Monday, September 21, 2020

The Musical Legend

Farid El Atrach, popularly known as The King of Oud was born in 1910 to a druze family of princes in Syria. The family later immigrated to Egypt, where Farid and his siblings grew up in mesmerizing world music with their mother being a singer and a highly talented Oud player herself. He studied in a music conservatory and later became an apprentice of the renowned composer Riyad as-Sunbaty. His professional career as a musician began in 1930 as a singer working for privately owned Egyptian radio stations. Eventually, he was hired as an Oud player for the national radio station and later as a singer.

A true Arab artist, who always remained virtuous to his traditional music roots, also bravely and successfully experimented with western music in many of his compositions. Along with being an Oud player, his talent as a singer, composer and actor took him to heights of fame during those times and is still considered as one of the most important names in the Arab Music during the 20th century.

Even though his compositions are famed for the romantics and love it radiates out to the listeners, several songs by him strongly stood for patriotism and also shared religious values. Having recorded over an amazing number of 400 songs, he has also starred in over 31 movies.

Farid’s sister Asmahan, was also a talented singer and the duo had worked together to create some of the ever green songs of Arab music. They starred together in their first successful movie Intisar al-Shabab (The Triumph of Youth) in 1941, in which Farid composed all the music himself.

One of al-Atrash’s most distinguished traits was his voice. It was high and mellow at the start of his career in 1930s which then later evolved into a wider and deeper sound by the 1960s. In many of his songs and nearly all of his concerts, Farid would sing a mawal, which is a slow voice improvisation of a few poetic lines. These improvisations that lasted for upto 15 minutes have been all time favorite among his fans. Some of the most famous songs include “Rabeeh” (Spring), “Awal Hamsa” (first whisper), “Hekayat Gharami” (story of my love), “Albi Wa Moftaho” (my heart and its key), “Gamil Gamal”, “Wayak”, “Ya Zahratan Fi Khayali” (Flower of my imagination), “Bisat Ir Rih” (flying carpet), “Ya Gamil Ya Gamil”, “Ya Habaybi Ya Ghaybeen”, “Eish Anta”, and “saa bi orb el habib” (an hour in company of the beloved).

Widely considered to be one of the four ‘greats’ of Egyptian and Arabic music, along with Abdel Halim Hafez, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Oum Kalthoum, al-Atrash and his music stays alive in the hearts of millions of Arab music lovers over generations.

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