Zaki Nassif was an influential Lebanese musician who was among the first generation of composers who accompanied the rise of Radio Liban in the 1940s, and continued to be a force in Lebanese folk music until his death in 2004.
Born in Machghara, the largest town in the western Beqaa Valley in 1918 and was involved in music and country folk poetry (zagal, maannaa, 'ataba, mijana, abu el zuluf, etc.) at an early age. He was one of the Big Five who contributed material to Radio Orient and Radio Liban in the 1950s (among whom were Halim El Roumi, father of Magida El Roumi, and Tawfic al Basha, Phélémone Wehbé, etc.). Nassif does not belong to the Rahbani School of music that married western classical and folk music with old Lebanese traditional gigs. Rather, he remained with the old material but with a fresh spirit of the Lebanese country side. His songs are always played on Lebanese TV stations along with scenery from Lebanon (Baladi Habibi, Ya Daya'ati- my village, etc.). On his 85th birthday he was interviewed at length in Lebanon by various media venues.
Zaki Nassif is remembered during the civil war for his anthem song "Rajeh Yittammar" (Lebanon will be rebuilt) at a time when violence and destruction were the rule rather than the exception in Lebanon. The song is upbeat and inspires patriotism and is recommended as a staple Zaki Nassif's material. In 1995, to the surprise of many who thought that Zaki Nassif cannot produce new material, Zaki Nassif composed a full album for Fairuz (Fairuz Chante Zaki Nassif, Voix de l'Orient label). The CD contains excellent material that shows the variety of expression Zaki Nassif has. Watch for the Andalusian passages, the poem by Gibran Khalil Gibran (Ya Bani Oummi) and its entry piece, or the love song Ahwak. The CD is adorned with a beautiful painting of Fairuz that was distributed as a poster by the Chahine Brothers to accompany the release.
Zaki Nassif has many protégé new singers to whom he composes material suitable for their vocal abilities. To the dismay of his admirers, Zaki Nassif remained a man with limited income as his 60 years in the music industry did not win him a decent living. This is the case with many Lebanese musicians.
Zaki Nassif's albums are available for sale everywhere as he is still very popular. He is a household name in Lebanon. We know of at least 4 CDs issued in the past 5 years by Voix de l'Orient. To the delight of the listeners, Zaki Nassif's CDs are usually crammed with over 20 songs or 70 minutes. This is similar to Fairuz's reissues of her old material which the label reprinted with remastering in Greece.