Assi Rahbani Biography
Assi Rahbani was a Lebanese composer, musician, lyricist, playwright and poet whose many musical and theatrical works helped to bring the work of Arabian artists to the attention of the western world. He got his start in Lebanese radio theater, writing and producing songs and sketches about life in Lebanon. Together with his younger brother Mansour and the Lebanese singer Fairuz, whom he later married, he formed the ‘Rahbani Brothers’ and created a unique and distinctive style of musical theater that combined opera, poetry, folklore, and culture. This unique blend was sentimental and patriotic and was aimed toward delighted Lebanese audiences, but also captured international attention. They performed in ‘Carnegie Hall’ and became an international sensation, and used their musical and cultural influence to help launch the careers of many up and coming Arabian artists. The ‘Rahbani Brothers' are considered as pioneers of a unique style of music and today their contributions to the world of musical theater are studied in prominent universities. In addition to his musical career, he also wrote and directed numerous plays, television productions and musicals that he executed with the help of his family members and other Arabian artists. By the end of his career he was a sought after producer and composer responsible for hundreds of successful projects.
- Assi Rahbani was born on May 4, 1923, in Antelias, Lebanon. Together with his younger brother Mansour, he created the musical group the ‘Rahbani Brothers’.
- Rahbani began his career in music working for ‘Lebanese Radio’ and later for ‘Near East Radio’. It was there that he first met a singer named Nouhad Haddad, who at the time was a member of the radio station's chorus but would go on to be known as the singer Fairuz.
- In 1951, Nouhad was picked out of the chorus by the musical director of the station, and Rahbani composed a song for her to sing. After their first recording session he was asked to compose several other songs for her. With the help of Rahbani's brother the trio produced over 50 songs for the station.
- In 1956 during the ‘Suez Crisis’ the trio left the ‘Near East Radio’ station and began to write and record songs independently. Assi and Mansour both composed songs and lyrics together, and the trio collaborated with other artists and they began to grow steadily in popularity.
- The ‘Rahbani Trio’ performed at the ‘Baalbeck International Festival’, in 1957, a cultural musical event held in the ‘Roman Acropolis’. It was the first time that local artists had appeared in the international festival.
- Together the ‘Rahbani Brothers’ composed plays, musicals and theater productions while continuing to broadcast their music through radio and TV channels. Most of these plays were based around simple patriotic themes designed to appeal to the Lebanese public, and featured nostalgic village life and the innocence of young love and growing up.
- By the 1960s the Rahbani Brothers and Fairuz were among the most recognizable and popular bands in Lebanon and the Middle East and were sought after musical figures, with many Arabian artists seeking to work with them.
- In addition to their music they began to write, direct and star in theatrical and television productions. Fairuz was featured in many of these productions, and Rahbani even costarred with her in two Lebanese films.
- In the 1970s the trio enjoyed the success of international music stars. They inspired many proteges and launched the careers of many young Arab singers in the western world.
- Assi Rahbani helped to create a musical theater style that is still considered in many ways unique. His operatic and poetic productions focused on history and folklore as well as socio-political issues and the future of his people and country.
- The ‘Rahbani Singing Theatre’ toured worldwide in many countries and helped to introduce a new generation of Arabian singers and musicians to the world. Their repertoire is featured in the theater curriculums of many famous universities including Harvard and Oxford.
- After his death, his group returned to the Baalbeck International Festival and staged many of their old musicals. They played to a sold out crowd and at the end of the show Fairuz sang to the absent Assi in recognition of his musical legacy.
- In addition to having a working partnership with the singer Fairuz that lasted many decades, Assi Rahbani was also her husband. The two were married in 1954 and had one son and a daughter together.
- On Sept 22, 1972, Rahbani suffered a brain hemorrhage and underwent three surgeries to save his life. Although the hemorrhage was halted, his strenuous job took its toll on his mental health, as well as his marriage, began to deteriorate.
- In 1979 Fairuz and the Rahbani brothers dissolved their partnership, and Fairuz and Assi separated. After parting ways the ‘Rahbani Brothers’ continued their unique musical work with other performing artists.
- Assi Rahbani died on June 26, 1986, after spending several weeks in a coma, and the nation went into mourning for him. He is buried in East Beirut, and warring factions in the area called a ceasefire so that his funeral procession could pass through checkpoints unhindered.
- During his hospitalization for a brain hemorrhage, this eminent musician’s fans crowded outside the hospital to pray for his recovery. His eldest son and younger brother took over the musical he was working on at the time and he recovered in time to attend the performance.
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