At a time when Lebanon appears more divided than ever, Wadi El Safi’s music was a reminder of another, grander era.
Wadi El Safi: the voice of Lebanon
The voice of Wadi El Safi seemed to come from another era: a deep, clear sound made for an age of radio and public performances, where one voice could fill a hall.
Indeed El Safi himself, who died on Friday at the age of 92, was a singer whose career spanned generations in two centuries. Born in 1921, just after the French split apart Syria and Lebanon into separate countries, he had a seven-decade career during an enormously tumultuous time for Lebanon and the wider Arab world. Like another great Lebanese singer Fairuz, with whom he performed, this was reflected in his music, and he sang songs about his love for his homeland, the beauty of its land and rivers and the suffering of the people through the long years of civil war.
El Safi was known as “the Voice of Lebanon”. He was enormously prolific, writing over 3,000 songs. He remained strong well into his 80s, sharing the stage with contemporary Arab pop stars like Najwa Karam.
At a time when Lebanon appears more divided than ever, feeling the fallout of the Syrian war, El Safi’s music was a reminder of another, grander era, a patriotic world when there were many Lebanese but only one Lebanon.