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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.|
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.
Some of the Awards/Honors that were given to Fairuz::
alArz Honor of the knight rank (Lebanon 1962)
alistehkak alLoubnani Honor
alistehkak alSouri Honor (Syria 1967)
Honor of the officer rank (Lebanon 1970)
alnahda alurdoni Honor of the first degree (Jordan)
Honor of the Comondour rank (France 1988)
Jerusalem award (Palestine 1997)
althaqafa alrafie' Honor (Tunisia 1998)
For more in depth information you should also read the Rahbani Brothers' biography.
Main Sources for Writing This Feature:
1. 'Rahbani Brothers: Life and Theater: Characteristics of Dramatic Literary' by Professor Nabil Abou Mourad.
2. 'In The Lebanese Arabic Music and The Musical Rahbani Theater' By Nizar Morrowa.
3. A French Documentary about Fairuz by Frederic Mitterrand, Gerard Pont and Gerard Lacroix. (Link: Arte)
4. Various other books and articles.
Some of the images were taken from Almou'ed magazine which published a series of articles on Fairuz's relationship with the Rahbani brothers. The video clip is from the French documentary and is provided for educational purposes only.
. Rahbani Brothers' biography.
. The family tree.
. The time line of the major events.
. The Wasat magazine interview with Mansour Rahbani. (Arabic)