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Farīd al-Aṭrash

The prolific singer and oud player Farīd al-Aṭrash provided a unique deep voice for the film music of his adopted homeland, Egypt. He was born in southern Syria in 1917. The al-Aṭrash clan had fought against the French colonial force and, when he was nine, Farīd's family immigrated to Egypt. Al-Aṭrash's early interest in music was spawned by his mother, a talented oud player. As a youth he sang in school, but eventually he entered the Institute of Arab Music, where he studied under the composer Riad Al-Sunbati. Al-Aṭrash's first professional work was on Egyptian radio, singing at various radio stations. Eventually, he was hired as an oud player for Egypt's national radio station. Throughout his four-decade career, al-Aṭrash tried to stay within the limitations of Arabic musical form but his patriotic, romantic, and religious songs often exhibited a Western classical flavor. Over the course of his career, his voice developed into a deep baritone, which gave his songs a unique character and gravitas. In 1941, al-Aṭrash composed all the music for—and starred in—his first film,  The Triumph of Youth, with his sister. Between 1941 and 1974 he would star in thirty-one films and record over 350 songs. By 1952, al-Aṭrash was engaged in a personal relationship with the consort of Egypt's King Farouk I. Following the coup that removed Farouk from the throne, al-Aṭrash attempted to keep his relationship alive but was spurned by his lover's family; thus began a series of heart-related health problems that plagued him until his death in 1974.