Hundreds bade farewell to legendary Lebanese singer Melhem Barakat Sunday as he was laid to rest in his Baabda district hometown of Kfar Shima. In a demonstration of Barkat’s ubiquitous popularity, family, friends, artists and political figures gathered at the Saint Nicolas Church in Beirut’s Ashrafieh neighborhood to pay homage to one of Lebanon’s most beloved singers and composers.
A procession accompanied the hearse, bedecked with a portrait of the late singer, from the nearby Hotel Dieu Hospital. Loudspeakers blared with Barakat’s songs as the procession arrived at the Greek Orthodox Church around 10 a.m.
Metropolitan Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi led a black-clad congregation in funeral prayers. “The man who loved his homeland will always remain at the heart of his country,” Audi said.
Nizar Francis, a poet and life-time friend of Barakat, recited a poem lamenting Lebanon’s loss of a musical giant who was considered a master of a particular style of Arab music, “What tarab will we hear after him?”
Barakat passed away Friday at the age of 74 after battling an undisclosed illness for weeks. He was admitted to Hotel Dieu Hospital over a month ago.
“We are going to miss his songs, words and laughter,” Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama said outside the church. “It’s not only a loss for his town, family and fans, but for music in general.”
Barakat’s band played some of his well-known songs before the funeral convoy departed to Kfar Shima where the singer was interred.
As the funeral procession made its way toward his hometown, the motorcade stopped in the nearby town of Baabda, where residents offered their respects. They lifted the casket and carried it through the town’s center as Barakat’s songs were played. The procession moved on and residents applauded, calling out farewells.
In Kfar Shima, the procession was welcomed by large portraits of Barakat and banners enblazoned with messages of mourning.
Barakat was one of few Arab singers to perform in colloquial Lebanese Arabic, a stylistic choice he defended throughout his career.
The musical icon also launched an acting career, appearing in several films in the 1980s and participating in many of the acclaimed Rahbani Brothers’ musicals.
When the musical legend wasn’t singing, he was composing songs and collaborating with famed artists such as Ghassan Saliba, Majida al-Roumi, Najwa Karam and Carol Sakr.
Copyright © 2019, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.