The Girl from Baalbek - 1961)
· Jisr el Amar ( Bridge of the Moon - 1962)
· Awdet el Askar ( The Return of the Soldiers - 1962)
· Al Layl wal Qandil ( The Night and the Lantern - 1963)
· Biyya el Khawatem ( Rings for Sale - 1964)
· Ayyam Fakhreddine ( The Days of Fakhreddine - 1966)
· Hala wal Malik ( Hala and the King - 1967)
· Ach Chakhs ( The Person - 1968-1969)
· Jibal Al Sawwan ( Sawwan Mountains - 1969)
· Ya ich Ya ich ( Long Live, Long Live - 1970)
· Sah Ennawm ( Did you sleep well? - 1970-1971 - 2007-2008)
· Nass min Wara ( People Made out of Paper - 1971-1972)
· Natourit al Mafatih ( The Guardian of the Keys - 1972)
· Al Mahatta ( The Station - 1973)
· Loulou - 1974
· Mais el Reem ( The Deer s Meadow - 1975)
· Petra - 1977-1978
· Elissa - 1979 (Never performed due to the separation of Fyrouz and Assi)
· Habayeb Zaman - 1979 (Never performed due to the separation of Fyrouz and Assi)
Most of the musical plays were recorded and video-taped. Eighteen of them have been officially released on audio CD, two on DVD (Mais el Reem and Loulou). A pirated version of Petra and one pirated live version of Mais el Reem in black and white exist. Ayyam al Hassad (Days of Harvest) was never recorded and Al Urs fi l Qarya (The Marriage in the Village) has not yet been released (yet a pirated audio record is available).
Fyrouz and the Rahbanis have also had their share of movie production. They produced three high-quality films,
· Biyaa El Khawatem (The Ring Salesman) in 1965 (based on the musical),
· Safar Barlek (The Exile) in 1967,
· Bint El Haress (The Guardian s Daughter) in 1968.
The three films drew large audiences across the Arab world, world theatres, and further introduced Fyrouz to the Arab and world audience. These films are released for sale.
Lebanese Television has featured appearances by Fyrouz in the following television programmes:
· Al Iswara (The Bracelet)
· Day it El Aghani (Village of Songs)
· Layali As Saad (Nights of Happiness)
· Al Quds fil Bal (Jerusalem in my Heart)
· Dafater El Layl (Night Memoirs)
· Maa Al Hikayat (With Stories)
· Sahret Hobb (Oriental Evening)
· Qasidat Hobb (A Love Poem), also presented as a musical show in Baalbeck in 1973
Other television programmes have been recorded for the Syrian TV, though neither these nor the ones mentionned above are released for sale.
Born and educated in Beirut, she began her musical career as a chorus member at the Lebanese Radio Station. In the late 1950s her talent as a singer became fully acknowledged. Met with unprecedented enthusiasm, Fayrouz s early songs featured the singer s distinct vocal timbre and lyrics expressing romantic love and nostalgia for village life. They meshed with a delicate orchestral blend in which certain Arab instruments figured prominently but which also subtly incorporated European instruments and European popular dance rhythms.
She also sometimes sang adaptations Arab folk tunes. By the early 1960s Fayrouz was already one of the main attractions of the annual Baalbeck Festivals and a celebrity not only in Lebanon but throughout the Arab world. The dissemination of hundreds of songs, many musical plays and several films had widened her audience to include Arabs living in Europe and the Americas.
During most of her singing career, Fayrouz was part of a three-member team which included the two Rahbani brothers. Generally, her lyrics were written by Mansour Rahbani, and the tunes were composed and arranged by his brother Assi, Fayrouz s former husband. Fayrouz s songs owe a great deal to the musical and poetic genius of these two Lebanese artists. In recent years they have also reflected the composing talent of Ziad Rahbani, Fayrouz s son. In addition, they testify to Fayrouz s broad musical background, which encompasses Christian liturgical forms as well as the secular traditions of Arab music.
The Fayrouz-Rahbani legacy is a peculiarly twentieth-century cultural phenomenon. During the early postwar decades, most urban communities in the Arab world underwent rapid expansion, partly because of an influx of population from the rural areas. The city of Beirut in particular had absorbed a substantial number of people whose ethnic and social roots went back to various Lebanese villages, especially those in the mountainous regions of central and northern Lebanon. Politically and socially influential, this segment provided fertile ground for the rise of a new artistic tradition - music, dance, poetry, and fashions, handicrafts - whose context was unmistakably urban but whose ration was folk and rural.