Fairouz Foty in America!
By: Yasmina Hage/Arab America Contributing Writer
Fairouz Foty is an operatic spinto soprano of Palestinian and Egyptian origins. She grew up in Washington, DC. and is very attached to her Arab roots. Fairouz wants to make everything possible to promote and give a more accurate image of her heritage and Arab history in this field. Let’s discover how she became this incredible person and what she’s doing to achieve her goals and spread her vision.
Fairouz has always been very interested in the intersection of music, neuroscience, and the effects that music has on the brain. As an undergraduate student, she entered Lafayette College as a Neuroscience and double major in music. Moreover, Fairouz had always been fascinated to learn how much music affects consciousness.
Where did her passion for the artistic world come from?
Her Palestinian father, Fouad Foty was her first music teacher; he taught her and her siblings how to sing and play Arab music. In addition, her mother who is an Egyptian artist, Mona A. El-Bayoumi, instilled a sense of pride in her Arab roots through their artistic musical expression. “Something that I play in my head every time I perform is my father saying. “Sing from the inside, feel it inside.” This is where the passion and the connection to the music come from. She said. “From as long as I can remember, my artistic pursuits have always been partly linked to my pride in being Arab-American.” She added.
Fairouz Foty’s beginnings in the world of music
As mentioned earlier, the first introduction to music was through her father who is an oud player and singer. In fact, she and her siblings were all taught how to sing and play their respective instruments. Both in Arabic as well as in Western Classical tradition.
Fairouz began her studies on the classical cello when she was six years old. She continued training up through high school. Having grown up in a varied cultural environment with appreciation to Arab values has contributed immensely to her success. Fairouz, her dad, and siblings have formed a band called Foty Fusion, where they fused different genres of music and used their voices to speak out for justices around the world.
What makes Fairouz so special?
Her goal in performing is not to be famous, perfect, or rich. Her goal is to connect with the audience, enjoy herself, and enter a world where time doesn’t exist. “The performances that I am the proudest of are the ones that I do not remember. Because I was so in the moment that particular time stopped,” She said. This represents how strong her passion is and how it manifests itself in her performances.
However, the list does not end here. Indeed, she has done great work to link her passion and heritage and help new generations who share the same passion as her.
The Aspect of Heritage in Fairouz Life
Fairouz commented “my parents first met on stage as my mother, a visual artist, translated, to an American audience the traditional Arab songs my father sang and played on his oud, the Arab lute. Through that union, merging elements from two sides of the world. Their love was born and later so was I, the fruit of that love with the transmission of not only emotional and physical love but the love of inter-cultural music beginning with the rich history of Arab music.”
“As an Arab-American, I find it very important to bring underrepresented compositions and perspectives to an otherwise apathetic audience. The world of Opera is very insular with a very homogeneous dedicated audience. Growing up celebrating so many different genres of music, I learned to fuse these genres to widen the accessibility of different musical forms and allow for reinterpretation,” Fairouz added.
The part of Arab culture Fairouz really does admires the most is the historical pursuit of knowledge. She has immense pride in the innovations in science, the arts, engineering, architecture, medicine, geography, and many other categories of study that came from the Arab part of the world. “This was something I had the privilege to learn about from a young age. But, as I grow older, I am in awe of how much of what makes up the intellectual knowledge in the West really started in the Arab World.” She said.
Now, let’s see her amazing creation!
Fairouz created “Quartertonez Music school”
She decided to create Quartertonez Music School because she feels that there is a need for an educational reform in the study of music in relation to her own experience as a classically trained music student. “I found there are major holes and inconsistencies in my own musical pursuits. Despite having a few wonderful mentors, I faced constant discouragement. At points, the desire to quit despite being called traditionally talented.” Fairouz explained.
She felt the approach to music education is archaic and that there is a lack of desire to use updated and innovative ways of enticing musical prowess.
“As a student, I felt very alienated. And not supported in my pursuit of vocal performance in higher education. I also did not see any representation of myself as an Arab woman in my course of study and found it to be very Eurocentric.”
As a result, Fairouz created Quartertonez Music school which provides a holistic approach to each student’s musical development. Her goal is, to make things change and advance in a good way. She wants to inform and to give others a chance that she didn’t have. Now, Quartertonez Music is expanding to an Arab Music study department to further study the rich history and tradition of Arab music!
In addition to the Quartertonez Music school, Fairouz got inspired to rewrite a unique genre of Arab Opera.
Why does she have the idea of rewriting a unique genre of Arab Opera?
Who better to explain it to you than Fairouz herself? “As a graduate student, I became very interested in how images of the Orient were depicted in the librettos and operatic scores that I was studying on a daily basis. The inaccuracies I witnessed in the Arab world’s portrayal inspired a quest. To find the accurate and ‘true’ expression of Arab musical modes and culture in Opera. Of course, ‘truth’ is all subjective. But through my research, a plethora of new music and interpretations opened up. My first stop was finding operatic elements in the 20th-century artists and composers of the Arab world, namely Asmahan.
Fairouz added, the song ‘Ya Toyoor’ (Oh Birds) was my first attempt at fusing these elements. Singing the song first in the traditional Arabic style and then singing the cadenza-like section operatically. I have opened my study to include the Lebanon Fairuz as well as works by Mohammad El Qasabg, the composer of Ya Toyoor. This was the initial introduction, but I started to search for operas that were composed in Arabic. This led me to explore classical operatic pieces that have Arabic influences and to bring out this influence with the introduction of the oud and, of course, my father’s voice.”
What other groundbreaking projects is she working on?
Fairouz is working on several projects with various organizations. One of them is with the mezzo-soprano. Dr. Lori Sen, in a series called the Middle East, Meets West: Turkish, Arabic, and Sephardic Sounds in the Western World. “Our performance will first introduce traditional Arab and Turkish songs, using traditional vocalism and instruments. The rest of our program will be performed with piano accompaniment. We will display the influence of the “Middle Eastern sound” on the development of Western classical vocal literature through a repertoire of Spanish zarzuelas. French opera arias and art songs will incorporate elements of Middle Eastern music. Western classical arrangements of traditional Arab, Turkish, Sephardic songs, and arias from Turkish and Arabic operas.” Fairouz said. This performance collaboration aims to musically demonstrate how both Western and Middle Eastern cultures were influenced by and enriched through many positive interactions of both worlds for centuries.
It is exciting to hear Fairouz perform live on Arab America’s FB, this Friday, July 17th at 8:00 pm, EDT.
For more information about Fairouz see: interested: FAIROUZFOTY.COM
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