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Profiled in
Al Fajr - The Dawn Druze
International Magazine
ABU SALEH, Dr. Abbas
Issue 18
AL ATRASH,  Sultan Pasha
Issue 1
Issue 14
Issue 35
ARSLAN, Prince Shakib
Issue 11
Issue 50
ASSAF, Toufic
Issue 30
Issue 25
Issue 40
Issue 2
KASEM, Casey
Issue 55
NAJJAR, Dr. Abdallah
Issue 5, 12
NAJJAR, Anissa Rawda
Issue 9
NAJJAR, Dr. Samir
Issue 15
OBEID, Dr. Anis
Issue 1, 45
SAAB, Afifi & her sisters
Fatina Saab & Zhebad Saab
Issue 4
SALMAN, Dr. Nour
Issue 7
TAKEDINE,  Judge Halim
Issue 8
Issue 6
Issue 11
TALEEH, Rashid
Issue 19

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Amal al-Atrash (Arabic: آمال الأطرش‎‎ Āmāl al-Aṭrash; 25 November 1912 – 14
July 1944), better known by her stage name Asmahan (أسمهان Asmahān),
was an Druze singer and actress of Syrian origins who lived in Egypt.
Asmahan was the sister and co-star of the great Farid al-Atrash, has
been called the only voice that can be compared with Umm Kulthum's, but
with (as one Arab expert put it) more "tenderness and femininity." A
master of the traditional sound, she was also on the cutting edge of the
film-oriented and to some extent Western-oriented 1940s "new music,"
and some of her most unforgettable songs were in that vein. Her brother
sings with her on many of her recordings.

Having immigrated to Egypt in childhood, her family knew the composer
Dawood Hosni, and she sang the compositions of Mohamed El Qasabgi
and Zakariyya Ahmad.  She also sang the compositions of Mohammed
Abdel Wahab and her brother Farid al-Atrash, a then rising star musician
in his own right.

Her mysterious death in an automobile accident shocked the public.
Journalists spread gossip about her turbulent personal life and an alleged
espionage role in World War II.

Asmahan was born to Prince Fahd al-Atrash, a Syrian Druze from
Suwayda, and 'Alia al-Mundhir, a Lebanese Druze from Hasbaya.  Her
father came from the Druze al-Atrash clan, well known in Syria for its role
in fighting against the French occupation.  Like the older members of the
family, Asmahan came from the Jabal Druze where her forebears were the
Emirs until Lebanon and Syria became a French mandate.
Asmahan's father served as Governor of the district of Demirgi in Turkey, during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Asmahan's
father, fled the country with his children and pregnant wife. On 25 November 1917, they embarked on a ship from İzmir to Beirut,
and Asmahan was born on board. She was named "Amal", meaning "hopes". She was also called "Emily", but always preferred
the name "Amal". After the French came into power, the family returned to Jabal al-druze.  Her father spend the remainder of his
life as an ordinary citizen in his native mountains. Asmahan's father died in 1924, when she was only six.  

Following the Adham Khanjar incident in 1923, the al-Atrash home in al-Qrayya (a town in Jabal al-Druze) was bombed by French
forces. 'Alia fled with her children to Damascus.  Asmahan later recalled her childhood years in Jabal al-Druze as "untouched by
anything truly bad".  'Alia and her children travelled to Beirut, but, after discovering that the French were searching for them
there, they stopped in Haifa in Palestine, and travelled from there to Egypt.

'Alia chose to immigrate to Cairo, because 'Alia knew that Egypt's then nationalist prime minister Saad Zaghloul and her
husband's relative, Sultan al-Atrash were on corresponding terms.    In Egypt, the little princess, who had been cherished by her
father, was to experience the hardships which befall a family that has fallen upon hard times. Although of noble origin, her mother
Set Alia was 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 and her family first lived in Cairo. She had an excellent voice, could play the `ud, sang at parties and made some
recordings. Asmahan and her brothers attended a French Catholic school. Amal's vocal talent was discovered at an early age.
Once, when her brother Farid received one of Egypt's most famous composers, Dawood Hosni, in their home, the latter
overheard her singing in her room, and insisted on seeing her immediately. He then asked her to sing again. He was much
impressed by the performance, and suggested the stage name of Asmahan to her. Amal began using that name.
Asmahan rose to fame quickly: she approximately fourteen years old when she was introduced to the public at a concert at the
prestigious Cairo Opera House. She sang and recorded songs composed by Farid Ghosn, Dawood Hosni, Mohamed El Qasabgi,
and Zakariyya Ahmad. At sixteen, Asmahan was invited by an Egyptian record company to make her first album, featuring her first
song "Ya Nar Fouadi" by Farid Ghosn.

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 El Atrash 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.

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's older brother, Fuad, and other Druze relatives found it difficult to accept Asmahan's integration into the
heterogeneous Egyptian social scene. The clearly defined divisions, along religious lines, of the Syrian countryside did not
operate in Egypt.

On 14 July 1944, a car carrying Asmahan and a female friend crashed and went into a canal at the side of the road, after the
driver lost control near the city of Mansoura, Egypt.

Asmahan was buried in Egypt in accordance with her wishes as, years later, were her two brothers, Fouad and Farid al-Atrash,  in
the Fustat plain in Cairo, which she and brother Farid, along with Egyptian crooner Abdel Halim Hafez.  

Although her life was short her influence on Arabic singing will still be felt for a long time. Whereas Ûm Kalsûm brought classical
singing to a perfection surpassing that aimed at by her masters 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 song in the classical manner such as "leïta lilbarraqi
aïnan" was equaled by that she showed when singing "ya tûyûr" in a style influenced by Western technique, and the wonder is
that, in doing so, she did not disturb in the least Arabic listeners.