Fairuz (Flower among Cities)

Fairuz often performs songs relevant to the situation of Palestinians and Zahrat al-Mada’in (Flower among Cities) is no different.  It surrounds the problem of Jerusalem, which typically represents loss to Palestinians.  For example, the lyrics include lines such as “crying for those who have been displaced, for the children without homes, for those who resisted and fell at the gates.”  This obviously refers to how Palestinians lost Jerusalem to Israel in the Six-Day War, along with many other cities.  However, the song also includes lines such as “the child is in the cave with his mother Mary,” which refers to the importance of Jerusalem to Christians.  These multiple messages are an example of polysemy.  Despite this polysemy, lyrics such as “Jerusalem is ours” and “by our hands we will restore the splendor of Jerusalem” suggest hope for the future where Palestinians will once again be in, what they consider, their rightful home.  Therefore, this song strongly supports the Palestinian cause, which is one of the reasons Fairuz became so popular among Palestinians.

Musically, I noticed that, unlike Umm Kulthum or Abd al-Halim Hafez, there are backup singers.  The power of their many voices enhances some lines such as “justice fell at the gates,” giving the impression that numerous people hold the same opinion about Israel taking Jerusalem.  Again, this promotes the Palestinian cause.

Here is a link to a live performance of this song with English subtitles.

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4 Responses to Fairuz (Flower among Cities)

  1. Fairuz really sings good songs, and it’s always amazing when they have meanings like this one. I was just wondering whether you think that there is any reason besides politics that might have led to her directing her song to Palestinians? For example, did radio stations in Palestine favor her music over others? Or were any of her production members and composers affiliated with Palestine?

    • Those are all good questions and, quite honestly, I am not sure of the answers. I know she primarily worked with the Rahbani brothers, who were also Lebanese, but other than that I know nothing about her production team. Do you have any ideas?

  2. One of the things I find interesting about Fairuz is her popularity across the Arab world. My Arabic teacher in Morocco was a huge Fairuz fan, and he used her song “habaytek bisayf” to teach us the vocabulary for different seasons. Still, however, he did not use her music to assert a transnational Arab identity, but rather explained to us that she is a Lebanese singer, and is especially important as a symbol of Lebanese pride. Of course, this is only one view point, and in particular, is the view point of a PhD student, so perhaps he simply as a more academic and detached outlook. But I thought it was interesting that he made a point of making that distinction for us.

  3. Zara Juneja says:

    I agree, as Janssen explores, Fairuz’s use of Jerusalem in ‘The Flower of All Cities,’ to explore the polysemous themes of nostalgia and love is one example of her success in emotionally engaging multiple audiences, including those of varied religious affinities. But what is interesting is her disassociation with mainstream politics. It is in this light that she insists, “my choice of music is always linked to love, not to politics.” By embracing issues of widespread concern like Jerusalem, not only to Palestinians but to the broader Arab world, Fairuz is thus addressing more universal sensibilities. Her lyrics, “crying for those who have been displaced, for the children without homes, for those who resisted and fell at the gates,” although in specific context of the Palestinian cause, can also be related to by the Lebanese people who have been displaced by the civil war. Thus, by not embracing any particular one-sided political affinity and such, Fairuz has been very successful in appealing to multiple audiences through her polysemous themes that take on a more transnational nature of context. All in all, I really love her music and appreciate her accessible style.

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