Once upon a time, there was a tiny country nestled in the Middle East named Lebanon. Its people firmly believed they're originally Phoenicians but had one of the best cuisines in the region.
As this marvelous land persisted and remained somehow standing, its greenery declined, population diversified, civil war slumbered, and economy dazzled the world.
The last part of this story is the most interesting one, as Lebanon's economy has, in a way, always been on a downhill path, with the rich taking advantage of the poor. Having said that, the country's capital city Beirut never slept nor frowned in the face of a visitor.
Here are 10 songs that portray Lebanon's shaky economy and how it never changed since its independence:
1. Omar Zeeny: Law kent hsan (1940s)
The ever-famous Omar Zeeny was given many titles for his courageous, yet satirical work. The one that stuck the most was "The People's Poet".
In his song "Law kent hsan" (If I were a horse), he targets the Lebanese aristocrats, who back then had a snobbish penchant towards raising horses.
He wished he was born a horse and not a human so he would be able to eat and live properly, unlike the majority of the Lebanese population which remains poor to date.
"If I were a horse, I would be living lavishly like the rulers of this country. If I were a horse, I would have no worries. If I were a horse for the Sursok family, I would eat peanuts and chestnuts, instead of stealing like those on the streets."
2. Joseph Nassif and Elie Chouweiry: Ya denyi chatti masari (1960s)
Written by the Rahbani brothers in the 1960s (between 1963-1965) and sang by Joseph Nassif and Elie Chouweiry, this song rings the rusty bell of reality and truth almost six decades later.
From the TV program "Qosma w Nasib", the song "Ya denyi chatti masari" (Hey world, make it rain money) showcases the obvious need for money and a proper job, especially with the lines:
"Please God, send me a good amount of money, I have many debts [...] A: We'll open a mini-market. B: It won't be enough. A: We'll find a job. B: It won't be enough. [...] No matter where I look or how far I try to think, I can't see before me but money."
3. Chouchou: Chehadin ya baladna (1970s)
Hassan Alaa Eddin, better known as Chouchou, was a comedian like no other. He built the "national theatre" - which was known by his stage name - and the first kids theatre in Lebanon.
In the 1973 play "Akh ya baladna" (Oh my country), one song stuck to people and is still quite relevant to this day, "Chehadin ya baladna" (We're beggars, my country).
The first lines go as follows: "They said we are beggars, my country. They said we are thieves, my country. Who are we, my country? We're only a bunch of poor people. We're tyrannized, my country."
4. Joseph Sakr: El haly te3bani ya Leila (1973)
In the title lies the story of a poor boy and a rich girl who can never be together due to the harsh economic situation. Nationally recognized as a genius lyricist with a satirical twist, Ziad Rahbani wrote on many occasions about his country's not-so-great economic phases.
"Things are not going well, Leila. There will be no engagement; you're rich, Leila, and we're poor [...] The floor we have has no carpet, while you're used to walking on feather."
5. Ziad Rahbani: Ana mich kafer (1985)
The Rahbani family has always been one to voice their opinion regarding the tiresome state of Lebanon. In Ziad Rahbani's song, "Ana Mich Kafer" (I am not a disbeliever), the lyrics he wrote depicts the mental and financial situations of many Lebanese.
"I am not a disbeliever, but hunger is. I am not a disbeliever, but illness is. I am not a disbeliever, but poverty is, and humiliation is... What can I do to you if all things that are miscreant are combined in me."
6. Ziad Rahbani: Chou hal iyam (1985)
In another Ziad Rahbani song, from the same album of Ana Mich Kaffer (released in 1985 under the same title), he sarcastically sings about the gap between the rich and poor.
In the first verse, the lyrics go as follows: "They tell you this man worked hard to make his fortune. Then how come, this man and his millions, I never saw him sweat once."
7. Ghassan Rahbani: Achtaghel (1994)
Another Rahbani member, Ghassan, followed a more metal/rock style to prove the hypocrisy in Lebanon is alive and well.
In his 1994 album Buzzi War, Ghassan released a funky pop song titled "Ashtaghel" (I work), in which he explains how the working class in Lebanon is underpaid but is still expected to work hard.
"We have to understand our brothers, the first in Paris and his son in London, and the second in America... So you're supposed to not question, and you're convicted to work for free... Well work without pay, is something I won't do."
8. Oussama Rahbani: Lezim ghayyir l nizam (1997)
The title alone says it all, "Lezim ghayyir l nizam" (I should change the system). As corruption has been part of Lebanon since anyone can remember, this song tackles pollution, the spread militia, chaos, wasta, and poverty.
The chorus goes as follows: "I cannot change my own situation, I don't have this power. I am being destructed all alone, to the point I am filled with hatred and humiliation."
9. Charbel Rouhana: Lachou el teghyir (2005)
Oud master Charbel Rouhana released "Lachou el teghyir" (Why make a change) in 2005, sarcastically naming almost every reason why we shouldn't work for change.
He targets politicians, relationships, and ambitions by singing: "You who has been working hard in whatever job, thinking tomorrow will secure you and I, the 'gentlemen' are the same and they protect themselves, they remain in place, why make a change?"
10. Georges Khabbaz: Hikayet watan (2010)
Georges Khabbaz is another brilliant lyricist who's written many comedic plays about different topics that have had toxic effects on Lebanon.
In "Hikayet watan" (A country's story), the storytelling goes from grandfather to father to son.
"The corrupted politicians blamed others [for the chaos in Lebanon], as they were distracted by their filled pockets, as the poor take the fall [...] You'd pay $100 for gas, and stand in long lines for bread, while one with a gun to his waist would skip the line [...] As soon as the war was over, poverty took a toll on us and problems fed on us. The minimum wage was never enough, and we paid taxes on top of that."