Friday, June 15, 2012

on Sayed Darwish

For the past few months, I have been listening more often to the music of Sayed Darwish in the voice of Fairuz. The more I listened to his compositions, the more I realized how beautiful they are and how unknown Darwish remains to the general public.

He died of a cocaine overdose at the very young age of 31. However, he left behind a wondrous legacy during such a very short life. Some of these songs are still with us until this day and have become part of our collective memories and culture. Songs such as el-Helwa Di (الحلوة دي), Salma Ya Salama (سلمى يا سلامة), Bassareh Barrajeh (بصاره براجه), Ana Haweit (انا هويت), Tel'it Ya Mahla Nourha (طلعت يا محلا نورها), Mahsoubkom Indas (محسوبكم إنداس), and so forth. I sometimes wonder, had he lived any longer, what more greatness would he have bestowed upon us?

Sayed Darwish grew up in an Egypt that was under British colonial rule and laden with unrest, uprisings and struggles. The ethos of that time in Egypt is reflected in the work of Darwish who expressed the wants, needs, and fears of Egyptians and at the grassroots level. His compositions were serious, lively, honest, and simple – what we would call in Arabic السهل الممتنع al-sahl al-momtanaa or deceptively simple. This is how Darwish distinguished himself: not by singing for the ruling class, but by singing for the masses, for everyone.

Much of his work was dedicated for the nationalist struggle and I share below one of my favorite songs, Aho Dalli Sar (اهو داللي صار), which was composed in the events of the 1919 revolution. The more famous one would be the Egyptian national anthem, Bilady, Bilady, Bilady, (بلادي بلادي بلادي) which was inspired from a speech by Mustafa Kamil, an Egyptian nationalist and activist who passed away in 1908.

But, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I want to talk about love. There is one particular song that I reckon many are unaware was composed (and written?) by Sayed Darwish. Zuruni Kulli Sana Marra, (زوروني كل سنة مرة) widely known in the voice of Fairuz, is a song about love. I read a story that this was one of his first songs and he wrote it after a lady, by whom he was enamored, said to him: Visit us oh Sheikh Sayed even once a year. I cannot corroborate this story but it sure does appeal to the romantic in me.


These are the words to the version which Fairuz performs, and I find it to be one of the most beautiful songs ever.

 زوروني كل سنة مرة    Visit me once every year
حرام تنسوني بالمرة    What a shame if you forget me altogether
 يا خوفي و الهوى نظرة    I fear that love is but a glimpse
 تجي و تروح بالمرة    That would come and go altogether
 حبيبي فرقتك مرة    My love your absence is painful
 حرام تنسوني بالمرة    What a shame if you forget me altogether


I conclude with a song dear to my heart and tonight I think of Egypt.

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