The People Who Shaped Me

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At a young age of 7, I subconsciously started noticing my mom reminisce about her past and it made me see the way music connected her to her roots and in a way, made her human. It was waking up and witnessing a scene that made me wonder where I came from, and think about my mom’s past, which eventually became mine. It meant thick, rich, and dark Arabian coffee and a long thin cigarette and the same songs that replayed over and over. Her play list meant a lot to her, because it gave her a sense of serenity. A sense of what physically wasn’t there but near to her heart. It was her homeland. Some days it would be her all alone, and others it would be her with her close friends who she grew up with in Lebanon. She would say the smell of coffee reminded her of the smell of the coffee trees that my grandpa grew at our mountain house in south Lebanon. She continued saying that smoking made her feel like she was walking to school again with her friends down the mountains in the village. Most importantly, it was what she was listening to that made her connect them and feel at home. For me it meant that her feelings and thoughts slowly became a part of me, and her play list soon became mine.

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The playlist consisted of 19 songs that were produced by one of the Arab world’s most famous and most listened to singer, Fairuz. What made Fairuz so special was that she sang the story of Lebanon that never really existed, and essentially helped build the identity of the country during its hardships. As a Lebanese Christian, born, she was respected by millions of people from many backgrounds, religions, and genders across the globe since 1950. That being said, my mom has been a big fan of hers since she was a child. As I matured, I would ask my mom questions about what Fairuz was singing and what they meant to her. She unsurprisingly had so much to say and talk about and that’s when I started to grow love for the singer. The images in my head that I drew when she talked about what the songs meant became a living dream. It became a reality when I actually started listening to the songs on my own when my family got the opportunity to travel to Lebanon 3 years ago for the first time. When my family and I arrived to Beirut things, slowly started to make sense. I started to connect everything my mom talked about to the lyrics Fairuz sang. It was the scenery and the beauty of Lebanon that Fairuz mentions in her songs that spoke to me. But more importantly, it was the people that made Lebanon rich with culture, art, and love which she emphasized in most of her songs. I wanted to talk about one that spoke to me personally. Li Beirut (لبيروت) meaning “To Beirut.” She says in the beginning “A greeting from my heart to Beirut. Kisses to the sea and the houses. To a rock, which is like an old sailor’s face. She is made from the people’s soul and from wine. And from his sweat bread and jasmine. So how does her taste become? A taste from fire and smoke.” (Fairuz, 1982.) I chose to this specific part because it talks about the roots of Lebanon and how it came to be. This song made me feel like something as beautiful a nature could become music. Music became the sound of birds chirping, the rain falling, and the wind blowing. Music became family gatherings, hummus and pita bread, and tea while watching the ocean waves at night. It became more than just lyrics, it became the nature that surrounded me and how it made me feel became a form of music. This feeling made me feel free and the nature that surrounded me gave me a glimpse of happiness and comfort.

In addition, I want to discuss a song that was all about freedom and nature that surrounds us. It was a song called Ya Hirriye ( يا حرية ) meaning “Freedom.” She said “We’re released, we’re set free, we’ve got the light, we’ve got the wind, we’ve got the sun, we’ve got the freedom. Hey freedom you’re like a firey flower, a savage child. Oh freedom. Shout out loudly. Run in the field merrily. Tell freedom that we’ve come. Be happy. Be happy. Hey night! Hey love! Hey roads! Hey stones! Follow us to the wild tree.” (Fairuz, 1988.) This speaks wonders to me because the song is talking about how materialist things shouldn’t determine your happiness. We should notice the beauty around us and take it for granted. These are the characteristics that you will always remember and cherish. I personally do this with the people I love, like my family and friends and the people who mean the most to me like my mom who opened my eyes to this beauty. Music to me also means bringing people together and loving others unconditionally. So, I wanted to introduce another important song that Fairuz produced. It is called Habbaytak bissayf (حبّيتك بالصيف) “I loved you in the Summer.” In this she says “I loved you in summer (clear days), I loved you in winter (rainy days.) I waited for you in clear days, I waited for you in rainy days, and your eyes are clear like summer, and mine are wet like winter. Our meeting my love will be beyond the summer and winter.” (Fairuz, 1973). In this she is talking about a girl who meets a man. This man tells her to wait for him in the side of the street and he promises he will be back soon. He never showed up. But this girl still loved this man unconditionally, and waited for him during the summer and winter. She waited and he never came back, but someone else did and it went on from there. This is one of my favorites because it inspires people to see the better side of something that goes wrong. Something special might go away, but there is always something that could replace it for the better. All of this means to have faith in God, and things will always get better.

A big part of what shaped me is my faith in God. Fairuz was one way to remind me of that. It was a song called, Allah Kbeer(الله كبير) “God is great.” In this song she said “Do you remember how much you told me, no matter what happens wait for me and keep praying (saying): Allah(God) is great. Do you remember how much you told me this life is short and that I am unique and there is no one like me and I am the last love. Since that day, what happened in the following several days? Not much did happen all that happened and is still happing, Allah is great.” (Fairuz,1998) This was a reminder that no matter what goes son in life you should always refer back to God. My faith is important to me and Fairuz gave me a platform to remind me that sometimes in life you will face obstacles and hardships, but through God you will always find a way to get through it. Nonetheless, this music reminded e to pray to God and strengthen my relationship with the people around me. To me, this song helped me get close to my religion and it was always behind me head when something went wrong. My mom would tell me, if its anyone that could help you get through a tough situation, its God. Watching my mom use music as a way to feel at home and grow with it inspired me to want to understand what it all meant to her. She was able to make connections and remember about her past memories using music.

It was seeing my mom reminisce about her past, and how she chose to do it is what made me human. To me music is so much more than lyrics, it’s nature, family, and art. Its something that I can hold on to and remember for a life time. These experiences and stages in my life shaped me and embedded in me a sense of love for the things that surround me whether its friends and family, food, or even a tree. These little but meaningful things are what shaped me and made me human. It started from watching my mom and witnessing her ways of finding herself. My search for myself was built through my mother, and polished with my home country and the people and places that surrounded it. But, most importantly it was what I listened to that made me connect all of it, and that’s what made me human.Thank you, Fairuz, for making me feel at home, just like my mother did when she listened to you. It all started with dark and rich Qahwah and a ling thin Cigarette.

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