Having introduced few of the countless remarkable artists in the Middle East in a previous article, there are so many more figures worth highlighting for music and art lovers around the world. It is quite challenging to pick the names whom I wish to include in this article as refined art and artists are an abundant feature of Middle Eastern culture. The following are some more names who forged their legendry through a lifetime of devotion and creativity such as Georges Wassouf, Majida El Roumi, Sabah Fakhry, Farid Al Atrash, Najat Al Saghira, Asmahan, Jahida Wehbe, Hassan Alaa Eddin (widely known as Shoushou), Ziad Rahbani, Marcel Khalifeh, Omaima El Khalil, Melhem Barakat and Naseer Shamma.
Apart from being my favorite, Georges Wassouf is a revered artist of Tarab lovers. The music, the lyrics and his voice are a rare epic combination that make one obsessed about each and every song he has ever released, such as Sayyad Touyour, Kalam Nas, Tabib Garrah and numerous others. Some songs tell a life story bearing a lesson learned from the hardships of life and some others are tales of a bittersweet love experience, not to mention those that simply call for embracing life and the joys lingering within its folds. All this make them more than just songs, rather melodic tales. However, not to get carried away with Wassouf’s charm, I will move to one prominent female Lebanese singer whose songs proudly fall under feminism and celebrate femininity. Majida El Roumi’s music is a valued contribution to diverse themes beside feminism such as romance, nationalism, rebellion and religion. Her song Ya Beirut is one that distilled an impeccable sense of nationalism in every Lebanese, and it is an immortal reminder that the capital Beirut will always prevail despite all the shattering wars it has witnessed. Her patriotic songs have become an anthem we need for our unwavering spirit of survival.
From neighboring Syria, Sabah Fakhry is a unique icon of Tarab music. He is the one who revived the traditional Arabic music known as Muwashahat and Qudud Halabiya. Hence, for a genuine oriental experience in music, one cannot but suggest Fakhry’s song Qaduka Al Mayas that conveys a truly oriental beat and a vivacious atmosphere. His songs and his oriental spirit make a get-together with friends a time to remember and an opportunity to experience the old and glorious oriental nights of the East. His peer Syrian-Egyptian composer, singer, virtuoso oud player and actor Farid Al-Atrash poses a further challenge for someone aiming to provide or explain his cherished value in the world of Arabic traditional music and art. A legend indeed, know also as the “king of Oud” and a prominent actor, Farid Al-Atrash deserves further consideration on the part of those wishing to be familiar with this remarkable figure. One of his touching songs is Ya Zahratan Fi Khayali.
Again from Egypt, Najat Al Saghira and Asmahan are another two artists who forged the Golden Age of Arabic music. Their voice and songs revive a past everyone longs for and fill the listener with beautiful sensations of love, romance and nostalgia. The two respective songs Ah Law Ta’raf and Ya Touyour convey the weight of these two women legends and their value to Arabic music. In addition, the Lebanese Jahida Wehbe is more associated with contemporary artists, yet she succeeded in earning an esteemed position in the long list of legends. She is a Tarab performer, poet, singer/songwriter, orator of poetry and a comedian. She has recited poetry of Arab and international poets such as Ibn Arabi, Rabi’aa Al’adawiya, Jalal Eddine El Roumy, Mahmood Darweesh, Ounsi El Hajj, Talal Haidar, Jibran Khalil Jibran, Nazek Al Mala’ika, Goethe, Adonis, Taghor and others. Listening to any of her songs or chants is more than enough to realize the prized contribution of Wehbe to the Arab culture and you can also have a glimpse on her rich Biography on the following website .
Another prominent Lebanese figure not to be missed is Hassan Alaa Eddin (widely known as Shoushou). Treasured by children and adults alike back in the days, Shoushou remains a figure associated with heartwarming comedy and an unforgettable sense of humor that made of social and political issues a reason for laughter instead of resentment. In the same category of legendary comedians is Ziad Rahbani. Whatever description of this epic legend is never enough to do him right. He is a composer, pianist, playwright, and political commentator. His refined works satirize Lebanese politics since the civil war and on and remain as relevant today as the works of Syrian comedian Duraid Lahham. His plays are widely popular among the Lebanese people especially the youths who admire his works such as Bennesbeh Labokra Shou?, Film Ameriki Taweel and Nazl el sourour. Rahbani is also a major contributor to oriental jazz and music. Abu Ali is one work of art that tells you relatively enough about this remarkable person.
Also from Lebanon is the emperor of Oud Marcel Khalifeh whom is literally beyond any fair description. Khalifeh’s music and voice can only be conceived by listening to any of his splendid performances or songs such as Ommi and Rita. The inspiring effect of his music skyrockets when he is joined by the heartwarming voice of Omaima El Khalil whose mere name stirs the feelings of her wide audience. Her song Asfour tal min chebbak will have tears flow from the bottom of your soul as this particular song addresses the Palestinian issue in the most unique and touching way. Also a composer, Khalifeh is widely known regionally and internationally and has performed in diverse cities across the world such as Lincoln Theatre Washington DC, USA and De Roma Borgerhout, Antwerp, Belgium.
Another major Oud player from Iraq is Naseer Shamma. His Oud playing is simply mesmerizing to say the least. He succeeds in conveying the core spirit of the oriental culture. Shamma is not just a legend, he is a treasure and a preserver of the Arab culture and history. He is an artist associated with music, theatre, movies, fine arts, poetry, television and radio. Few of Shamma’s works are The Moon Fades, Baghdad Night, Oud Improvisation among various others. To wrap it up, I will end with one more Tarab icon from Lebanon Melhem Barakat. He is a singer, songwriter and melodist who established a personal genre in music and became widely popular in Lebanon and overseas. His lively songs bear an uplifting beat which make him a perfect artist for anyone seeking an oriental pulse or a vivacious atmosphere.
It gives me great pleasure to write about these legends and introduce them to people around the world. It has become ever easier to know about cultures all over the world, and not doing so is an ignorance by choice on our part. This article is just a brief introduction about the people included, thus I depend on the curiosity of the reader to know more about the featured legends and many others from the vibrant Middle East where an abundance of art, culture, history and diversity dwells.