Friday, September 30, 2011

Libertango - Hiba Tawaji

Unless you count ba-dum-ba-da-pee-dum as a lyric, there is only one recognized set of lyrics to Libertango and those were written by Grace Jones and are known as I've seen that face before. Today's video, unfortunately not a live performance, provides some new lyrics written by Ghadi Rahbani and sung by Hiba Tawaji. The arrangement is by Ghadi's brother, Oussama Rahbani. The lyrics are in Arabic but the video provides an English translation.

The lyrics are striking but it is the musicians involved which make the video noteworthy. The Rahbani family, although largely unrecognized in the West, is one of the most important and successful musical families in the world. The father of Ghadi and Oussama was Mansour Rahbani who along with his brother, Assi, revolutionized the world of Arab music with their theater work - perhaps more appropriately labeled as opera work. They were poets and musicians who did not shy from illustrating the socio-political problems of their Lebanese homeland. Both Assi and Mansour had sons who continued in the musical world with Oussama perhaps becoming the most famous of the second generation Rahbani's. He introduced the remarkable singer, Hiba Tawaji, to the world. Together, they have recently issued an album titled La Bidayi Wala Nihayi which contains the version of Libertango featured today. Ms. Tawaji's voice transcends the usual cultural barriers which seem to increasingly separate the Arab world from the West and I expect we will hear more from her in the future.

Ghadi Rahbani has taken the title of Libertango quite literally and provided lyrics of liberty which like most good poetry can be understood at several levels. Perhaps the lyrics refer to past chapters of Argentine history, perhaps to chapters being written today in Arab history. Haneen, who posted the video from Benghazi, Libya, may indeed be part of that history.

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