Lebanon and the Arab streets rejoiced even if only momentarily, as the legendary Fairouz marked her return to the limelight with two consecutive concerts held in Beirut and a new album Eh Fi Amal (Yes, there is hope). Produced and arranged by the musical prodigy that is Ziad Rahbani, the 12-track record follows the temperament of the album’s predecessor, the jazzy, bossa nova infused Wala Kif, with minor shifts in sound and vocal range.
Suggestive of anything Lebanese, there’s something about Fairouz that’s equally unique but yet so commonplace. Ubiquitous, her voice is always the unassuming passenger who accompanies you in taxis, seamlessly; a part of the hustle and bustle of any Arab city. As blasé as your morning latte, we’ve almost taken her for granted, as her sounds have essentially become elevator music in cafés and airports alike.
Over indulgence results in a decrease in marginal benefit, a law in economics that can easily be applied to Fairouz’s discography and a box of your favorite chocolates. Today, I limit my Fairouz much like one were to limit how many cappuccinos or glasses of wines they consume. Fairouz’s treat of a sound has colored-in many a happy Arab moment. Moreover, she voiced the political, romantic and socio-economic shifts that the Arab World endured in ways that no one ever could. An emissary of Arab emotion, her music transcended the invisible ceilings of class and religion.
Spanning five decades of song, 2010 ushers a Fairouz that is permeable and hardly breaking new ground. Nonetheless, Eh Fi Amal is a dainty record with impressive musical arrangement. Satisfactory for a woman who is continuing to sing through her eighties, it is really hard to judge this record without considering the history of such a notable artistic figure. Thus, more nods than one are made to Fairouz’s musical archive, signaling, perhaps a conclusion to her discography.
The reprise of El Bint El Chalabiya is one of the record’s highlights. The recast of “Biktob Ismak”, as “Nektob Asamihom”, is a light-footed take on the original, featuring brisk vocals that craft a refreshing Fairouz standard. “Allah K’bir” is the record’s jewel. A completely new song, it melts like a lemon drop in your mouth. Packed with melancholy, it comes as a song that is reminiscent of the holidays and winter.
An ode to her earlier days, “Ma Chawart Hali” is another new favorite that seems to have the heritage of classics like “Chati Ya Dinye” and “Nassam Alayna El Hawa”. The track is chipper, traditional and simply beautiful. It embodies the magic that is Fairouz.