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POP MUSIC | WORLD MUSIC

Haunted by her songs of love, peace

July 15, 2007|Raed Rafei | Special to The Times

And then, the war was finally over. I remember how exhilarated I was, the first time I saw her on stage in 1994. It was Fairuz's first public performance in Lebanon after the war. Thousands of Lebanese had flocked into Martyr's Square. Fairuz was singing live for a new start along the old demarcation lines in the ruined heart of Beirut. With tears seemingly pearling in her eyes, she chanted: "I love you Lebanon. I love your north, your south, your plains .... " And we were all spellbound as we fantasized about rebuilding our country.

In later years, I carried her voice with me as I left to study abroad. When nostalgia and homesickness invaded my room, her songs had the power to transport me home.

"Take me to those lovely hills. Take me to the land that reared us. Forget me among vineyards and fig trees. Let me lie upon the soil of our village. Take me, plant me in the land of Lebanon .... "

Since my return, I have been witnessing with bitterness the descent of Lebanon into chaos again. I realize how naive I am, clinging to a primordial idea of a united and flourishing country.

This summer, Fairuz and many other artists from all over the world will not be performing in the festivals of Lebanon because of the instability of the country.

But watching Fairuz shine among the Greek gods filled me with pride. She proved to the world that as a nation we were capable of producing culture and not only images of bombs and fighting, which have unfortunately become very popular on TV bulletins everywhere.

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Rafei is The Times' special correspondent in Lebanon and also writes for Forbes Arabia.

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