Fairuz - The Story of a Legend

Nouhad Haddad, born on November 20th 1934, is the eldest child of four. She was raised in a single room in an old cobblestone alley called “Zuqaq El Blat” in Beirut.

Her extraordinary voice was immediately recognised and admired at school, for possessing a gentle power which turned simple hymns into melodies which sounded ethereal. At one school party in 1947, a teacher named Mohamed Fleifel from the Lebanese Conservatory immediately fell in love with her voice.

She was appointed as a chorus singer by the head of the music department at the radio station – Halim Al Rumi – who was astounded by her ability to sing both in an Arabic and Western style. She was able to memorise four pages of poetry in two hours. Al-Rumi composed Fairuz’s first couple of songs, before introducing her to Assi Rahbani, a policeman and aspiring composer.

Their collaboration established Fairuz as a major singer throughout the Arab world overnight, with a melancholic song called “Itab” (Blame) which was recorded in Damascus on November 12 1952. Nouhad had formerly been known to her listeners as “Fatat al-Jabal” (Mountain Girl) but Al-Rumi suggested the name Fairuz, meaning “turquoise,” because he claimed her voice reminded him of a precious stone. In the summer of 1957 Fairuz faced an audience in the open for the first time when she performed at the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek in front of the largest crowd that had ever gathered at this temple.

From this day on Fairuz sang and acted in major Lebanese musicals, and the most renowned poets of the Middle East, such as Nizar Qabbani rushed to composed lyrics which they insisted could only be brought to life by her voice.

Since that first performance, Fairuz has travelled to places which as a child she thought she could only ever know through her grandparents’ stories. She has travelled overseas and reached out to Arab immigrants in Rio de Janiero, Buenos Aires, New York, San Francisco, Montreal, London, Paris and many other cities. In 1957, the Lebanese president Camille Shamoun presented her with the “Cavalier” – the highest medal ever bestowed upon a Lebanese artist.

During a private trip to the holy city of Jerusalem – which has been honoured in many of her songs since her pilgrimage there – in 1961 with her father, she was gifted a golden key from the mayor.

Fairuz has furthermore been personally honoured by King Hassan II of Morocco and King Hussein of Jordan.
 Fairuz continues to attend mass in the village church of Antilias and sing to the villagers. She remains “The Jewel of the Lebanon” and is a distinct power, untouched by any other musical artist of the region.
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