Not one to be shy of the odder side of recorded music I picked up this Arabic Christian collection of Easter hymns for 50 whole pence a few weeks ago.
I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of the picture of the crucified Christ on the cover with stacks of Arabic writing beside it (my copy paired with a big ‘Anita’ on the back in bold biro). It was crying out to be bought. It just looked so interesting and it is certainly that.
It is a collection of very down tempo hymns done in an almost East/West crossover. One can hear those church organs providing backing but Fairuz’s gorgeous faultless voice sings in a distinctive eastern manner using Eastern scales. She also works at times without instrumentation with a choir in what appears to be a call and response fashion
It says on the sleeve notes that Good Friday is remembered by Arabic Christian communities in a very sorrowful way and the songs apparently reflect upon Christ’s suffering on the cross.
Fairuz is a well known Lebanese singer active from the 1950’s and started her career in her local church. She became an international star in the 1060’s and continues to this day to sell out huge venues on the strength of her Lebanese popularity.
This is a meditative piece and becomes almost Gregorian at times. It would sound fantastic in the churches where it is meant to be heard with knee deep reverberation. On a record from 1962 you do loose a little depth to the sound and of course there are 50 years of crackles to contend with (but I never mind crackles – shows character)
All in all a fine piece of Eastern promise in a collection without enough of it and to top it all it turns out that this is quite sought after fetching between £15-20. Nice to know but I ain’t going to sell it now