The Voice of Lebanon

Posted on 07. Jan, 2013 by in Arabic Language, art, Culture, Language

Marhaba! In this post, I would like to introduce you all to an iconic music legend and legendary artist Wadih el Safi (وديع الصافي), known as the ‘Voice of Lebanon’. He is an accomplished musician, talented songwriter and recognized actor. I will also post one of his most famous musical masterpieces: an old song from an early recording in black and white, which is called ‘Libnen ya kot’it sama’ (لبنان يا قطعة سما). I will also add the lyrics of this song, which has been sung by many young artists and has become an iconic Lebanese folk song.

Born in Niha, Lebanon in 1921, Wadih el Safi is one of the most recognized and well respected musicians in Lebanon, the Arab world and beyond. In addition to other iconic artists from Lebanon, like Fairouz and others, Wadih el Safi is in fact a genuine Lebanese cultural icon and a source of inspiration to many recognized musicians and aspiring young artists.  His artistic and musical journey began at the age of seventeen. Being the winner at a singing contest held by a Lebanese radio station launched his musical career. His musical talents were directly recognized by the judges of the contest and he was chosen as winner among fifty competitors.

 

Following this musical achievement at a very early stage, Wadih el Safi began studying at the Beirut National Conservatory of Music. He learned how to sing and compose music. He is a  tenor by training, which explains his flexibility and ability to reach high vocal notes. Safi’s cultural trademark and touch is found in his blend of traditional folk melodies and modernized folk music. His music revolves around several themes, like patriotism, nationalism, his rural upbringing, love and traditional Lebanese customs. At the age of 26, Safi left his home country Lebanon for Brazil, where he remained until 1950. Safi’s music popularized the use of poetry in songs and traditional Lebanese zajal (زجل). Lebanese Zajal is a form of improvised and sung poetry in the colloquial Lebanese Arabic dialect. It is still a very popular style of singing in Lebanon and other places in the Levant and the Middle East. In the near future, stay tuned for a post about Lebanese Zajal.

 

In addition to his unique musical talent, Safi is able to sing in many languages including French, Portuguese, and Italian. He has been invited to perform at many international music festivals in Latin America, Europe, North America and the greater Middle East and North Africa. He has received many honors and praises in countries like Tunisia, Jordan and France. For his extensive and large repertoire of recordings, which are over 3000 songs, and his contribution to Lebanese and Arab folk music, he was awarded an honorary degree from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon.

At the age of 92, he is still active on the music scene and still performs at various concerts in the Middle East and beyond. His passion for love and music makes Wadih el Safi a cultural icon with a young and active heart and spirit captured in a maturing body. A few artists can accomplish what he has done and a few can genuinely portray the beauty of their country and cultural traditions and beliefs in songs and poetry. His musical masterpieces and unique voice immortalize the beauty of Lebanon despite its gloomy days and hours. Whenever I am feeling homesick, I just have to listen to any of Wadih’s musical masterpieces and then I just feel I am right at home.

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لبنان يا قطعة سما

لبنان يا قطعة سما

Lebanon oh piece of heaven
عالارض تاني ما الا

Which on Earth is no other
لوحات الله راسما

Paintings that God has drawn
شطحات احلى من الحلى

Brushes more beautiful than beauty
عالطامعين محرما

He has restricted it from envious people
وللخاشعين محللا

And welcomes in it devoted people
بالسيف ما بتغلى دما

With the sword no blood shall be spilled
وللضيف منقلوا هلا

And to the visitor we say welcome
لبنان يا قطعة سما

Lebanon oh piece of heaven

اسمك على شفافي صلاه

Your name upon my lips is a prayer
يسعد صباحك هالحلو

May your morning be pleasant
يال انت للدنيا صباح

You who are a morning to the world
روس لجبال تكحلو

The peaks of the mountains are crowned
بالنور واترفض جناح

With light and the wings
بلبل حلو ياما الو

Of the beautiful nightingale
صابر على جنون الرياح

Patient against the craziness of the wind
عرم بريش البللو

His feathers overflowed by
قطر الندي

The drops of dew
زهزل وصاح

Sings out

لبنان يا قطعة سما

Lebanon oh piece of heaven
اسمك علي شفافي صلاة

Your name upon my lips is a prayer

Have a great day!

نهاركم سعيد

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About jesa

Salam everyone! Born as an American to two originally Arab parents, I have been raised and have spent most of my life in Beirut, Lebanon. I have lived my good times and my bad times in Beirut. I was but a young child when I had to learn to share my toys and food with others as we hid from bombs and fighting during the Lebanese Civil War. In my later teenage years, I learned how to protest, participate in and challenge the conflicted political situation in Lebanon and the region as a whole. Living the life that I did in Lebanon and growing up in that politicized environment, my passion for the workings of politics, society and culture led me to a career in political science. And so I am here today, living in the United States I share my life with my now-wife and long-time best friend and I am working to earn my doctorate in Political Studies. I feel my connection to Arabic as both a language and culture is severing and so it is with you, my readers, and through you that I wish to reestablish this connection by creating one for you.

5 Responses to “The Voice of Lebanon”

  1. Sara Jessica 10 January 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Wadih El Safi is the legend of the Lebanese song, he’s one of those giants that we associate Lebanon with.

  2. jesa 18 January 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I agree Sara.. he is a legend!
    Salam.

  3. Chichester454 29 August 2013 at 10:50 am #

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  4. jesa 30 August 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Salam. I am glad you find the website useful. Also, you can follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/learn.arabic) if you want. We share many important articles and pictures to help you learn Arabic.


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