TRIBUTE TO WADI ELSAFI with NAJWA KARAM and WAEL KFOURY
July 1, 2010 - 8:30 pm
Byblos Festival’s opening night is the highly anticipated celebration of Wadih el Safi’s 70 years in music.
“Sawt Lobnan Al Khaled” (The Immortal Lebanese Voice) will be the star of this Lebanese folk night and will be accompanied by 30 musicians and two of Lebanon’s biggest stars: Najwa Karam and Wael Kfoury.
The show, a unique creation for Byblos Festival, will also include traditional dances and the first screening of a short documentary on Wadih el Safi’s life and on the Lebanese folk music he helped create.
Wadih El Safi started his artistic journey at the early age of seventeen when he took part in a singing contest held by the Lebanese Broadcasting Network and was first among fifty other competitors. He was named then the first singer of Lebanon.
He has written over 3000 songs and is well known for his mawawil (an improvised singing style) of ‘ataba, mijana, and Abu el Zuluf. He has performed and recorded with many well-known Lebanese musicians.
Najwa Karam and Wael Kfoury are two of the most popular singers in the Arab world but most importantly they were the first amongst the singers of their generation to bring this style of music back to the forefront. And in both their cases, Wadih el Safi’s was the catalyst.
In late 2002, Karam began her collaboration with the Lebanese cultural icon. Wadih el Safi had known her for a while, and had been impressed with her vocal talents. The two of them decided to sing a duet together, depicting the trials of a father-daughter relationship. The ballad, “W Kberna” (We grow old together), was a huge hit in the Arab world.
Wael Kfoury – also a Zahlé native – was born into the Mawwal tradition, which his father taught him from an early age. He has always said that his aim was to blend Wadih el Safi’s tarab with Abdelhalim Hafez’s romanticism. And that’s exactly what he did: not only by covering some of Wadih el Safi’s most famous tunes (“Al-Laylu ya Layla”) but also by keeping this tradition alive and adding new songs to the repertoire.
This will definitely be a night to remember with a younger generation paying tribute to a man and a music that will never grow old.
WADIH EL SAFI
Wadih El Safi is a Lebanese singer, songwriter, and actor. He is a Lebanese cultural icon, and is often called the “Voice of Lebanon”. He started his artistic journey in 1938 at the early age of seventeen when he took part in a singing contest held by the Lebanese Broadcasting Network and was first among fifty other competitors. He was named then the first singer of Lebanon.
El Safi, a classically trained Baritone – having studied at the Beirut National Conservatory of Music -, began composing and performing songs that drew upon his rural upbringing and love of traditional melodies. He blended poetry and zajal with an urban sound, and created a new style of modernized Lebanese folk music. He performed in venues throughout the Middle East.
In 1947, El Safi traveled to Brazil, where he remained until 1950. After his return to Lebanon, El Safi continued to develop folk music and chose poetry and zajal to inspire patriotism and focus on love, devotion, morals and values.
Wadih El Safi toured the world, singing in many languages, including Arabic, French, Portuguese and Italian. He took part in major international festivals and earned many high distinction honors in Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, Syria, Mascat and France.
He has written over 3000 songs and is well known for his mawawil (an improvised singing style) of ‘ataba, mijana, and Abu el Zuluf. He has performed and recorded with many well-known Lebanese musicians, including Najwa Karam, Fairouz, and Sabah.
The famous Lebanese singer Najwa Karam was born on the 26th of February 1966 in Zahle, Lebanon. She is the youngest amongst her siblings; she has three brothers, Tony, Jean and Nicola and one sister, Salwa.
Najwa studied in Zahle and graduated with a degree in Philosophy, and later became a teacher for two years. Her musical talents were apparent from a young age but her father initially disapproved of her interest in a musical profession.
In 1985 Najwa joined “Layali Lobnan” the famous TV show that supports young talents. She was an immediate hit in that show and won the Gold Medal, which changed her father’s original opinion. After “Layali Lobnan”, Najwa participated in many concerts singing traditional Lebanese songs and joined the Arabic Music Institute for four years to improve her skills as a vocalist.
Her first official song was “Aala Zahle”. She followed it with “Batalet Soum W Sally” and “Eddam El Forsan”, before releasing her first album Ya Habayeb in 1989. Two years later, in 1992, Najwa released her second album, Shams El-Ghennieh. The album met with huge success in Lebanon and the name Shams El-Ghennieh (The Sun Of All Songs) has been associated with her ever since.
Naghmet Hob was a massive hit and one of the best-selling albums of 1994; the song “Law Habaytak – Ana Mafyee” launched Najwa Karam in the region and made her music known all over the Arab World. Najwa has released 14 albums so far, as well as a couple of singles and continues to impress us with her Lebanese style of singing. One of the highlights of her career was the duo “W kberna” with Lebanese music icon Wadih el Safi.
She participated in many festivals in many countries around the world, such as, America, Europe and Australia. Her concerts at the Jarash Festival in Jordan are considered the most successful concerts in the festival’s history. Najwa’s performance at the Carthage Festival in Tunisia is also considered to be among her greatest concerts.
She also participated in Major Festivals all around the Arab World, in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Syria. If anyone was responsible for the rebirth of Lebanese song, it would be Najwa Karam.
She has received awards all throughout her career, from trophies to keys of cities and much more. She is considered the best-selling and performing artist of her time, and the success continues…
Wael Kfoury, is one of the most popular singers in the Arab world. He is famous for his romantic songs that incorporate mawwal-style singing.
After enrolling at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) and the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music, he had his breakthrough when he took part in Studio El Fan music competition and was awarded the gold medal for best male singer for the 1992-1993 season. Wael Kfoury signed with the Music Box music label and released three albums in 1994, 1995 and 1996 with the label, and that year was chosen as Best Singer in Lebanon.
He had to suspend his musical career for one year to do his mandatory military service in the Lebanese Army from September 1996 to September 1997. Prior to joining up, he released the popular single “Rayeh ‘al Jeysh” (I am Going to the Army) encouraging other youth to enroll in military service. During that period, he was highly publicized by the Lebanese Army as a role model for Lebanese youth, with frequent musical appearances in the media. He was also seen performing to other Lebanese conscripts on national occasions including Lebanese Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Lebanese Army Day, and at the end of his service he released a full album of songs recounting his experience in an album entitled 12 Months, the duration of compulsory military service in Lebanon.
In 2000 Wael Kfoury signed with Rotana Records and largely due to the success of his first album with this label called Sa’alouni, won the Murex Lebanese Award for Best Male Singer.
In his following album Shou Ra’yak, and for the first time in his musical career, he took part in the writing and composing of some of the songs. The album went platinum in the Arab World. He remains popular throughout the Arab World as well as the Arab diaspora in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia with frequent sold-out tours.
In 2003, Wael Kfoury released his most successful song ever, “Omri Killo”. In the following years, Kfoury released further albums that achieved international success with songs such as “Osset Oshaq”, “Bhibbak Ana Ktir”, “Bhinn”, “Mista’a Ktir”, “Tabkil Toyour”, “Arrib Layyi”, and “Hobbak Azab”.