The Francophile Musician Elias Rahbani

The Francophile Musician Elias Rahbani

Sitting in a chair in a gently lit corner of his living room, the last living member of the Rahbani Brothers still enjoys humming his own melodies, the very melodies that spoke to our hearts and stuck in our minds forever. Although not loud in his discourse, he is powerful in his achievements. Elias Rahbani shared with HOME his favorite anecdotes, from when he was first introduced to music inside his mother’s womb to what keeps him going strong at 78.

The First Notes of Rahbani’s Life Symphony

Rahbani’s love for music was inherited from his mother, who would frequently listen to French classics, and developed with him listening to French soldiers clients humming their songs at his father’s restaurant in Antelias as a kid. Little did he know he would one day grow up to become the musical ambassador for French songs in his HOME country.

Growing up, his older brothers Assi and Mansour saw his talent and insisted that he learnt from the best French instructors. He studied piano and composition with Bertrand Robillard for four years and later under virtuoso pianist Michel Bourgeot with whom he trained with for eight years. “Bourgeot was such an exceptional musician from whom I learnt a lot. And although he did not compose his own music, no one could play the piano like him,” Rahbani told HOME.

At the age of 18, he composed 11 pieces of classical music and started a new wave of French chanson interpreted by Lebanese artists with songs like ‘Je te jure’, ‘Que sera ma vie sans toi’, ‘Valse la valse’ and ‘La dernière danse’ among others.

He was among the first Lebanese musicians to compose and arrange foreign music in the Arab region, and composed the “Hymne du Liban à la francophonie” with lyrics written by Jean-Claude Boulos for the 9th Francophonie Summit in 2002.

An Endless Library of Talent

Over the course  of  his  career,  Rahbani composed over 6,500 pieces of music, including more than 3,500 advertisement songs (who doesn’t recall  the  famous “Shou betariytak? Rayovac!” advert or “La vache qui rit” for instance?). “I was 19 years old when the BBC approached me to write 40 songs  for  them. That  was my first salary, 400 L.L., and with that I bought my first ever Fiat,” he explained.

In addition to working for major international companies like Philips, Parlophone, Polydor Decca and Capitole, Rahbani served as the Musical Advisor for  Recordings  and Chief of the Occidental Music Section at Radio Lebanon between 1962 and 1972 and his music won prizes at a number of festivals including the International Song Festival of Athens in 1969, and the 19th International Festival of Publicity Film in Venice in 1972.

And while he does not follow a particular creative process, he firmly believes that inspiration comes from above and is not afraid to follow his intuition. Talking about his song Mory Mory, he recalled: “I was sitting with some friends in Bikfaya when Sammy Clark joined and asked me if I could write a song for him to compete with in Germany, I didn’t want to at first but then I sat in front of the piano and the melody came together in less than 6 minutes.”

“We then wrote the lyrics the next day and Sammy went to Germany in 1979, performed the song and it placed first in the competition,” he explained, adding that it is such moments of inspiration that make him believe in God, in the existence of a subtle voice inside that enlightens and inspires. “God and music go together like twins.”

“God and music go together like twins.”

On Lebanon and Belonging

When war broke out in Lebanon, Rahbani flew to Paris with his wife Nina and their two sons Jad and Ghassan. There he met prominent artistic director André Willemin who fell in love with his music and was thrilled to work with him. “By the time I was about to sign the contract, Mansour called me to make sure everything is okay, we miss you, he said to me.”

Que sera ma vie sans toi, que sera ma vie si tu pars

Pour un nouveau pays, pour une nouvelle vie

Et pour un autre amour et pour d’autres beaux jours

Que sera ma vie sans toi, Que sera ma vie si un soir

Au bord de cette mer, je cherche tes yeux verts

Et je ne trouve plus qu’ un souvenir perdu.

TAGSacademicians advertorials agendas ambassadors art collectors art exhibitions artisan know-how artists arts Beirut believers Bertrand Robillard Bright Lebanon Byblos chefs choirs Chouf cinema cinematographers citizen journalism classical music communication conceptual magazine concerts contributing writers corporate social responsibility cultural attaches cultural trends dancers dancing directory door to door dreamers editorials Eias Rahbani Elias Rahbani embracing platform empower Events Expat in Lebanon exploration Fairuz festivals films French classics gifted giving back global community global Lebanon guest writers heartwarming stories HOME HOME around the world HOME Magazine HOME nation Honorary advisors hope hope of tomorrow influence inforgrahics initiatives inspirational integration international distribution interviews Jad Rahbani journey La vache qui rit Lebanese bloggers Lebanese culture Lebanese Diaspora Lebanese film makers Lebanese heritage Lebanese hidden talents Lebanese market Lebanese musicians Lebanese of the world Lebanese painters Lebanese poets Lebanese print magazine Lebanese social impact Lebanon lifestyle love for home country Mansour Rahbani masterpieces melodies ministers multiplatform museums music music industry North Lebanon online engagement out of the box outreach peace peace building philosophy photographers PiDRAYA pioneers poetry positive change positive content positivity producers publishing sector Rahbani Brothers Rahbani Music Rayovac reader corner reference content references refined magazine remarkable achievers remarkable organizations revolutionary content Shou betariytak social magazine soul of Lebanon South Lebanon stakeholders style success stories symphony talents tales of today testimonials theatre thoughts timeless trendsetter Tyre unites Venice where Lebanon comes together