x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Festival: The Rahbani Legacy continues to endure

The musical legacy of the Rahbani brothers was celebrated in an upbeat, passionate show at the Abu Dhabi Festival.

The Rahbani Legacy played on Monday night at Emirates Palace as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival
The Rahbani Legacy played on Monday night at Emirates Palace as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival

The Rahbani Brothers are arguably the most influential composers in modern Arabic music.

Emerging from Beirut in the 1940s, Assi and Mansour merged Arabic pop and classical music to create an oeuvre of tunes that defined an era.

Even today, the songs they wrote for singers such as Fayrouz and Mohammed Abdel Wahab are favourites throughout the Middle East.

While both brothers have passed on, their musical legacy continues, thanks to their offspring, Ghadi and Oussama Rahbani, who were commissioned by Abu Dhabi Festival to create a show that celebrates their influence over Middle Eastern music.

The result is The Rahbani Legacy, which played on Monday night at Emirates Palace. Led by seven of Lebanon’s top singers, Oussama on the piano, a full orchestra and a backing chorus, this was a thoroughly enjoyable journey through the brothers’ most-loved hits.

The UAE’s Lebanese community was out in force, and while other concerts during the festival were somewhat staid in nature, this one had a more party-like ambience, with the audience clapping and singing heartily throughout.

The Rahbanis have always had a skill for scouting out the most talented singers to perform their work. On the evidence of this show, their descendants have inherited this gift.

All seven lead vocalists brought energy, passion and virtuosity to their performances.

Special mention must go to the rich tenor of Ghassan Saliba, and also the glamorous Hiba Tawaji, who combines beauty with a hauntingly -resonant voice.

Hats also must be raised to the professionalism of National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, especially as one imagines that accompanying Arabic pop singers is not usually part of their repertoire.

Even those who were completely unacquainted with the Rahbani Brothers would have appreciated the musicianship and sheer vivacity of the evening’s -entertainment.

hberger@thenational.ae