In the Presence of a Legend

الأحد 04 تشرين الثاني 2007

Written By: Mohammed Dalabih

Two years after her last performance there, the Lebanese music legend Fairouz comes to the Arena theater once again; to a truly perfect setting, away from the noise and fuss of the ever growing Amman.

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At around 9:00 pm, the music starts, with the signature of the Rahabani brothers that cannot be missed. The music fills the theatre and its fully packed seats. The curtain goes up, slowly the eyes getting accustomed to the red blue and green lights and all their combinations. The actors are on stage, you glance at the decorations and start looking for the lady, Fairouz. It takes more than a few minutes, perhaps less than a few minutes, but who knows, time is relative. At last, you realize that this is her, the woman in the cumin colored dress giving her back to the audience and carrying the orange umbrella. And the trance begins.

Sah Ennom, which translates into “Good morning”, or “how was your sleep”, was the play that night. Originally played and recorded in 1971, planned to run in Lebanon last year but cancelled because of the war, the play is not a new one. It tells the story of a small kingdom, ruled by a stamp with absolute say in almost all matters of state. Nothing goes without this stamp, not even the Wali‘s own orders. The Wali, however, wakes up a day each month, and sleeps the rest. During that day he stamps only three petitions and postpones the rest. The kingdom is effectively stuck in its own pace, isolated from the ever changing world around it.

Fairouz plays the part of a poor woman, Qurunful, whose house roof collapsed, and needs the Wali’s signature to rebuild it. Waiting for the Wali month after month, she starts carrying her umbrella. This umbrella gains an identity of its own: the identity of the wait and the suffering.

Fairouz’s voice is as angelic as ever, the music as enchanting as it was 30 years ago. In a moment she made the audience cry, not out of sadness, but out of nostalgia and the memories that this voice carries for all of us. And just as quickly she made us smile then laugh and wipe our tears. That is what it feels like to be in the presence of a legend.

Perhaps the play’s biggest statement is how it still applies perfectly to the situation of the Arab countries 30 years since its first screening, how, just like the Wali‘s kingdom, the region seems to have created its own almost dead pace of development.

Was the evening perfect? No it was not, the organization was quite poor. Is that worth talking about? Not really, it is not an everyday occasion to be in the presence of a legend.

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