Monday, August 2, 2010

Ya chawish el karakon: Feyrouz is not above the law.

I suppose everyone has so far heard about the feud that has stopped Feyrouz from singing. It all boils down to this, Feyrouz, widow of Assi el Rehbani, did not pay royalties for the heirs of her late brother in law Mansour before singing the "Ya'ish, ya'ish" operette - so they have sued her and stopped the operette which was written by Assi and Mansour otherwise known as the "Rahbani brothers". It all sounds simple and legal, except that the rift runs far deeper than that.
Mohammed Abdel Wahhab the great Egyptian composer once said: "to call themselves Rahbani brothers is an injustice to Assi," and so there are many who argue that it was Assi's genius that was the driving force behind their popularity teamed with his wife Feyrouz's voice. Actually, when Assi died there was a proposition to call a street in Antelias the town where they hail from under his name, the proposition was contested by Mansour and the street was called "The Rahbani brothers". Lately, after Mansour died there was a decree to include Mansour's works in the official art curricula in schools, it was the heirs of Assi who contested and so the works of the brothers are now to be tought.
In another episode, Rima Rahbani just released the DVD Kanet Hikaye (so hastily done in trubute to her father that she forgot that there was incompatibility in the typo of the subtitles which made every appostrophy look like %^#...), and the message boils down to this: Assi and Feyrouz were the tandem not Assi and Mansour, Assi's musical genius made people recall songs while going out of the Piccadilly theatre whereas Mansour's plays (according to Feyrouz but implicitly said as) "today's plays leave people with no word or musical note to remember".
I am not picking sides here, just recounting stories. Let me say that I love Feyrouz as much as the next man - no, I love her MORE than the next man, I even translated the lyrics of some of her songs into English ... I went to the famous concert she did in Downtown Beirut on September 17th, 1994 - her first after the war in Lebanon. I saw her in Baalbeck and in Beiteddine... I say all of this to drop the bomb now and say: She is not above the law!....
As someone who writes lyrics to songs, who creates and publishes books and whatever, one of the things that pains me the most is when someone steals my work. Or publishes it without giving me credit. I have not earned any royalties from my songwriting yet, I admit, but I did once spend 2 full hours in a cafe signing legal documents in triplicates that confirm me being the author of around a dozen of songs. And when the time comes, I want my money out of them.
Well, if McCartney and Yoko Ono can find a civilized way to make amends, I hope Feyrouz and the heirs of Mansour will do the same. But what can you say of a woman who sued art critic Abido Bacha for saying he did not like her concert? Maybe just sing "ya chawish el karakon" (Oh offiicer of the jail!)...
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