Royalty Dispute May Silence Fairouz

The Lebanese singer Fairouz is the focus of protests around the world since a court in Beirut banned her from performing one of her signature songs last month due to a dispute over royalties. She was set to perform the song "Ya'ish Ya'ish" at the Casino du Liban until the children of her late husband's brother stepped in.

Ian Black of the Guardian explains the dispute:

Many of Fairouz's works were co-written and composed by her late husband Assi al-Rahbani and his brother Mansour. When Mansour died, his children filed a suit against Fairouz, triggering a court order stopping her performing material that involved his contribution.

Mansour and Assi are popularly known as the Rahbani Brothers. Fairouz, which means "turquoise" in Arabic, is the stage name of Nihad Haddad. The 75 year old singer is an icon in the Arabic-speaking world, and as NPR's Jamie Tarabay pointed out in her 50 Great Voices profile of the singer, Fairouz has fans around the world. Protests against the action taken by Mansour's children have popped up as far away as Australia, the Guardian says, and her cause has also been taken up by fans on Twitter.

In her profile, Tarabay writes:

The singer's career began as Lebanon gained independence, linking her inextricably to the country's history. During Lebanon's bloody civil war, when Beirut split in two in the 1970s, Fairuz refused to take sides. She decided not to perform in Lebanon at all, instead touring exclusively overseas. For Fairuz, music was her political activism, and the war-weary Lebanese clung to it. They latched on to one song in particular during this desperate time. It's called "Behebak Ya Libnan," or "I Love You, Lebanon," and it's still beloved in Lebanon today.

The video above shows Fairouz performing "Behebak Ya Libnan" at the Damascus International Festival in 1976. The credits here indicate that the song was composed by the Rahbani Brothers, which would land it on the list of songs Fairouz isn't allowed to perform without permission from — and presumably remuneration for — Mansour's children. (Watch quickly. It stands to reason that they might be able to get it pulled from YouTube, as well.)

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