|Title||Song is the Secret of of Existence: Fairouz and the Arab Diaspora in London and Doha|
Nestling in the hearts and minds of her listeners, the Lebanese singer and performer, Fairouz, travels across land and seas, offering gentle reminders of the past or inspiring hope for the future. With the objective of exploring the role that Fairouz plays in the lives of the Arab diaspora, this project examines possible identity constructions and concepts of belonging, investigating how Fairouz factors in diasporic space and how her music offers opportunities to navigate individual and social positions in such space. Through an ethnographic study, focusing on in-depth interviews, narratives of 59 members of the Arab diaspora living in Doha, Qatar and London, England were heard, understood and categorised thematically, highlighting how music can elucidate and situate experiences of migration, positioning listeners on a fluctuating continuum, which moves beyond standard private and public lines of domesticity, nationalism and religion. The role of affect in drawing and maintaining these lines is explored in depth, especially in its relation to the ways participants position themselves across space and time. Essentially, discussing Fairouz meant discussing diasporic life, bringing to the surface notions of Arabness and authenticity, presence and absence, naturalization and citizenship, and the issue of gender. Importantly, conversations with the research respondents shed light on the idea of iltizam (commitment), in relation to those trajectories, showcasing how members of the Arab diaspora hold on to attributes that they feel define and differentiate them from others. Topics of memory are also discussed, illuminating the ways in which Fairouz allows for reflection on past and present, as well as providing a sense of foretelling the future. Drifting through generations, Fairouz is an inherited artist and icon, allowing musical continuity and harbouring timeless appeal. Fairouz thus paves the way for discussion on everyday practices, contributing to the expanding fields of Arab Cultural studies, Diasporic studies and Fairouz studies.