Tag Archives: Lebanese music

Artist Profiles: Wadih Al-Safi

Wadih Al-Safi

Wadih Al-Safi was one of the most prominent Lebanese and Arabic composer-singers of his time. He was often described as the “Voice of Lebanon” and was responsible for the mark of distinction and popularity of Lebanese music. Al-Safi’s name was synonymous with traditional Lebanese folklore.

Born in Lebanon in 1921, in the village of Niha, in the Shouf Valley, Sali grew up listening to the traditional Arabic folklore of the village people. Consequently, he inherited a natural gift for singing the rural sound. Later, in 1938, he moved to Beirut to pursue formal vocal studies at the Lebanese National Conservatory of Music. In the same year, Al-Safi entered a vocal competition sponsored by the Lebanese Broadcasting Network, where he won first place, launching his career in the country and gaining national fame. He then began composing and performing music based on his folklore roots incorporating a new urban sound, which would later be described as the historical urbanization of Lebanese folk music.

Performing this new style throughout the Middle East at festivals, plays and concerts, Wadih Al-Safi soon became a household name in the Arab world, being described as “the pure voice of Lebanon.” His tenor voice commanded a unique beauty, especially when he sang about Lebanon, a country so loved throughout the Arab world. He was known to bring tears of joy as his popular songs invoked the beauty of the land and the old country.

Al-Safi wrote and composed over 3000 songs, most of which symbolize the goodness of Lebanon and the Middle East. He performed throughout the Americas, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

Wadi’ Al-Safi died on October 11, 2013 in Mansourieh, Lebanon.

He released numerous albums and compilations.


Artist Profiles: Ragheb Alama

Ragheb Alama

For many years, Ragheb Alama has been the biggest name in Lebanese pop music. His albums have gone gold or platinum throughout the Arab world, and his tours around the globe become instant sell-outs, whether he’s performing in Beirut, Cairo, Sydney or New York. He is, quite simply, a phenomenon.

Born June 7, 1962, in Ghoubeiri, a suburb of Lebanon, Ragheb came from a large family, with seven brothers and sisters. Almost from the moment he could talk, music was a part of him. By the time he was two, he’d sing songs he’d heard on the radio, even though he couldn’t pronounce the words. In school he was the first to volunteer to sing, and his remarkable voice made him the star attraction.

But it wasn’t until he was twelve, when his father took him to the taping of a music show for Lebanese radio, that Ragheb understood he’d been put on earth to sing. The following year he became a student at the Lebanese School for Music, where vocal training helped him develop his special talent.

Still, his parents hoped he might take a more traditional path by going to the university and becoming an engineer. But this was something bigger than desire; Ragheb was born to sing. His big break came on the day he finished his final high school exams. As soon as he’d completed his paper, Ragheb hurried to the television studio to sing on Star Search, a nationally broadcast show that helped new talent. He won. By the next day all of Lebanon was buzzing about him and his voice, an instrument that could handle anything, from big ballads to up-tempo dance pop. Having created such a sensation with a single TV appearance, the next inevitable step was an album.

Within a year, that album was breaking record sales throughout the Middle East. Written and produced by Ihssan Al-Mounzer, it was a perfect slice of Lebanese pop music, and gave Ragheb his first taste of success. Since then, Ragheb’s golden voice has brought him fame throughout the Arab world and beyond. But musically he hasn’t been content to rest on his laurels. Each album has brought something new and different. Ragheb continues to push the envelope.

Along with emotional ballads, he’s also introduced the upbeat debka rhythm with its searing beat and lyrics that’s become his trademark. His concerts are events. To Ragheb, music has no bordersit’s a way to bring people together, to enjoy and celebrate life. And that’s what he’s done, making him a household name in the Arab communities around the world.

Across the U.S. his shows are standing room only, from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington, D.C. and New York. In Detroit, he proved so popular he was given the key to the city. In 1997, Ragheb was voted the most popular singer in the Middle East and awarded the Gold Lion, the seal on a career that had seen him grow into his superstar status.

But fame can bring problems. Just a year later he was shot in the leg following a concert in Jordan, and assassination attempt by a crazed fan who managed to escape. However, that hasn’t slowed Ragheb down. Recovered, he resumed his touring and recording schedule, and continues to work tirelessly.


Ya Reyt (Relax-In, 1986)
Al Hadiya (Relax-In, 1986)
Rahal (Relax-In, 1988)
Dawa el Leil (1988)
Ma Y’gooz (1989)
Alby Eshekha (Relax-In, 1991)
Ya Hayaty (Relax-In, 1993)
Taw’am Ruhy (1995)
Pump up the Jam (1996)
Live Recording (Relax-In, 1996)
Farek Khebir (CEMI Music Arabia, 1996)
Bravo Alayki!… Gloria (Relax-In , 1997)
ab Leh (Alam El Phan 2002)
El Hob El Kebir (Alam El Phan, 2004)
Ba’sha’ak (Daxar Music, 2008)
Seneen Rayha (2010)
Starz V.1 (2010)
Habeeb Dehkati (2014)


Artist Profiles: Georges Barbar

Georges Barbar

Georges Barbar was born in Lebanon, where he started developing his artistic skills at a very young age. At the age of 10, he was already a confirmed percussionist.

He studied Musicology at the University of the Holy Spirit Kaslik, where he also graduated in two instrumental fields: classic guitar and Middle Eastern percussion.

At the same period, he started working and exploring technical and artistic techniques related to the programming of sampling and recording software such as Logic Audio and Protools. Thus, he acquired a strong experience as a studio musician and technician. During this period, he performed on samplers and synthesizers.

Later on, he focused his research on studying percussion instruments from all over the world: Brazil, Cuba, Africa, India and the Middle East. Recently he took a master classes with the famous Cuban percussionist Jose Luis Quintana ” Changuito” and with Yaroldy Abreu considered as a number one percussionist of Latin Jazz in Cuba today. As a percussionist, Georges Barbar has a unique blend and a special style inspired by cultures, music and techniques from different continents.

Georges Barbar

To many, Georges Barbar is also a prominent researcher devoted to developing new percussion instruments. His work as a researcher was awarded by The Guinness World Records (2006), as he designed and built the largest Bar Chimes in the world. Georges Barbar’s Bar Chimes won him a great interest from magazines and media. This instrument finds many applications and is very suitable for different artistic purposes, ranging from contemporary dance performances to movie soundtracks.

In recent years, Georges Barbar has become an extremely dynamic musician. He performed in various festivals, composed and recorded with many musicians from Cuba, France, Bulgaria, Japan, and Lebanon. He is now one of the leading percussionists of Fusion and Afro-Cuban Jazz in Lebanon.

Georges Barbar


Blue Spark, with Emeline Chatelin


Artist Profiles: Claude Chalhoub

Claude Chalhoub – Photo by Jorg Brodstedt

Born in 1974 in Lebanon into a family of musicians, Claude Chalhoub was introduced to the violin by his father who played the rebec. At the age of eight his brother gave him his first violin, and he started to play at home with the family, mostly improvising Arab music. He soon entered the conservatory, but as the war took hold of Lebanon, the conservatory was closed and Claude was forced to continue his studies on his own, discovering most of the technique of the violin by himself. A teacher later told him that he didn’t want to change that technique but refine it, because music is about the sounds and the colors of these sounds, and not about theoretical discussions about harmonies and techniques.

Obviously his self styled technique was good enough to meet high academic standards, because at the age of 18 he was offered the prestigious Queen Elizabeth scholarship which allowed him to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music in London. He studied with professor Grigory Zhisling and Rodney Friend and was introduced to a large repertoire of classical music, not only during his studying hours, but mainly by listening to all the symphonic orchestras he could watch.

Classical music was not the only repertoire he absorbed. In London he was exposed to many different culture. Claude listened to Indian music, African music, and Chinese music. He searched for his own sound. In his 4th year of studies this search led to the first recording session of his own music, Red Desert, combining the sounds of an Indian tabla with those of Arabic improvisation and a string octet.

For his final recital at the conservatory he chose a composition of his own, “Oriental Images”, which turned out to be a huge success. In 1997 he received an award for excellence. His public debut on the stage of St. John?s in London?s Smith Square led to a series of successful European concerts.

In 1999 Claude was invited to Weimar to participate in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The aim of this West Eastern Divan was to give young musicians from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, the Middle East and Germany the opportunity to study and play music together. Barenboim selected Claude to be the musical director of the orchestra. During one of the chamber concerts, Claude attracted so much attention for his improvisational music that he was signed to record his first album. In the summer of 2000 he started to work with producer and guitarist Michael Brook in the Sound Factory in Los Angeles. At he same time he was invited to participate in Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road project in Tanglewood (USA). The self-titled album, Claude Chalhoub features Pakistani singer Forroukh Fateh Ali Khan, the brother of the legendary Nusrat. It was released in the spring of 2001 in the USA and Germany, England, France, Italy and other territories followed in 2002/2003.

In 2003 Claude also started touring with his own quartet and plays concerts in several German cities, France and Italy . The Traumzeitfestival in Duisburg, Germany commissioned him to write music for a group specially gathered for this festival. The premiere in Duisburg featuring the Indigo string octett, Trilok Gurtu on tabla , Gilad Atzmon on clarinet and saxophone plus Claude?s band was received with standing ovations.

For his performance at the prestigious WOMAD Festival in Rivermead, UK, Claude invited another outstanding musician to join his band: Indian flute virtuoso Ronu Majumdar.

Claude has composed soundtrack for several films: ?Hollywood Buddah?, ?Persona non grata? (Oliver Stone’s documentary on the Middle East conflict.) He also continues to teach at the conservatory in Beirut.


Claude Chalhoub (Teldec Classics, 2001)
Diwan (Herzog Records, 2008)


Artist Profiles: May Nasr

May Nasr

A native of Lebanon, May Nasr has been influenced by the songs of the great Fairuz, Zaki Nassif, Ahmad Kaabour, Marcel Khalife, Julia Boutros.

In her early singing career, May was mentored by the renowned sound engineer Farid Abul Kheir, and trained by the great Lebanese singer Zaki Nassif as well as Badia Sabra Haddad, the former voice teacher of Fairuz.

A voice for freedom, justice, equality, humanity and love, May often focuses on the beauty of the Lebanese people in her music, using songs of peace, love and resilience to inspire positive change in local and global Arab communities. A strong voice for social justice as well, Nasr helps support local charities as well as global organizations through the proceeds of her many popular concerts.

She has performed to ecstatic audiences throughout the Middle East and the world. Her first CD, Lil Ghaly, was released in November 2008 and her second recording, Written in Water, with Lourdes Pérez, was released in 2010.

May sings with her guitar, her heart and the beautiful voice with which she has been blessed.” – Zaki Nassif


* Lil Ghaly (2008)
* Written in Water (2010)
* Te llamo (2012)


Artist Profiles: Abboud Abdel’Al

Lebanese musician Abboud Abdel’Al was born in 1930. He started his musical career while he was only 7 years old. He is a well known violin player, conductor, composer and arranger, in the Arab countries and in Europe.

He has worked with legendary Arab Artists such as Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Farid El-Atrach, Abdel Halim Hafez, Feiruz etc… In addition, he has contributed and worked with London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jessy King, Anne Dudley, Jaz Coleman and many others.