Along with Fairouz and Om Kalthoum, Asmahan is one of the greatest Arab Divas.
Her real name is Amal Al Atrache. Sister of the Great Farid El Atrache. Their parents are Princess Alia and Prince Fahd Al Atrache. After the great success that Farid had been in the national radio station as a singer, his sister's talent was discovered by Mouhammad Al Qasabji, and she was given, by Daoud Housni(who later took care of training her), a classy name, Asmahan.
Like the older members of the family, she came from the Djebel Druse where her forebears were the Emirs until Lebanon and Syria became a French mandate.
Born in 1918, she lived in Lebanon until 1920, when her father was appointed Governor of the Province of Demergi in Turkey. He soon returned, however, to spend the remainder of his lifeas an ordinary citizen in his native mountains. Asmahan's father died in 1924, when she was only six, and her family then emigrated to Egypt, where the little princess, who had been cherished by her father, was to experience the hardships which befall a family that has fallen upon evil days. Although of noble origin, her mother Set Aleya was reduced to singing at private parties to support herself and her children, three boys and a girl, the future Asmahan. Everyone in the family could sing, but success was only to crown the efforts of the two more gifted: Farid and Asmahan.
Asmahan knew something about the European way of singing - perhaps she had gained it just by listening - and she probably unconsciously made use of this knowledge when interpreting genuinely authentic Arabic songs. This is very noticeable in for example "dakhalt marra fignina" by Mid'het Assem and "ya tûyûr" by Kassabgi. Yet an Arabic listener was not disturbed by this foreign element for Asmahan was at the same time a past-master of every aspect of Arabic song. This voice, alas too soon silenced, dominated Arabic singing in the thirties to such an extent that - with the possible exception of ZakariaAhmed - composers who were working for Ûm Kalsûm wanted to work with Asmahan.
It was "aleïk salat allah", a chant composed by Farid Elatrash that launched her as a singer. He had composed it as a musical illustration to the film El Mahmal Esharif, afilm about the caravan transporting every second year the embroidered material going to shroud the Sacred Shrines: black velvet for the Kaaba, green silk for the Tomb of the Prophet in Medina. It's the waqf - a Cairene religious association whom tied up legacies have been bequeathed through the years - that gets a number of unpaid women to embroider them. The song above was first interpreted by Farid; then the producer preferred the interpretation by Asmahan, the one which was going to be known all over the world in the1937-38.
Asmahan never fell into the trap of interpreting the works of one composer alone, as Faïza Ahmed, and Warda at the beginning of her career, later did. She cooperated with her brother Farid in the film "intissar echabab" and "gharam wentiqam" but she insisted on singing songs by other composers. She collaborated with Kassabgi, Riad Sombati and even with Abdelwahab (in the Operette " magnûn Leïla" in the film "yûm saïd ") although he was noton good terms with her brother at the time.
The way Asmahan sang her songs awakened people and intrigued their ear accustomed to traditional music. The song"ayûh ennaïmû" by Riad Sombati in the film "gharam wentiqam" proved that it is possible to give a highly dramatic interpretation of an Arabic song without losing its Oriental character.
She died in 1944 in a car accident caused, it is rumoured, by the war waged between the secret services in Cairo during World War II.
Although her life was short her influence on Arabic singing will stil be felt for a long time. Whereas Ûm Kalsûm brought classical singing to a perfection surpassing that aimed at by hermasters such as Abû al-°Ila, Asmahan's style of interpretation has enriched Arabic song by opening a window to the music of the Western World, without obliterating the fundamental difference between the two sorts of music. The mastery she displayed when interpreting an Arabic songin the classical manner such as "leïta lilbarraqi aïnan" was equalled by that she showed when singing "ya tûyûr" in a styleinfluenced by Western technique, and the wonder is that, in doing so, she did not disturb in the least Arabic listeners.
This biography was written by A. HACHLEF Paris, November 1988 Translated by M. Stoffel Asmahane Ismahan Ismahane http://www.asmahan.com
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L'Origine de La Dabké ou (debke, dabka, dabkeh) : Imaginons un village libanais aux maisons en pierre. Avant les grosses pluies, les toits de terre et de paille avaient besoin d’être retassés, avec une mahdaleh, sorte de grosse pierre (comme un rouleau compresseur). Mais avant de faire passer la mahdaleh, les hommes tassaient le toit avec leurs pieds. Cette coopération des villageois s’appelle ta'awon d’où vient le mot awneh, entraide. Le mot se développe pour donner la chanson Ala Dalouna (Allons-y pour aider). Les hommes se placent l’un à côté de l’autre, épaule sur épaule et commencent à avancer sur un rythme choisi par le groupe. Ainsi née la DABKE au rythme d’une chanson. Souvent des musiciens accompagnaient leur mouvement pour encourager leur effort. DABKE signifie frappé et c’est ce qui caractérise un pourcentage important et très popoulaire de la danse du Liban. Les shémas sont infinis et souvent individuels d’où le grand nombre de variations que l’on peut recueillir pour une même danse, (le Akkar–nord ; la Bekaa-centre ; le sud ; le mont-liban). Les pas sont petits, les frappés précis et nerveux. Cependant le haut du corps reste très souple. Une légère flexion accentue les temps sur les pas ayant une valeur un peu plus tenue.
Darwish is considered to be the most important contemporary Arab poet working today. He was born in 1942 in the village of Barweh in the Galilee, which was razed to the ground by the Israelis in 1948. As a result of his politi-cal activism he faced house arrest and imprisonment. Darwish was the editor of Ittihad Newspaper before leaving in 1971 to study for a year in the USSR. Then he went to Egypt where he worked in Cairo for Al-Ahram Newspaper and in Beirut, Lebanon as an editor of the Journal “Palestinian Issues”. He was also the director of the Palestinian Research Center. Darwish was a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and lived in exile between Beirut and Paris until his return in 1996 to Palestine. His poems are known throughout the Arab world, and several of them have been put to music. His poetry has gained great sophistication over the years, and has enjoyed international fame for a long time. He has published around 30 poetry and prose collections, which have been translated into 35 languages. He is the editor in chief and founder of the prestigious literary review Al Karmel, which has resumed publication in January 1997 out of the Sakakini Centre offices. He published in 1998 the poetry collection: Sareer el Ghariba (Bed of the Stranger), his first collection of love poems. In 2000 he published Jidariyya (Mural) a book consisting of one poem about his near death experience in 1997. In 1997 a documentary was produced about him by French TV directed by noted French-Israeli director Simone Bitton. He is a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters.
Ziad Rahbani , born 1956 is a Lebanese composer and a writer (for radio shows and theatre). The son of the Legendary Lebanese Diva Fairouz and composer Assi Rahbani, he succeeded in conveying the cosmopolitan and pluralistic culture of his native city Beirut(1). He composed many songs for Fairouz and other singers. Many of his musicals satirised the political situation in Lebanon during and after the civil war; others addressed more philosophical as well as political questions. He played the main role in all his plays.