The acclaimed Lebanese singer Fayrouz is celebrating her 88th birthday today.
Fairuz, born in Beirut in 1934, is widely regarded as the musical icon of Lebanon and is popularly known as "the soul of Lebanon". She began her musical career as a teenager at the national radio station in Lebanon in the late 1940s as a chorus member.
Her song "Itab", released in 1952, made her an instant star in the Arab world and marked her breakthrough.
Fairuz gained fame during the golden era of Arabic music and is one of the last surviving and most significant contributors of that time. Her voice represented the pop culture of 20th-century Lebanon.
She is the Arab world's most famous and most listened-to singer. For decades, almost all radio stations in the Arab world have begun their morning broadcast with a Fairuz song, and her songs were continuously listened to during the war, serving as a patriotic melody of peace and love.
Throughout her career, Fairuz has been honored in many countries, such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Tunisia, the United States, Egypt, and France. In 1988, François Mitterrand awarded her the Order of Arts and Letters, while Jacques Chirac first awarded her the Legion of Honour in 1998 (Chevalier).
The Guardian stated that "she sang the story of a Lebanon that never really existed" and "essentially helped build the identity of Lebanon, just 14 years after it became an independent country."
Fairuz is held in high regard in Lebanese culture, acting as a symbol of unity in a region divided by conflict and differing opinions. In 1997, Billboard described her as "the supreme Diva of Lebanon" and, in 1999, The New York Times described her as "a living icon without equal".
Her emergence as a singer paralleled Lebanon's transformation from a backwater to the vibrant financial and cultural heart of the Arab world.
In 2008, BBC described her as "the legendary Lebanese singer and greatest living Arab diva". The Independent stated that "All young female singers in this region seem to be clones of her" and that "she's such an important artist that you have to get to grips with her" in an article about world music.