BOGHOS GELALIAN (1927 - 2011)
Boghos Gelalian was born into an Armenian family that had fled to the Mediterranean city of Alexandretta to escape the Ottoman genocide. Already born into exile, and having lost his parents during a malaria epidemic, Gelalian (like many other Armenians) sought refuge in Lebanon when Turkey annexed Alexandretta, earning his living as a pianist in nightclubs, then working as a music arranger for radio. As musical advisor to the Rahbani brothers, he went on to play a significant role in the singer Fairuz’s rise to become a legendary icon of Arabic music. Fairuz’s son Ziad Rahbani, who later became the Lebanese left wing’s figurehead, was also one of his pupils. Despite his familiarity with jazz and light music and the Turkish and Arabic traditions, Gelalian’s own compositions are uncompromisingly modern. Their intense chromaticism occasionally verges on atonality, whilst also—astonishingly—being derived from Armenian and oriental modes.