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Raḥbānī familylocked

  • Ali Jihad Racy

Lebanese family of musicians .

‘Āṣī Raḥbānī and Manṣūr Raḥbānī were usually known as al-Akhawān Raḥbānī (‘The Raḥbānī Brothers’). They came from a musical family; their father Ḥannā al-Raḥbānī was an amateur player of the buzuq (long-necked fretted lute). In their early lives the brothers worked as policemen. They studied music in Lebanon with Father Būlus Ashqar (1881–1962) and Bertrand Robillard (d 1964). In 1954 ‘Āṣī married Fayrūz Fayrūz, who became one of the most popular singers of Lebanon and the Arab world. Between the late 1950s and the early 70s ‘Āṣī and Manṣūr created a vast vocal repertory for Fayrūz, who sometimes performed with other well-known artists. Working together, the brothers and Fayrūz became widely recognized as a musical team; their repertory included hundreds of songs and about two dozen musical plays which incorporated dialogues, songs and folk dances with new choreographies. Presented at the Baalbek International Festivals and other important Arab and Lebanese venues, the plays and songs became collectively known as fūlklūr (‘folklore’). This new Lebanese art form embraced numerous adaptations of older traditional and popular tunes and elements of traditional Arab and European musics. The lyrics and plots of musical plays such as Mawsam al-‘Izz (1960), al-Ba‘albakiyyah (1961) and Jisr al-Qamar (1962) centre around Lebanese village life, while other plays such as Ayyām Fakhr al-Dīn (1966) are based on historical and nationalistic topics; the themes of later works such as Lūlū (1974) and Mays al-Rīm (c1975) are predominantly urban. Many of the Raḥbānīs' songs also address topics of general Arab interest.

‘Āṣī and Manṣūr sometimes worked with their younger brother, the composer Elias (Ilyās) Raḥbānī (b 1938), who is known for creating numerous television jingles and film scores. The Raḥbānī Brothers' collaboration dwindled and eventually ceased following Āṣī’s stroke in 1972 and the separation of ‘Āṣī and Fayrūz around 1979.

After his collaboration with his brother ‘Āṣī ended, Manṣūr continued to compose musical plays. Although related in many ways to the earlier fūlklūr style, Manṣūr’s later works are characterized by a more prominent use of the symphonic idiom and choral singing. His musical plays have a variety of historical, philosophical and moral plots; examples include Ṣayf 1840 (‘The Summer of 1840’, c1987), al-Waṣiyyah (‘The Will’, 1993) and Ākhir ayyām Suqrā (‘The Last Days of Socrates’, 1998), which was recorded by the Kiev Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Sirenko.

(1) ‘Āṣī Raḥbānī

(b Anṭilyās, nr Beirut, 1923; d Beirut, 1986). Composer and lyricist .

(2) Manṣūr Raḥbānī

(b Anṭilyās, nr Beirut, 1925). Composer and lyricist , brother of (1) Āṣī Raḥbānī.

(3) Ziyād Raḥbānī

(b Anṭilyās, nr Beirut, Jan 1, 1956). Composer, pianist, actor and singer , son of (1) ‘Āṣī Raḥbānī and Fayrūz Fayrūz. In Lebanon he studied with Boghos Gelalian, an Armenian-Lebanese composer and teacher of piano and music theory. Ziyād became an accomplished pianist and also developed facility on traditional Arab instruments, especially the buzuq. He emerged as a renegade artist with leftist leanings and gradually departed from the ‘Raḥbānī School’ of his parents and his uncle Manṣūr, instead developing a multi-faceted style of his own. His musical plays combine singing with dialogue, often in the city vernacular of Beirut; he usually acts in his plays and sometimes sings. His music brings together Lebanese popular idioms and traditional Arab elements and also incorporates influences from Western musics, especially jazz. His dramatic narratives include caricatures of the nationalistic and folkloristic themes of the early Raḥbānī plays and satirical allusions to social and political corruption in Lebanon, especially during the civil war (1975–90). His theatrical works include Sahriyyah (‘Festive Evening’, 1973), Nazl al-Surūr (‘The Inn of Joy’, c1974), Bin-nisbi la-bukrā shū? (‘What About Tomorrow?’, 1978), Fīlm AmīrkīṬawīl (‘Long American Movie’, c1980), Shī fāshil (‘A Fiasco’, 1983) and Bi-khuṣūṣ al-karāmi wal-sha‘b al-‘anīd (‘Concerning Dignity and the Unyielding People’, 1993). After the early 1980s, following the separation of his parents and the cessation of collaboration between his father and his uncle, Ziyād became a major composer of Fayrūz’s song repertory.