Cairo Opera House Commemorates Farid Al Atrash’s Birthday
The National Arabic Music Ensemble held Thursday a concert at the Cairo Opera House to commemorate the birthday of the late Composer, singer and actor Farid Al Atrash, according to local press.
Held under conductor Selim Sahab, Al Ahram Weekly said, the concert included, performances by the Ensemble's stars Nashwa Abdel Halim, Ahmed Effat, Afaf Radi, Mahmoud Darwish, Ayat Farouq, Amira Abu Zeid, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar and Sayyed Mansour, among others, while Mansour played the oud, performing variations on themes from Atrash's most famous compositions.
Atrash was one of the pioneering influences in the modernizing of Arabic music in the early twentieth century.
Born in 1907 into the Lebanese Druze family that spearheaded the rebellion against the French in the Druze Mountain after World War I, Atrash moved with his family to Egypt in 1923, where he eventually made his reputation as a famous musician. When they first moved to Egypt, though, the family fell on hard times. Atrash changed schools several times and eventually apprenticed himself to the composer Riyad Al Sunbati. The hard-working apprentice was highly recommended by Sunbati, and sang on a number of privately-owned Egyptian radio stations in the 1930's. When the stations were closed down and a national radio station was established, Atrash was hired as an oud player in its orchestra, and later as a singer. Among his early artistic endeavors in Cairo was joining belly dancer and casino owner Badi'a Masabni's band as a player of the oud.
Atrash's sister, Amal, also had talents as a singer and she assumed the memorable stage name Asmahan. Several filmmakers were attracted to the brother-sister phenomenon and wished to showcase them in a film. The two singers eventually starred in the hit movie Intisar Al Shabab (now a classic of the Egyptian cinema) in 1941, with Atrash composing all the music. It was the beginning of a phenomenally successful cinematic career, which lasted until the 1970s and during which Farid made 31 films. In the majority of his screen appearances the actor was typecast in the romantic lead role of a sad singer -- often assuming the name "Wahid" (literally lonely) for his character. Atrash also collaborated with the dancer Samia Gamal, and managed to borrow enough money to produce a movie in which he co- starred with her. The success of Habib Al Umr, released in 1947, ensured the performer a degree of financial security almost overnight.
His classic songs include Al Rabi' (Spring), Awal Hamsah (First Whisper), and the timeless tunes Lahn Al Khulud, Tutah, and Raqsit Al Gamal, the latter two being dance pieces. His lighter songs, like Nura Nura, Hallet Layali, and Gamil Gamal remain extremely popular. Atrash also made room in his repertoire for nationalistic sentiments, as in Besat Al Rih (Flying Carpet), a conceptual tour sampling the musical styles of the Arab world.
According to Al Ahram Weekly, Atrash was rumored to have conducted a string of affairs with leading stars (including Samia Gamal and the singer Shadia) and society women of his time. The stormiest affair was perhaps his rumored association with Queen Nariman, King Farouq's divorced second wife. Shortly before the Egyptian revolution, Atrash had befriended her to the chagrin of the king, who had the singer forced out of the country. After the royal divorce, and following the outbreak of the 1952 revolution and the king's exile, Nariman returned to Egypt and the stormy love affair with Atrash was the buzz of the tabloids for some time. Her family, however, rejected Atrash as a suitable match for their daughter, which loss led him into a long period of depression. The role of the sad singer appeared to have come home to roost. And it was at this time that the health problems from which he was to suffer until the end of his life date.
Atrash was considered by many the best oud player of his time, and was frequently referred to as "the king of oud." His meteoric rise to fame was no small accomplishment, especially as he broke onto a scene dominated by the gigantic presence of Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Umm Kulthoum, during an era when the new technologies of recording and film were reshaping every aspect of musical performance. In an effort to create a distinctive style of his own, Atrash utilized both the flamenco and tango in his compositions, the former having a common maqam with Arabic music; the latter being the fashionable style in European music at the time. Atrash even attempted what he called "operatic" works.
At his death in Beirut in 1974, Atrash had still not fulfilled one of his greatest ambitions -- composing a song for Umm Kulthoum. It was reported at the time that permission had been refused to bury him on the Druze Mountain, though in a public statement issued by his brother Fuad at the time it was stressed that it was Atrash's wish to be buried in Cairo, where his sister had died – Albawaba.com
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