The Life and Legacy of Farid Al-Atrash: Syrian Singer, Composer, Actor, and Oud Player

2023-10-15 13:45:11

Farid Al-Atrash… I came back on my birthday

It is as if the name Farid not only determined the life path of its owner, the Syrian singer, composer, actor and oud player, Farid Al-Atrash (1910 – 1974), but also shaped the features of his personality. This was reflected in the artistic self, and to the same extent, in the biography, from many angles.

Like his sister, the singer Asmahan (1912 – 1944), Farid was unique in his handsomeness. He was distinguished by his good appearance, an added value to the good voice that distinguished his fellow Arab singers until the middle of the twentieth century. This ensured his entry into the Egyptian film industry, which is widespread in the Arab world, and his rapid success in and through it.

Al-Atrash showed his uniqueness in playing starry movie roles, adding another value to his singing performance and the splendor of his appearance. From the screen, her big stars appeared next to him. With their support, he achieved massive stardom. He was able to capture the hearts of viewers and listeners, through the tools of musical and dramatic expression accompanying the singing performance, and driven by natural talent, without the effort of emerging as a professional actor.

He was freed from the confinement of brilliant actors through their secondary roles, such as Abdel Salam Al-Nabulsi and Ismail Yassin, and was alone with major professional stars, such as Faten Hamama (1931 – 2015), within purely dramatic scenes, with no singing or music, such as the movie “The Big Love” directed by Henry Barakat in 1987. 1969. Once he is compared cinematically to singers who turned to acting, it is proven that Farid was the most generous, as he participated in thirty-one films throughout his artistic career.

He was also famous as a solo player on the oud. Since the Islamic era, this stringed instrument has accompanied the lives of most of those who work in singing or composing in the Arabic-speaking region. No singer who sang professionally came forward and emerged as one of the professional oud players, as Farid Al-Atrash did. This was also due to a natural talent that meant he did not have to devote most of his time to mastering the music.

Three oud teachers contributed to the development of a unique style in approaching the instrument: Riad Al-Sunbati, his teacher at the Fouad I Institute of Music in Cairo, Muhammad Al-Qasabji, and Badie Ghosn. However, his tendency towards individuality made him go beyond the prevailing traditions of division in his time, from the constant, regular strumming of the plectrum and adherence to specific phrases according to the maqam, to the performance of a mursal and a plectrum concerned primarily with drawing melodic lines that blend with the singing, and a virtuosic tendency imported from European and Andalusian music in particular. In particular, he was interested in displaying virtuosity, as in his famous solo in the introduction to the song, “My Love Story,” in the movie “For My Love” in 1959. In it, he interviewed an orchestral band. Through it, he used quotations for his oud from a popular piece for the guitar, written by the Spaniard Albéniz, called “Asturias.”

Although he was not unique in the field of composing as a singer among the musical figures of his time, such as Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab (1902 – 1991), the melodies that Al-Atrash composed, whether he performed them with his own voice or presented them to emerging singers at the time, were distinguished by their audacity to depart from the mainstream in the midst of an artistic scene. Composing talent competed in it, and it was founded according to singing customs and traditions, whether in terms of choosing texts, musical modeling, or instrumental arrangement.

Al-Atrash opened up to popular singing, especially Levantine music, during the time period during which he went to Lebanon and worked with Near East Radio in the mid-1960s. He poured his work into an effort to integrate local folklore into the legacy of classical singing, or at least, to build a bridge between them, through formative characteristics that charted the course of the development of popular song until the 1980s.

Singing in the Lebanese dialect began to gain an audience that crossed the borders of Arab countries, after the Egyptian dialect remained the single pole of Arabic singing. Al-Atrash’s cooperation with the Lebanese poet and songwriter Michel Tohme had a great impact on the growth of that fandom and the popularity of his songs, which were performed by emerging voices at the time, such as the Lebanese Sabah and Wadih Al-Safi.

Among those songs that most influenced the process of popular song was “Liketub Aa Leaves Al Shajar”, ​​the words of which were composed by To’ma (1933-1976) and whose melody was composed by Farid in the Maqam of Bayat, which he recorded with his own voice in 1973. He began it with an instrumental introduction that he performed on the oud. It was molded according to one doctrine, and included three coupels, distinguished from each other by maqam shifts that remained adjacent to the main maqam. Accordingly, it maintained the smoothness of transition and simplicity of composition, as characteristics of folk singing, and at the same time, it was formulated with skill and elegance.

Like a Chinese vase, according to the well-known proverb, Farid Al-Atrash rings wherever it is knocked on its walls. He was an actor among singers and a singer among actors, as much as he was a composer among singers and a singer among composers. He was as good at playing the oud as he was at singing and composing, becoming a technical and stylistic reference for the players who came after him.

Although he is identified with his name in many fields, perhaps it is his uniqueness that made him distinctive among his peers. His handsomeness and sensitivity, his aristocratic fatherhood, his travels and his estrangement from his land and his people, in addition to his manifold talents and his hidden tendency to express himself, through his mastery of singing, playing, and composing, are all factors that combined in his personality to form in him the narcissistic features that have always distinguished the personality of the unique artist.

Narcissism ranged between grandiosity, manifested in his artistic audacity, the wildness of his creative choices, his extravagant generosity, and his addiction to gambling, and between fragility and brokenness (Vulnerability), manifested in the melancholy of his features, the sad, complaining tone of his voice, and his adoption of the image of the dreamy lover without a permanent lover. In addition to his accounts of the successive disappointments that befell him, and the recurring injustice he suffered throughout his life from colleagues in the artistic community and leaders of the artistic establishment.

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#Farid #AlAtrash.. #birthday

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