Dear Elias Rahbani,
Let me start by apologizing for having to look you up when I heard about the terrible news. My mother was terribly shocked at the headline and would not speak to anyone for the next couple of hours. I have to admit, I felt really ignorant not knowing who my mom was mourning.
I was able to place you in my head once I saw you had written songs for Fairuz, Sabah and even Majida El Roumi. Though I am not a huge fan of these amazing artists, their names are as familiar as the Marimba ringtone. And this is why today I am writing this letter to you; I have felt the need to denounce the music industry and the lack of credit songwriters and composers get in this domain. I also want to denounce some of the Lebanese youth, including myself, for not being curious enough about our cultural background. For listening to Prince or Micheal Jackson instead of you. I promise I am trying to make it up to you by discovering your songs one at a time.
I started by Beloved, a melody my mother resorts to relieve stress and anxiety.
“ It just takes all the weight off your shoulders, you simply need to close your eyes and listen”, she always says.
I then proceeded by listening to Nina Maria, an ode to your soulmate and wife Nina Maria Khalil. Is it crazy to say I feel the good vibrations through the sounds? I feel the happiness, and the spice in the different instruments. I wonder, were you trying to mimic the way Nina made you feel? And after wondering, I get sad. I get sad because if I was more knowledgeable about my own heritage, this would have been an interview and not a late letter, and I would have been able to ask you these questions instead of just wondering.
The next song that played was Diala and the questioning was back. Who was Diala? And is it too late now to be interested in why you wrote such a dramatic tune for someone that does not appear in your Wikipedia page?
And then I get hit by it. How unfortunate is it that our generation expects an entire life to be represented by a couple of lines on the internet. Is this what humanity has come to?
My head starts hurting after all this thinking and I go back to your calming soundtrack.
C’est Pas Ma Faute instantly plays and the guilt I felt before is not as consuming as in the beginning of my listening session; because thanks to your song I realize it is not completely my fault that I was left in the dark concerning your music. It is also the radio’s fault, my parents’ fault, my school’s fault and the list goes on.
Why does Virgin Radio repeat Justin Bieber’s newest song seven times a day instead of playing it once and then playing some of your stuff? Why did my school make me memorize Michèle by Gérard Lenorman rather than Nehna Oul Amar Jirane by your band and Fairuz?
Don’t Say Goodbye interrupts my thoughts and transports me to a thoughtless universe.
I am simply consumed by this song. I do not want to blame anyone anymore. I decide to forgive myself for my lack of implication in the Lebanese culture, and I choose to dedicate more of my time to my roots and the musical outcome of these roots.
I hope you will be able to forgive me as well, and to appreciate the steps I am following to broaden my knowledge on the music industry, including exploring all types of genres.
Thank you for the magical melodies.
Rest In Power Elias Rahbani 1938-2021