Lara El Mekkawi
Lebanon and the entire Arab world lost one of its brightest stars Wednesday when the legendary Sabah, better known as al-Chahroura, passed away at the age of 87.
Born Jeanette Gergis al-Feghali in the town of Bdadoun of the Aley district, Sabah was an iconic Lebanese singer and actress with a career that stretched over 60 years. She released over 50 albums and acted in 98 movies, in addition 20 stage plays. A prominent fixture in Lebanese as well as Egyptian culture, Sabah has over 3,500 songs in her repertoire.
Over the course of her career, she worked with some of the biggest names in poetry and music including Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Mohamed El Mugi, Farid Al-Atrash, the Rahbani brothers, Assaad Sebaali, Mahmoud Beyram El Tounisi, Zaki Nassif, Toufic Barakat and Maroun Karam.
Not only was she a glowing figure in the Arab world, but Sabah was also the first Arab artist to perform at the Olympia theatre in Paris as well as other international stages such as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Opera House in Sydney, the Palace of Arts in Belgium, and the Piccadilly Theatre in London, to name a few.
Aside from the glimmering lights of critically acclaimed performances, Sabah faced the dark side of fame as well, with the entire world keeping a close eye on her personal life. The Elizabeth Taylor of Lebanon, Sabah has been linked to many men, tying the knot with at least nine. She has been humorously mocked for not retiring, leaving the limelight, and instead holding on to her fading youth through surgeries, marriages to young men, and outrageous outfits.
If anything, Sabah is a symbol of Lebanese culture, a passionate and tragic figure. As an artist, she embraced her youth and established herself while still managing to enjoy the pleasures of life. She lived joyously and to the fullest. As much as she is loved, Sabah has been underappreciated and made fun of for her extraordinary way of life.
A beacon of light in a small country, in the ranks of Fairouz, perhaps in death Sabah will regain the respect of those people she has always loved. Pay tribute to this lover of life and Lebanon, listen to “Saat Saat,” watch “Guitar of Love,” to understand why the passing of Sabah is a true loss for the country and art in general.