To express her love to the city, the diva dedicated two songs to Baalbek; the first one has the city's name, and the second one was called "Draj Baalbak". Firooz is sometimes referred to as the Lebanese Ambassador to the Stars, Neighbour to the Moon, and the Poet of the Voice. Biography 1932-1950s - The early years Firooz (Nouhad Haddad) with her mother Liza al-Boustani, crossing Martyr's Square in Beirut, 1945.Nouhad Haddad, later known as Firooz, was born on 21 November 1934 into a Syriac Catholic Assyrian father Wadi Haddad from Mardin, and a Lebanese Maronite mother Lisa Boustani in Jabal al Arz. The family later moved into a house in cobblestone alley, known in Arabic as 'Zuqaq el Blatt', in Beirut. Living in a single room of a traditional Lebanese house facing Beirut's Patriarchate school, they shared a kitchen with their neighbours. Her father, Wadi', worked as a typesetter in a nearby print shop while her mother, Lisa, was a homemaker, taking 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 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 candle light with her grandmother, who would tell her stories. Firooz in 1946.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 Fleyfel, 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 eentually 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. Mohammed Fleyfel took a close interest in Nohad'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 Firooz, which is the Arabic word for turquoise. Firooz and Assi Rahbani on their wedding day surrounded by members of their families, 1955.A short while later, Firooz 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 Firooz as one of the most prominent Arab singers on the Arabic music scene.
Assi and Firooz were married on 23 January 1955, and Firooz then converted to Greek Orthodoxy (Assi's sect). Firooz 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. Firooz's first large-scale concert took place in 1957 as part of the Baalbeck International Festival,which took place under the patronage of then President of Lebanon Camille Chamoun. Firooz was paid one Lebanese pound for that show. Musical operettas and concerts followed for many years, eventually establishing Firooz as one of the most popular singers in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world. 1960s - The establishment of a new star As the 1960s wore on, Firooz 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 3 motion pictures. In 1969, Firooz'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. Firooz 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. 1970s - International fame and the Lebanese Civil War In 1971, Firooz'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. On September 22, 1972, Assi suffered a brain hemorrhage and was rushed to the hospital. Fans crowded outside the hospital praying for him and lighting candles. After three surgeries, Assi's brain hemorrhage was halted.
Ziad Rahbani, the eldest son of Firooz 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 hemorrhage, Assi attended the premiere performance of that musical "Al Mahatta" in Piccadilly Theatre in Hamra Street. Elias Rahbani, Assi's younger brother, took over the orchestration and musical arrangement for the performance. 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. Firooz and the brothers agreed to end their professional and personal relationship in 1979.
Firooz 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), Firooz 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, Firooz held many very successful and record-breaking concerts and tours in numerous countries around the world. She 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 "Habaytak Bil Saif" and was thanked and embraced after performing it by Mireille Mathieu. 1980s - A new production team After the artistic divorce between Fairouz and the Rahbani Brothers in 1979, Firooz carried on with her son, composer Ziad Rahbani, his friend the lyricist Joseph Harb, and composer Philemon Wehbe. Together, Fairouz and Ziad forged new albums that yielded tremendous success with youth, reinforcing Fairouz's and the Rahbani's art as evolving art.
Fairouz's works with Philimone Wehbe and Zaki Nassif in the 1980s and 1990s were more traditional and oriental in style. Although the songs did not appeal much to the younger generation of Firooz's fans, they were welcomed by those who longed to an authentic Arabic musical style. Firooz, known for her hesitant nature in making artistic decisions, must have chosen these songs based on her inclination towards the authentic Arabic music that she grew up loving and singing.. After her separation from the Rahbani brothers, Fairouz also attempted to expand her repertoire by singing for Riyad Al Sombati, an Egyptian musician who composed for Umm Kulthum.
Firooz was advised by her artistic team not to release these songs. Firooz made a second and final European Television appearance on French TV on the 13 October 1988 in a show called Du côté de chez Fred. Firooz, 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 Firooz the medal of "Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres". It also includes a video montage of her previous movies and concerts.
In that show, Firooz also sang the three songs "Ya hourrié", "Yara" and "Zaali tawwal". 1990s–present Excerpt from the cantata "Ihtarif El-Huzn Wal Intizar" A music sample of Firooz's voice; recorded for the Jordanian radio station (1969) Problems listening to this file? See media help. In the 1990s, Firooz produced six albums (two Philemon Wehbe tributes with unreleased tracks included, a Zaki Nassif album, three Ziad Rahbani albums, and a tribute album to Assi Rahbani orchestrated by Ziad) and held a number of large-scale concerts, most notably the historic concert held at Beirut's Martyr's Square in September, 1994 to launch the rebirth of the downtown district that was ravaged by the civil war. She appeared at the Baalbeck International Festival in 1998 after 25 years of self imposed absence where she performed the highlights of three very successful plays that were presented in the 1960s and 1970s. She also performed a concert at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Arena in 1999 which was attended by over 16,000 spectators, mostly Arabs. Ever since, Firooz has held sold out concerts at the Beiteddine International Festival (Lebanon) from 2000 to 2003, Paris (2002), the United States (2003), Amman (2004), Montreal (2005), Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Baalbeck, BIEL (2006), Athens, Amman (2007) Damascus, and Bahrain (2008). Firooz now works exclusively with her composer son Ziad. Her latest album, Wala Keef, was released in 2002. Her 2008 performance in Damascus caused considerable controversy in Lebanon, given the tense relationship between Lebanon and Syria.
Several members of parliament publicly asked her to cancel the concert. She went to Syria where she was received by a crowd of 7000 fans, screaming her name at the borders, as her car passed into Syrian grounds. Mosques and prayers on radio were all held back as Fairouz's songs played day and night through almost every media outlet in the Syrian nation. Radio channels, TV channels, the Syrian satellite broadcasters, restaurants and cafes, and newspapers were all focused on Fairouz's legendary return after 20 years absence. However big this controversy was, it seems it has not affected her popularity in Lebanon as she held the Orthodox Good Friday Prayer Mass in West Beirut as hundreds and hundreds crowded the church premises. Live concerts Firooz 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. Firooz has performed in many 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 Firooz Concerts). Firooz has yielded record-breaking performances in almost every concert she has held around the world. Firooz, Assi, and Mansour have become the most famous and dominant music production phenomenon in the Arab world, and their music has spread beyond the Arab world to Europe, the Americas, and Australia. Of Firooz's numerous concerts, few are officially released. They are the Damascus 1960, Olympia 1979 concert (audio and video released in the 80's), USA tour 1981, Jarash 1983, Royal Festival Hall London 1986, USA tour 1987, Baalbek 1998 (Video), Las Vegas 1999 concert (on DVD with make over and rehearsals), Beiteddine 2000 and Dubai 2001 (on DVD, it includes parts from concerts in 1997 and 2002 as well as rehearsals from 2001 and 2002 concerts, released May 2008).
Pirated versions of other concerts exist: Kuwait 1966, Syria and Egypt 1976, Olympia 1979, Australia 1984, Syria 1985, Bahrain 1987, France 1988, Kuwait1989, Cairo 1989, London 1994, Beirut 1994, and parts of the four Beiteddine concerts (2000-2003), Parts of Dubai concerts (1990-2006), Paris 2002, Amman 2004, Canada 2005, parts of the play Sah Ennawm which was performed in Beirut (2006), Athens 2007 and Bahrain 2008. Theatrical works Musical plays or operettas were the cornerstone works of the Rahbani Trio, Firooz, Assi and Mansour. The Rahbani Brothers produced 25 popular musical plays (20 with Firooz) over a period of more than 30 years. They were possibly the first to produce world-class Arabic musical theatre. The musicals combined storyline, lyrics and dialogue, musical composition varying widely from Lebanese folkloric and rhythmic modes to classical, westernized, and oriental songs, orchestration, and the voice and acting of Firooz. She played the lead roles alongside singers/actors Nasri Shamseddine, Wadih El Safi, Antoine Kerbaje, Elie Shouayri (Chouayri), Hoda (Firooz's younger sister), William Haswani, Raja Badr, Siham Chammas (Shammas), Georgette Sayegh and many others. The Rahbani plays expressed patriotism, unrequited love and nostalgia for village life, comedy, drama, philosophy, and contemporary politics.
The songs performed by Firooz as part of the plays have become immensely popular among the Lebanese and Arabs around the world. The Firooz-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 Firooz and Assi) Habayeb Zaman - 1979 (Never performed due to the separation of Firooz 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). Discography Main article: Firooz discography Firooz possesses a large repertoire of around 1500 songs out of which nearly just 800 have been released.
She has also been offered prestigious awards and titles over the years (see Firooz Awards and Recognitions). Around 85 Firooz CDs, vinyls and cassettes have been officially released so far. Most of the songs that are featured on these albums were composed by the Rahbani brothers. Also featured are songs by Philemon Wehbe, Ziad Rahbani, Zaki Nassif, Mohamed Abd El Wahab, Najib Hankash and Mohamed Mohsen. Many of Firooz's numerous unreleased works date back to the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s and were composed by the Rahbani Brothers (certain unreleased songs, the oldest of all, are by Halim el Roumi). A Firooz album composed by Egyptian musician Riad Al Sunbati (who has worked with Umm Kulthum) was produced in 1980, but is unlikely to be released.
There are also fifteen unreleased songs composed by Philemon Wehbe and 24 unreleased songs composed by Ziad Rahbani in the 80's. Firooz has also released an album on Folkways Records, entitled Lebanon: The Baalbek Folk Festival. Filmography Films Firooz and the Rahbanis have also had their share of movie production. They produced three 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 Firooz to the Arab and world audience. These films are released for sale. Television Lebanese Television has featured appearances by Firooz in the following television programmes: Al Iswari (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 Syrian TV, though neither these nor the ones mentioned above are released for sale. Documentaries Firooz in America - 1971 Firooz - 1998 Alone They Remain - 1998 Arrab El Maw’ed (Time is Upon Us - 1999) We Loved Each Other So Much (We Hielden Zoveel Van Mekaar) - 2003 Kanit 7kayi - It was a story an interview with Firooz with clippings of Interviews with Assi for his 23 years memorial - 2009 Read more on Last.fm.
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