Fans of Lebanese diva Fairouz–arguably the most beloved singer in the Arab world–gathered yesterday in the garden hall of Zamalek’s Sawy Culture Wheel to protest disputes over song rights between Fairouz and the heirs of the late Mansour Rahbani, who have prevented Lebanon’s “Ambassador to the Stars” from performing songs composed by their father and his brother, Assi Rahbani.
The sit-in was a show of solidarity with protesters at Beirut’s National Museum, who demonstrated against a possible court ruling in favor of the Rahbani brothers, and called for Fairouz fans all over the Arab world to join them in protesting the ban.
According to Mohamed El-Sawy, head of Sawy Culture Wheel, “Fairouz is loved by everyone. I’m expecting many to attend to show their disagreement,” he said.
Iraqi musician, Nasseer Shamma, showed his support in Zamalek. In Shamma’s opinion, arguments over dividing inheritance is very normal among families, and he expects that this particular issue will be solved outside of court. He entertained the protesters with some of Fairouz’s most famous songs.
Fairouz is the widow of Assi Rahbani who, together with Mansour, composed hundreds of songs for the singer. In 2008, the sons of Mansour Rahbani sued the singer, preventing her from performing their father’s compositions in public.
Assi Rahbani is not named in the lawsuit.
Lebanese, Syrian, and other Arab officials will try to mediate in the dispute. The Lebanese Culture Minister told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he is trying to end the current standoff in order to preserve the Rahbani legacy, particularly since neither party has benefited from the crisis.
A source said that Fairouz appreciates the efforts of her admirers; the same source is quick to deny that those close to Fairouz triggered the protests in a bid to influence the court ruling.
Fairouz has not given a public statement, but, according to the same source, she considers the dispute a personal attack rather than a legitimate implementation of intellectual property rights law.
Intellectual property includes such intangible assets as musical works.
For their part, Mansour Rahbani’s heirs are unhappy about how they are being portrayed in the media, which “is continuously distorting the truth.” The three brothers issued a statement detailing the grounds for their legal case. In a phone conversation with Al-Masry Al-Youm, a source close to the Rahbani family said that, contrary to what has been reported by the media, nobody has prevented Fairouz from singing.
Critic and writer Ebeido Basha also accused the media of giving the Rahbani-Fairouz dispute excessive attention and interfering in what he described as “family business.” Basha wondered, “Even if we acknowledge that the law bans Fairouz from singing those songs created by Mansour Rahbani, does that include the works of Assi?”
Claudia Marchalian, a Lebanese writer and an organizer of the solidarity campaign, said that the most important thing is to protect Fairouz, a national icon who has influenced generations of Arabs.