LISTEN: Classic Lebanese sounds, from jazz to Fairouz

Jeries Murkus Ballan is a 25-year-old musician and performer who lives between Nazareth and Haifa. Ballan, who teaches music, plays the bouzouki and works in dance and theater, brings us a mixtape of classic Lebanese songs, including everything from classical to jazz. 

By Khen Elmaleh

Tell us a bit about the mixtape

The mixtape is made up of Lebanese music, from folklore to the contemporary.

What was your first encounter with music?

I don’t exactly remember when I started becoming interested in music. Since I was young I was interested in everything from theater and acting to playing music. I mostly grew up in my grandparents’ home in Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, where I was exposed to cultures from across the world, especially music. From Tchaikovsky and Mozart to Joan Baez and Fairouz. We listened to a lot of South American music, Lebanese music, classical operas and protest songs from the 60s.

Thanks to their home I now draw on all of these influences when I make music.

What came next?

As a child I listened to a lot of Fairouz, as well as her son, Ziad Rahbani. When I began studying music professionally at 13, jazz became a central part of my life and began blending in with the Lebanese music I had been listening to my whole life. When I started studying composition at Haifa University, contemporary music, or as it’s called – classical-modern music – caught my attention and began changing the way I understood the composition process.

Jeries Murkus Ballan. (photo: Adi Ofer)
Jeries Murkus Ballan. (photo: Adi Ofer)

Our identity as Arabs or Jews in this land is very eclectic, and it’s reflected in my musical influences and preferences. Mahler and Stravinsky were also eclectic.

Where do you buy your music?

Over the last few years I’ve been traveling to Jordan to buy albums and recordings of live performances that you just can’t find in Israel. I also share pirated songs, especially Lebanese music that isn’t found in record stores today.

Before we press play?

The music I chose was made through a real compositional process of writing, as well as culling together musicians from several countries to perform the music itself. I am especially fond of the pieces by the composer Ziad Rahbani, who was always very firmly opposed to the orientalism that took over Arab music. He creates music that doesn’t answer to Western ideas of what Arab music should sound like. He creates music that consciously circumvents these ideas. That’s what makes him one of my favorites.


Fairouz – Ahuda Eli Sar, composed by Sayyd Darwish (Egypt) rearranged by Ziyad Rahbani (Lebanon)

Amal Murkus (Palestine/Israel) – Hulum

Ziyad Rahbani – Sa’luni Nas

Fairouz – Ya Mahla Layali Lhawa, composed by Rahbani Brothers, rearranged by Ziyad Rahbani

 Rima Khchech, Toufik Farouk (Lebanon) – Hanina

Ziyad Rahbani – Asa’da Allah Masa’kum (instrumental from the album Monodos)

Rima Khchich (Lebanon) – El Shyyalin, composed by Sayyd Darwish (Egypt)

Tania Saleh (Lebanon) – Omar & Ali

Fairouz – Habyytak Tanset Nawm, composed by Ziyad Rahbani

Ziad Rahbani – Wa’meh, preformed by the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra

Click here to read this post in Hebrew.