Nouhad Wadi Haddad (Arabic: نهاد حداد)
(born November 21, 1935), famously known as Fairuz (Arabic: فيروز, also
spelled Fairouz or Fayrouz, meaning "Turquoise") is a Lebanese singer
who is widely considered to be the most famous living singer in the Arab
world and one of the best known of all time. Her songs are
constantly heard throughout the region, and still spark Lebanese
She was first noticed at the International
Festival of Baalbek, where she performed many of her songs. She became
famous after appearing on the "Lebanese Nights" part of the festival for
many successive years. Fairuz is commonly known as "Ambassador to the
Stars" and "Neighbor to the Moon".
Nouhad Haddad was born on 21
November 1935 in Jabal al Arz[dubious -- discuss],
Lebanon into a Syriac-Maronite family. The family later moved
into a home in cobblestone alley called 'Zuqaq el Blatt' in Beirut.
Living in a single room of a typical Lebanese stone house facing
Beirut's Patriarchate school, they shared a kitchen with the neighbours.
Her father Wadīʿ was from Mardin and of the Syriac Orthodox
faith, and worked as a typesetter in a print shop. Lisa, her
mother, stayed home and took care of her four children, Nouhad, Youssef,
Hoda and Amal.
Nouhad was a shy child and did not have many
friends at school. However, she was very attached to her grandmother who
lived in Debbieh (Shuf area), where Nouhad used to spend her summer
holidays. Nouhad seemed to enjoy the rural village life. During the day,
Nouhad would help her grandmother with house chores and fetch fresh
water from a nearby water spring. She would sing all the way to the
spring and back. In the evening, Nouhad would sit by the candlelight
with her grandmother, who would tell her stories.
By the age of
ten, Nouhad was already known at school for her unusual singing voice.
She would sing regularly during school shows and on holidays. This was
how she came to the attention of Mohammed Fleyfel, a well known musician
and a teacher at the Lebanese Conservatory, who happened to attend one
of the school's shows in February 1950. Impressed by her voice and
performance, he advised her to enroll in the conservatory, which she
did. At first, Nouhad's conservative father was reluctant to send her to
the conservatory; however, he eventually allowed her to go on condition
that her brother accompany her. That having been said, Nouhad's family
as a whole encouraged her in her musical career.
took a close interest in Nouhad's talent. Among other things, he taught
her to recite verses from the Koran (in the Recitative style known as
Tajweed). On one occasion, Nouhad was heard singing by Halim el Roumi,
head of the Lebanese Radio Station and a prominent musician in his own
right (also the father of the famous Lebanese singer Majida Roumi).
Roumi was impressed by her voice and noticed that it had a rare
flexibility that allowed her to sing both Arabic and Western modes
admirably. At Nouhad's request, El Roumi appointed her as a chorus
singer at the radio station in Beirut and went on to compose several
songs for her. He chose for her the stage name Fairuz, which is the
Arabic word for turquoise.
A short while later, Fairuz was
introduced to the Rahbani brothers, Assi and Mansour, who also worked at
the radio station as musicians. The chemistry was instant, and soon
after, Assi started to compose songs for Fairouz, one of which was 'Itab
(the third song he composed for her), which was an immediate smash hit
in all of the Arab world, establishing Fairuz as one of the most
prominent Arab singers on the Arabic music scene. Assi and Fairuz were
married on 23 January 1955.
Fairuz and Assi had four children:
Ziad, a musician and a composer, Layal (died in 1987 of a brain stroke),
Hali (paralysed since early childhood after meningitis) and Rima, a
photographer and film director.
Fairuz's first large-scale
concert took place in 1957 as part of the Baalbeck International
Festival, which took place under the patronage of then President of
Lebanon Camille Chamoun, and where she performed alongside the British
prima ballerina Beryl Goldwyn and the Ballet Rambert. Fairuz was paid
one Lebanese pound for that show. Musical operettas and concerts
followed for many years, eventually establishing Fairuz as one of the
most popular singers in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.