The perfect morning in most Arab countries starts with listening to Fairouz and a cup of coffee or tea. Otherwise known as Nihad Haddad, Fairouz was born on 21 November 1935. Through a career spanning more than 70 years, she succeeded in seizing a place in most Arabs daily life. She also made herself an icon in her native Lebanon, and all Arabic speaking countries, besides being one of the most influential singers of the 20th century, worldwide.

Now, as Fairouz turns 84, her birthday was celebrated at the biggest concert hall in Amsterdam, Het Concertgebouw, where her songs were sung by the young Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti – Jazz student at the University of Amsterdam. With Jazz music, flute instrumentation, and old Arabian classics, ٌNai re-imagines many well-known songs in her own musical style.

Curiosity would lead anyone to wonder about the legendary love Arabs keep for Fairouz. For some people she is a good singer, for others, she is a goddess. In mass media, her name used to be titled, “The Lady” as a sign of respect in Arabian culture. Her birthday is celebrated every year across the Middle East and beyond, the Amsterdam event attesting to this.

With that in mind, here are a few reasons why Fairouz is forever in the hearts of the Middle East.

A prayer, a singer

Wearing an emotionless face with sharp eyes and upstanding body on stage, Fairouz approach to performance is that of “singing as if praying” – concentrating only on feelings and voice. This is the way she sings, the way she prays. She once answered a magazine interview, “I have nothing to say, I have a song”. The reason behind her great popularity among Arab generations is in her being the last living icon of her golden musical era. She has always been a link between traditional and modern music and therefore a link between the different generations.

El-Rahbani Family

Fairouz always considered that her career path affects, and is affected by, international music. With Brothers Rahbani, Assi and Mansour, they formed a writing, composing and singing trio, succeeding through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Her music during these decades was more classic Arabian and oriental.

Starting from the 80s, her son Ziad Rahbani – one of the founders of modern Arabian music – started his musical career with new perspectives on its development. He inserted, not only, Jazz in his mother’s music, but also more western tools and techniques, especially in their albums together, Kifak Enta (1991) and Eih Fi Amal (2010).

With international music

Together with Ziad, they reshaped well-known classical music pieces by adding Arabian imprints. Songs based on Mozart’s 40th Symphony, Autumn Leaves, and Mon Amour were all made during this period. Her last album, released in 2017, included compositions of international singers like Frank Sinatra and John Lennon.

Being Christian

Religion plays an important role in the Middle East, and Fairouz was raised in a traditional Christian family. She sang hymns at various religious events. Not only recording them but also singing them live in Lebanon’s greatest cathedrals and churches. Middle Eastern hymns commonly are sung in the Syriac or Coptic languages. This is why she was supported with great love from Middle Eastern Christians as she performed most of her hymns in Arabic. Until now, her hymns are played across the Middle East at Christmas and Easter.

During the Lebanese Civil War

Her deep smooth voice played a remarkable role in calming the public rampage during the Lebanese Civil War. For 15 years, she was one of the few Lebanese public figures who refused to leave Beirut. She lived for one dream, ending this war and singing for Lebanon. Besides her national songs, she never aligned with any political party or took sides in the conflict. She lived and sang only for the good of Lebanon.

Close to people, Close to hearts. Every day, people listen to Fairouz and wish her the love she always gave and the peace she always sang for. Het Concertgebouw concert is considered a tribute for her and a love gift from Nai Barghouthi and her audience.