More than 60 years ago, Arabic and classical music were poles apart. And it was  at that time that the Rahbani Brothers began demonstrating that the two genres  can coexist.

The Beirut-based family of music composers was the first to successfully  inject orchestral flavours to Arabic pop, which went on to be performed by  legends including the Lebanese songstress Fairuz and Egypt’s Mohammed Abdel  Wahab.

The family’s influential history will be celebrated tonight as part of the  Abu Dhabi Festival.

In a commissioned piece, Oussama and Ghadi Rahbani are set to enchant  audiences with a selection of pieces from the family’s history in addition to  performing their own solo works.

Backed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, The Rahbani Legacy will  also include singers such as Ghassan Saliba, Hiba Tawaji and Elie Khayat.

“It will be a mixture representing who we are and the story of the Rahbani  family,” Oussama says.

“The performers that are coming are trained by us and they all have amazing  voices and have starred in many lead roles in Arabic theatre productions.”

Oussama’s confidence in his vocalists stems from the family’s legendary knack  of finding quality singers. He puts it down to the family’s tough-as-nails  approach to training and says it takes more than good looks and a decent voice  to survive the Rahbani teaching regimen.

“Your voice has to have character; that’s one of the keys to success and this  is what will distinguish you from the rest,” he explains. “You have to have  intelligence to withstand the intensity. It is a very challenging experience. If  some people don’t like it, well, there are plenty of television programmes they  can join.”

A former student himself, Oussama says his boyhood training eliminated all  sense of pre-performance nerves.

“There is no pressure as we grew up under pressure and the strains of  performing,” he says. “The most important thing that we were taught is to  present a performance that is up to the standard. Then the next challenge is how  to raise that bar. As an artist, you ask yourself if you are happy at this level  or do you want it to go to the next stage.”

Oussama says the quest to raise the level results in good old-fashioned  competition between himself and Ghadi.

“It keeps us pushing forward,” he says. “That’s part of the beauty of being  an artist. It always keeps you evolving.”

 

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