World Premiere & Abu Dhabi Festival Commission Charts Mansour and Assi Rahbani’s Monumental Influence on Arabic Music
(Abu Dhabi, UAE: 26 March 2013): A passionate Abu Dhabi Festival audience were last night taken on a nostalgic trip through ‘The Rahbani Legacy,’ the world premiere of a specially-commissioned production that encapsulates the extensive musical contribution of the legendary poets, musicians and composers Assi and Mansour Rahbani, whose lavish musical theatre productions and distinctive arrangements have dominated music in the Arab world for more than 60 years.
Featuring Mansour’s son Oussama Rahbani on piano accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine – a choir of 20 – and seven of the Middle East’s most talented singers including Ghassan Saliba, the vibrant performance offered a stalwart of the Rahbani’s ‘stable’ of performers since the late 1970’s.
The epic musical odyssey was a blend of original material by Assi and Mansour, in new orchestral arrangement by Mansour’s sons Ghadi and Oussama, as well as Mansour’s solo work and numerous cross-generational collaborations. Produced by Oussama and his brother Ghadi Rahbani, ‘The Rahbani Legacy’ was a carefully assembled mosaic of the familiar strains of dabke numbers, patriotic songs, pieces from musical operas and powerful love songs made famous by the Rahbanis’ best-known collaborator, the beloved Fayrouz.
H.E. Mrs. Hoda I. Al Khamis – Kanoo, Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, explained the motivation behind the commission: “A fundamental component of our work at the Festival is honouring regional artists, and the Rahbanis are the regional artists par excellence. This evening’s exploration is not only uplifting and inspiring, but also educational and informative as it preserves and upholds the legacy of artistic creativity left to us by these prolific brothers, who were arguably the most influential musical force of the 20thcentury in the Arab world. To have the opportunity for the inheritors of that legacy to explore and illuminate it for our Festival audience is an incredible gift, and we are so pleased that it was so warmly received by the audience here tonight.”
The musical evening was accompanied by an exclusive exhibition of manuscripts, instruments and costumes from the brothers’ private collection in the auditorium foyer. In addition, a fascinating public discussion exploring the artistic achievements of the Rahbanis will take place on at 27th March (6.30-8:00pm) at New York University Downtown Campus, featuring Oussama Rahbani, poet Henri Zogheib and theatre design Ghazi Kahwaji, among others.
Oussama and Ghadi Rahbani are well-known composers and musicians in their own right, having collaborated on numerous projects with their father, Mansour, and brother Marwan. They have carried on the family musical tradition along with Ziad Rahbani, the son of Assi Rahbani and Fayrouz. Oussama is a friend of Abu Dhabi Festival and previously performed in the 2011 edition at the Zaha Hadid Pavilion.
The final main programme performance of the landmark 10th anniversary edition of the Abu Dhabi Festival will take place tonight with the Festival’s Double Gala. Welsh opera star Bryn Terfel will perform following the world premiere of a symphonic piece especially commissioned by the Festival, ‘Poeme Orientale’ by the Lebanese composer Bechara El-Khoury.