CAIRO, (AFP) — Algerian singer Warda, who died in Cairo aged 72 late on Thursday, was a regional icon whose powerful patriotic tunes were matched in popularity by her romantic ballads.
Known throughout the region as Warda al-Jazairia (the Algerian Rose), she performed for presidents and popular audiences, reinventing herself over the decades to appeal to old and young alike.
Algerian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi said here death meant “one of the most beautiful voices of Algeria and the Arab world has just become silent forever.”
She “has gone, leaving behind her a deafening silence and a profound sadness,” Toumi said in a message of condolences published by the APS news agency.
Born Warda Fatouki in France in 1939 to an Algerian father and Lebanese mother, the singer spent most of her adult life in Egypt.
She began singing in her teens, performing at a club her father owned in Paris.
Her introduction to the Arab masses came through her performance of “Al-Watan Al-Akbar” (the greater homeland), a pan-Arabist song composed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab, himself a regional star.
Warda took music lessons from renowned Egyptian singers, including Oum Kalthoum, Abdelwahab and Abdelhalim Hafez, before performing her own songs to music composed by her Tunisian mentor, Sadeq Thuraya.
Shortly after Algeria’s independence from French colonial rule in 1962, Warda went to her homeland for the first time, where she married and quit singing at the request of her husband.
But when then president Houari Boumediene asked Warda to sing for the celebrations to mark the 10-year anniversary of independence, she agreed. It was a decision that would cost her her marriage.
She later moved to Cairo and married renowned composer Baligh Hamdi, and together they created some of her most famous work.
Known for a classical style of Arabic singing, she adopted more pop tunes in the 90s, earning her a huge younger fan base with her hit tune “Batwanes beek” (I enjoy your company) that was followed by a string of hits.
Warda, with her expressive brown eyes and elegant mannerisms, will be remembered throughout the Arab world as an icon of her generation.
She died in her Cairo apartment after a sudden heart attack just weeks after recording a song to celebrate Algeria’s 50th independence anniversary, Egyptian state media said.
“She was in good health and had not been complaining of anything,” her son Riad was quoted as saying by the Egyptian MENA news agency.
Algeria has sent a military plane to Cairo to carry Warda’s body back home. She will be buried at the Al-Alia cemetery in Algiers, her son said.