Wadih El-Safi, nearly 90, is a legend whose artistic longevity has been likened to Lebanon's cedar trees. After singing about Lebanon's beauty, he is now entrusting the environment to children in his music video "Wasaytkum Beitkum" because of his hope for the next generation.
In a recent interview with Al-Shorfa, El-Safi revealed that he is preparing a surprise. He is recording melodies with his son that he hopes will serve as inspiration for future generations.
Al-Shorfa: Your most recent work, "Wasaytkum Beitkum," is directed toward the children of Lebanon. Tell us about it.
El-Safi: Since the beginning of my artistic journey, I have sung about Lebanon, and I will continue to sing of it and its beauty. In this new song, with lyrics written by Salim Hamadeh and music composed by Wajdi Shaya, I call on the children to preserve the environment, their family and their country. The country is our responsibility, a legacy that every citizen is charged with protecting. Lebanon is our patriarch, and everyone ought to love it until the last breath.
Al-Shorfa: You sang about "Green Lebanon". Is the country the same as you knew it?
El-Safi: "Green Lebanon" is unfortunately no longer so. Fires are consuming its green forests. Its bountiful harvests are at the mercy of a matchstick, and its rocky mountains are being voraciously carved asunder. For all these reasons, I agreed to sing in defence of the environment and the Cedar of Lebanon when I was asked by the Ministry of Environment and other institutions to do so. And in view of that, my video song was recorded with and is directed at children. They are the future generation that we trust will restore Lebanon’s green glory. They represent continuity and hope.
Al-Shorfa: Before that you released a music video titled "My Daughter".
El-Safi: That song also carries a will that serves as a reminder of love, fundamental family values, and how to maintain family ties. The world has changed and the concept of family as we knew it in our time is no longer the same.
Now we see young people getting married, having children and then divorcing without regard to their children's fate. The concept of marriage as we knew it is no longer the same. Marriage is a spiritual bond and a blessing by God. As I hold my country sacred, I also hold marriage sacred. I presented this song with that cause in mind. I address marital problems and how to reconcile them with love to preserve the family.
Al-Shorfa: It appears you have many wills, including "al-Wisaya" duet with the artist Assi al-Hillany.
El-Safi: The artist Assi had chosen me as a spiritual father to him. He is an artist of good moral character, and I agreed to collaborate with him to encourage him to continue to produce good work. He honored me with his morality. If he were not of high morals, I wouldn't have accepted to sing the duet with him.
Al-Shorfa: As you approach your nineties, are you satisfied with what you have contributed?
El-Safi: Praise be to God, I lack nothing and I enjoy a level of patience that is almost saintly. He who is patient ultimately attains what he's after.
Al-Shorfa: How would you summarise your artistic journey?
El-Safi: It is a sacred journey replete with morals, faith, homeland, God, family, and high art. Art in my view is sacred and not marred by obscenity. I used art for the causes of morality, country, literature, and religion. I thank God because I succeeded in fulfilling my purpose and talent.
Al-Shorfa: Of all the songs in your catalogue, which is dearest to your heart?
El-Safi: I have thousands of songs, and I consider every one of them a favourite. I'm like a father of six who does not favour one child over another with his love. And that’s how it is with my songs.
Al-Shorfa: Are you satisfied with the state of the art scene?
El-Safi: No. I'm not satisfied with everything that is presented, but I cannot be critical. I offer direction and advice, and I demand the preservation of the Word and morality. Art is morals, and if morals fade, so does art. Thus, my advice for artists is to maintain their morality and not sink to today’s low standards. We have poets without feelings, is that possible?
Al-Shorfa: What new works do you have planned?
El-Safi: I’m always working on new material. I’m preparing a surprise and it consists of a number of melodies in my voice offered to the world. I’m currently recording them with my son George, who is an outstanding engineer and composer in his private studio. We are putting together a collection of melodies I’m writing to serve as an artistic inspiration for future generations for the sake of culture and moralistic art.
Al-Shorfa: You have performed many duets over your career. Who would you choose to perform a duet with now?
El-Safi: I would work on duets with whoever is gifted or talented. I only work with talented artists because I do not have the time for those who are not.
Al-Shorfa: Would you approve of a series or a movie based upon your life, and who would you select for the part?
El-Safi: It's a good idea. I would choose my sons Tony and George. They are my titans and wings. With them, I take flight and soar.
Al-Shorfa: What do the honours bestowed upon you mean to you?
El-Safi: Honours prolong life and they also please and console. Honours help one forget his troubles and his toil. Most important of all, I consider them the greatest reward an artist can receive because they complement the honors that the Creator bestows upon us in the form of life and talent.