About the Song

“Nassam Alayna-l Hawa” is a popular song composed by Assi and Mansour Rahbani and made popular by Fairuz. It was first featured in the 1968 film by the Rahbani Brothers titled Bint Al-Haris, in which Fairuz was the lead actress and sang this song.

In “Nassam Alayna-l Hawa,” the lyrics play on the double-meaning in the Arabic language of “hawa,” which translates to “love” or “breeze of air” and has been interpreted as an expression of the longing of diasporic Arab communities for their homelands. The following verse reflects well such nostalgic sentiment:

يا هوا يا هوا يللي طاير بالهوا

Oh breeze,

Blowing in the expanse,

في منتورة طاقة و صورة خدني لعندن يا هوا

There is a wallflower, a small window, and a picture frame,

Take me to them, oh breeze

فزعانة يا قلبي أكبر بهالغربة ما تعرفني بلادي

My heart is scared

That you might age in this far away place

And my home would no longer recognize me

خدني خدني خدني على بلادي

Take me home

Take me to my country

Certain features of the musical composition play a role in constructing meaning throughout the song. The use at the beginning of the song of the maqsum beat (a fast-paced, rhythmic pattern) and the buzuq (a stringed, long-necked instrument used typically in Arab folk music) serves, for example, to create an upbeat, happy mood as the image of a place with blowing breezes, valleys, and flowers is described. Further along in the song, however, the slower rhythmic patterns and lower tonal registers complement a verse of lyrics expressing fear and anxiety and create a dark musical space around the words. In particular, the use of the quarter tone—an intermediary scale between flat and sharp notes and a characteristic element of Arab music—adds to the dark mood in the middle and ending parts of the song by working in tandem with the lines, “khidni, khidni khidni ‘ala bladi” (“Take me home, Take me to my country”) to convey a sense of sad, nostalgic longing. The employment of tonal registers and rhythmic patterns to shape the meaning of a song has been argued to characterize much of the musical compositions of the Rahbani Brothers.

Assi’s marriage to Fairuz and subsequent musical collaborations led to the Rabhani’s Brothers’ fame around the Arab world, appealing to listeners from a wide variety of social and national backgrounds. Dubbed “The Soul of Lebanon” in the 1970’s, Fairuz became a preeminent superstar and a cultural and political icon, a symbol of a people, a heritage, and a voice for peace.