Pianist, music composer and arranger Michel Fadel moved from western to oriental music by sheer coincidence when he arranged a song for Julia Boutros. He then joined "Star Academy" as a mentor who helped launch the music careers of several students, in addition to arranging the songs of very famous artists.
Recently, Fadel held a concert at Beirut Souks, under the title "Al Libnani", where he brought the house down as he played the piano with a philharmonic orchestra.
Fadel talked with al-Shorfa about his career.
Al-Shorfa: You recently held a very successful concert at Beirut Souks. Talk about what's new in your performance.
Michel Fadel: I performed my entire musical repertoire at "Al Libnani". I played 20 pieces, including 12 well-known recitals by Bach, Fairuz and Ziad al-Rahbani, adapting it to my own style with the philharmonic orchestra. We presented a mix of western and oriental music with a new arrangement, after I identified what each musical instrument will perform. I was both the pianist and the music conductor.
Al-Shorfa: You launched new talents during the concert, both musicians and singers. Tell us about that.
Fadel: I haven't really launched new talents. I just opened the door for them to perform in front of an audience. By nature, I like encouraging talent, similar to the support I received when I was a young budding artist.
The support I gave is what I consider introducing the audience to Lebanese talent. This includes 10-year-old drum player Michael Matar, who received a standing ovation. I also introduced 23-year old cellist Sari Khalifa, son of violinist Tony Khalifa and nephew of famed singer Marcel Khalife.
Lebanese flute player, Pedro Asta, is one of the best in the world and also came from Los Angeles to perform with me during my first concert at Casino du Liban. During this event, I paid a heart-felt tribute to my father as he shared the evening with me and sang with his wonderful voice. Without [my father], I would not be where I am today.
Al-Shorfa: You started your music career with the television programme, "Star Academy" as one of the academy's mentors. Is it fair to say that this programme opened doors for you?
Fadel: This programme gave me a lot and I gave it a lot in return. It was as if I was working at a 24-hour a day factory with students and artists. I worked on launches and music applications and prepared no less than 35 songs a week, in addition to the required preparations to go live on primetime television. The programme taught me and gave me a lot, as people got to know me through it. There are opportunities in life that we need to take advantage of and that's what happened to me.
Al-Shorfa: Is that the case with your first concert at Casino du Liban last April?
Fadel: That's right. Out of sheer madness, I decided to do this concert for myself so I can film it and keep it as a memento, even if no one attended. My graphic designer wife Joelle bought into my madness and designed the lighting for the event.
Our goal was to tell the world what we could do in Lebanon. The money I invested into this event equalled the cost of a luxury apartment, but my madness paid off as a large audience attended, including known artists that usually don't attend concerts. This included Wael Kfouri, Elissa, Marwan Khoury, Julia Boutros as well as TV personality Nishan, all of whom had front row seats at my latest performance.
Al-Shorfa: What prompted you to delve into music arrangement, especially since you are a pianist?
Fadel: It was by sheer chance. One day, I visited the composer Ziad Boutros with some friends and he let me listen to Julia Boutros' song, "Wala bi ahlamak". The song's music was already arranged, and I asked him if I could add the piano to it.
Thus, I entered this field after being absent from Arabic music because I lived in France at the time and owned a massive music collection that did not include Arabic music, with the exception of Fairuz. Also by chance, I came to Lebanon for a week to visit family when Amin Abi Yaghi called and asked me to audition for "Star Academy". From then on, I stayed in Lebanon.
Al-Shorfa: How did you transition from playing classical and western music to playing Arabic music on the piano?
Fadel: It was a big leap. The importance of the piano lies in the fact that we can play a whole orchestra with this instrument because we can use all ten fingers. After pianist Boghos Gelalian infused the music of the al-Rahbani brothers with piano tunes, I decided to revive this tradition in Arabic music by bringing in the piano as a main instrument. The piano plays an affectionate tune and can be customized to oriental music and instruments.
Al-Shorfa: Which do you prefer, playing western or oriental music?
Fadel: If you had asked this question ten years ago, I would have said western music because I was studying for a music diploma in composition and orchestra. But my goal today is to transform the entire world's music into "Al Libnani" (the Lebanese way), because [Lebanon] carries with it both an oriental and western sense. One can "Lebanonise" all sorts of music and the proof is that I "Lebanonised" Bach and Mozart in a beautiful way.
Al-Shorfa: Where do you want to go with your music?
Fadel: I want to take my concerts outside of Lebanon, starting with Arab countries, followed by Europe and America. I have an orchestra available in all the countries I visit, so I can perform with that country's orchestra with only 10 Lebanese musicians.
Al-Shorfa: What about your latest music arrangements?
Fadel: I am working on Julia Boutros' entire album and about 80% of the songs from Carole Samaha's new album, which I am also co-producing. I am also preparing three songs for Myriam Fares, two songs for Melhem Zein and one song for Nicolas Nakhleh.
Moreover, I am preparing children's songs for Al Jazeera children's channel and I am also working on my new album, which will be released following the "Al Libnani" album, not to mention upcoming concerts.