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Warda, giant of Arab song, dies

Singer was known as the Algerian Rose

Algerian singer Warda, whose sultry voice and range helped make her one of the giants of Arab song, died Thursday, May 17, in Cairo from a heart attack. She was 71.

Along with Lebanon’s Fayrouz and Egypt’s late Umm Kalthoum, Warda was one of the legendary singers of the Arab world, with a voice that has been described as both sweet and powerful.

She lived in Egypt on and off since 1960. She earned both her cinematic and singing breakthroughs in Egypt and gained fame throughout the Middle East. She had at least five lead roles in Egyptian films and some 300 songs to her name.

Warda Aldjazairia, or the Algerian Rose, was born in France in 1939 to an Algerian father and Lebanese mother. She traveled to Algeria for the first time in 1962 after the country gained independence from France. She married an Algerian, and quit singing for ten years.

After moving to Cairo, at the time the heart of the Arab cultural and artistic scene, she had her big break in the late 1970s with the hit “My Times Are Sweeter With You.”

She frequently worked with Egypt’s and the broader Arab world’s best-known composers, and eventually married one — Baligh Hamdy. They formed a formidable team, even after their divorce, making some of the most memorable Arab love songs, including “Stay Here, Stay” and “Listen to Me.”

Warda sang in all Arab dialects, and although better known for her love songs, she also sang nationalistic songs for Algeria and the larger Arab world.

She was first introduced to a wider audience in Egypt when she took part in a pan-Arab song in 1960 called “The Greater Nation” written under Egypt’s charismatic president, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. In the song, she sang the part about Algeria, earning her the moniker Aldjazairia, or the Algerian.

Warda had a liver transplant ten years ago, which forced her to give up performing for a number of years.

Her last album, “The Years I Lost,” was released in 2011.

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