Name : Asmahan
Country : Syrie
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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, Asmahan came from the Djebel Druse where her forebears were the Emirs until Lebanon and Syria became a French mandate.
Born in 1918, Asmahan 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 Zakaria Ahmed - composers who were working for Um Kalsum 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. Asmahan cooperated with her brother Farid in the film "intissar echabab" and "gharam wentiqam" but she insisted on singing songs by other composers. Asmahan 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.
Asmahan 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.
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