January 26th - Love Songs of Lebanon

Love Songs of Lebanon - Sawaya Quartet and Chorus, 1957

In the days before I started this project, when I was trying to listen to as much of the catalogue as possible to see if I could do this for a full 365 days, this one of the albums I enjoyed so much I had to take to Twitter to extoll:

It is indeed all killer no filler - driving drums and soaring violins. Sawaya has a plaintive voice that bends around words, but the real treat is when the full chorus comes in and absolutely blasts you with sound. 

The story from the liner notes is even cooler - the Sawaya Quartet and Chorus is the project of George Sawaya who grew up in a small village in Quebec, listening to Lebanese music on the gramophone, playing for cultural events and eventually forming the Quartet and Chorus out of his own family. There is no evidence from the liner notes that Sawaya ever went to Lebanon - he learned his considerable skill entirely from records and the Arabic community in Montreal. I can't imagine there was much to recall Lebanon in a small Quebec village in the early 20th century, but through this music the Sawaya family created a memory of home.

I deeply love this album but I also wanted to post it today to celebrate immigrants and immigrant communities. Even beyond the tangible benefit of more workers, more productivity and more revenue, countries are enriched by the people drawn to their shores. We forget this at our peril.

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways

Mark Pophamworld, lebanonComment