A Song for Every Heart - "Fairuz Live at Beittedine" and "Moods Unveiled"(Majaz Alani)

Basil Samara

Fairuz Fi Beiteddine
Relax-In / EMI Arabia, 2000

Unlike Fairuz and Ziad's last album, "Mish Kayen Heyk Tkoun," on which the combination of Ziad's contemporary style and the classical Muwashah was strained and somewhat distracting, the duo's new album, "Fairuz Live at Beiteddine," succeeds in harmoniously blending various styles. This recording of Fairuz's return to the Lebanese stage at Beiteddine in the summer of 2000 is as colorful and enjoyable as a well-prepared Lebanese mazza spread, with something tasty for every musical palate C not a small feat when one considers the rich repertoire of both Fairuz and Ziad.

The few gentle notes on the buzuq follow Ziad's lavish and Western-style musical prelude, setting the stage for the wonderful and varied selections to come. Over the course of 17 tracks in 72 minutes, the artists achieve a very well-crafted balance between the old and the new, the Eastern and the Western, the serious and the fun, with a dash or two of socio-political commentary thrown in. The variety extends even to the musical accompaniment, for they employed both the Armenian Orchestra, a full Western orchestra conducted by Karen Durgaryan, and Takht, an Arabic orchestra conducted by Ziad.

The album boasts three new songs (Nos. 10, 11and 16) with lyrics and music by Ziad. The first two are in the new style, where the emphasis is not solely on the vocals, but instead the music plays a role, as Ziad has described it on occasion, as important as that of another singing voice. In the second new song (No. 11), written in a soft jazz format, the piano improvisations performed by Ziad overshadow Fairuz's voice on several occasions. The third new song (No.16) is written more along the traditional Rahbani style. The lyrics of all three of these songs depict the "new" woman (independent, almost sardonic, and challenging the men in her life) rather than the "old" (accepting her fate in love and life without protest). Ziad effectively combines the words, rhythms, and accompanying music to reflect these various themes.

The remaining songs also alternate between the old (Nos. 2, 9, 13, 14, 17), and the new (Nos. 3, 4, 15), while two other songs (Nos.7 and 8) present Ziad's social and political commentary. The first satirizes social injustice where the poor do all the work while the rich reap the financial rewards. Musically, this is also the most notable of the two. It is an old composition by Ziad that exudes tarab,reflecting the simple yet emotionally charged style of Sayyid Darwish. The classical Arabic spirit of his musicality has distinguished Ziad from the other Rahbanis and has propelled his fame. Although shades of the Arabic spirit appear even in his jazz music, the absence of this classical style in his compositions over the last several years has disappointed many of his avid fans.

All in all, this technically sound album is a wonderful extravaganza of music and song woven together by Fairuz's confident and relaxed voice, Ziad's many talents, and the silky raspiness of the buzuq.AJ

Tracks: 1. Prelude, 2. La Inta Habibi, 3. Indi Thiqa Feek, 4. Keefak Inta, 5. Interlude (Prelude to the Operetta, Mays el-Reem), 6. Ishta'atillak, 7. Shou Hal Iyyam, 8. The National Lebanese Resistance, 9. Btitloj el-Dini, 10. Tenzakar Ma Tin'aad, 11. Kbeeri el-Mazha Hay, 12. Ahou Dalli Sar, 13. Ya Mahla Layali el-Hawa, 14. Habbaytak Ta Nseet el-Nowm, 15. Talfan Ayyash, 16. Sabah wu Masa, 17. Nassam Alayna el-Hawa

Moods Unveiled
by Majaz Alani
Charbel Rouhana Produced by: A. Chahine & Fils (Voix de l'Orient) Beirut, 2000

"Mazaj Alani" (Unveiled Mood) is Charbel Rouhana's fourth album following "Zikra" (1992), "Salamat" (1997), and "Mada" with Hani Siblini (1998). Rouhana gained recognition after his performance with Marcel Khalife on the latter's oud duo, "Jadal" (1996). "Mazaj Alani" is a collection of 10 instrumental pieces (49':30") performed by an ensemble with Rouhana on the oud along with Antoine Khalife (violin), Antoine Deeb (accordion), Abboud Saadi (bass guitar), Albert Rouhana plays percusions (tabla and bongos), and Ali Khatib (riq/Eastern tambourine). There are 18 other musicians who perform on a variety of instruments, both Eastern (nay, qanoun) and Western (saxophone, clarinet, oboe, English horn, cello, double bass).

Some reviewers have accusingly compared his style on some of the pieces of this album to that of Marcel Khalife and Ziad Rahbani. This in no way belittles Charbel's remarkable achievements in this album. In fact, in some of those pieces, his arrangements surpass those of the other two musicians.

In Rouhana's own words, "Mazaj Alani" is about faces, places, dates, and incidents, some of which have changed or ceased to exist, and only pure music has survived, music that transcends times and places. "Mazaj Alani" is all the contradictions and moods inside of me that I unveil so we share them together." This album evokes moods and memories.

The 10 tracks on this album provide an incredible and wonderful mix of various styles of music: orchestral soundscapes (Siwar, 13th of July, Noun), soft and sad tunes (Noun, Noun Solo), Arabic dance pieces (Just Like That, Mood), Arabic jazz (Passion), and a beautiful Arabic flamenco composition (Flamenco). None of these pieces, however, are written or arranged superficially: Rouhana does not take the easy way out. Many of the pieces here are, in fact, rearrangements of pieces that appeared on his first album, "Zikra." Creative expression is very important to him, and it may have to be periodically revised to reflect the artist's growth.

Many of the tunes are simple and catchy enough to be remembered quickly, but this does not make the pieces less enjoyable at subsequent listening. Rouhana mixes just the right amount of time, space, and the instruments' timbre to masterfully weave a tightly knit musical tapestry that continues to provide the listener with a sense of discovery. In many instances, he also leaves breathing room for individual instruments to improvise and shine in their own light, for example, Antoine Khalife's wonderful violin solos. All this was produced in a high quality sonic environment and comes with very elegant packaging. This is a landmark instrumental album in the midst of a musical scene filled with noise and frivolous song. AJ

These reviews appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 7, No. 35 (Spring 2001)

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