We only appreciate our artists after they die.
Wadih el Safi, one of the three remaining giants of Lebanese music, bid this world farewell today at the age of 92. Perhaps it’s easier to mourn the loss of this man, the national symbol that he is. I choose instead to reflect on the life that he has lived, not on the last days of weakness that we tend to remember those who leave us by.
Wadih el Safi, in a career that has spanned almost seven decades, has put a mark on Lebanese music and culture that is tangible and unshakeable even to those, like me, who were not exposed to him growing up. My memories with Wadih el Safi are not those of a typical Lebanese who associates him with rousing patriotism. Whenever I think of him, I think of the songs about family that he would sing, about being a father talking to his son, a father having a discussion with his daughter… I remember how the people around me feel whenever they listen to those songs and how vulnerable he makes them, in the space of a few minutes, with his melody and voice.
They called Mr. el Safi the voice of Lebanon as he sung about this piece of heaven that he called home. It’s a shame that the voice of Lebanon is leaving this country while his piece of heaven is probably anything but. You may be wondering why someone like me, who’s the last person you’d imagine would write about such a thing, is actually doing so. But with Wadih el Safi’s demise, Lebanon has lost a key pillar in the little that remains in the culture that is truly honorable and decent of this country we call home.
Wadih el Safi’s death isn’t just that of a singer that the Lebanese population likes because they feel they must, out of respect. His death takes us one step closer to the full realization of the cultural demise that we are heading to, especially when it comes to music and arts.
Farewell Wadih el Safi, the man who has lived and has done so abundantly.