DUBAI: On the morning of July 14, 1944, singer and actress Amal Al-Atrash interrupted filming in Cairo and headed for the seaside resort of Ras El Bar. She wore a yellow dress and carried a French novel that she had read in part, with her friend and sometimes her secretary, Marie Quellada. Both sat in the back seat of a two-door sedan.
Around noon, in a sudden event that shocked the Arab world, the car Al-Atrash and Qelada were in crashed into a canal near the city of Mansoura, trapping two women inside. they both drowned. The driver, an acquaintance of Al-Atrash’s third husband, Ahmed Salem, escaped unharmed and mysteriously disappeared.
The untimely death of Al-Atrash, better known by her stage name Asmahan, would cement her status as a cultural icon. A strong and independent woman, provocative and divisive, Asmahan was “a brilliant voice, a wayward woman, a daredevil, many mistresses, and a force of self-destruction”. Conspiracy theories multiplied as weeks turned into years, only worsening her already controversial reputation.
Shortly after her death, Asmahan left an unfinished film — Garam Wa Intikam (Love and Revenge) directed by Youssef Wabi — and many unanswered questions. war. was she killed? who killed her Was she operating as a double agent? Changing the ending of “Love and Revenge” to reflect Starr’s passing and using a stunt double only deepened the intrigue surrounding her. was.
“Asmahan’s life is so rocambolesque and romantic that even the most daring screenwriters would not dare to create it,” said Morocco, who is currently writing a film centered around the investigation into Asmahan’s mysterious death. Filmmaker Yasmin Benkiran says: “A Syrian princess with a golden voice, a fugitive of many, an actress with a husband and a lover, an adventurer, a British spy (she helped the Allied forces against the Nazis). Envy of the Queen, Umm Kulthum Envy of herself, she died in a mysterious car accident.Who killed her?To this day, no one knows.This life has already made her an icon.”
However, much of her life remains a mystery. Her year of birth is estimated to be 1912 to 1918, and her age is also uncertain. By contrast, her legacy lives on. She is more revered as a cultural icon than ever before, and her expression in art manifests itself in all forms of expression. Today, it continues to resonate like never before.
Born into the al-Atrash clan in southern Syria in the early 20th century, Asmahan was expected to follow cultural traditions. It meant a life devoted to her Druze husband and raising children, not the sinful life of a singer and entertainer. This pressure to conform was compounded by her family’s important role in fighting the French occupation. So Asmahan was born in a patriotic struggle. That struggle led to her emigrating to Cairo with her mother and her brother after French troops shelled her home in Syria in 1922.
Yet, she and her brother, singer, composer and oud player Farid al-Atrash, displayed prodigious talent at an early age. Discovered by her Egyptian composer Dawood Hosni during a visit to her family home in Cairo, Asmahan ultimately refused her life allotted to her.
Asmahan’s voice was powerful and extraordinary, endowed with an exceptional vocal range. She personified the melancholy and drama of the Tarab tradition, but at the same time fragile and audible from her voice. It was about a place where joys meet and become one. She was also at ease with both Arab and Western musical traditions alike. In other words, she was a pioneer of cultural change.
“Her voice was amazing,” says Lebanese artist and author Zena El Khalil. “The depth and breadth of her voice is astounding, and if she had lived longer it would have developed even further. She would have had a similar height to Umm Kulthum, but she The only reason she isn’t is because she didn’t live that long.”
The effect of her appearance on the people she encountered was remarkable. She often appeared on screen bathed in a white glow, embracing her sexuality rather than denying it. The British High Commissioner for Lebanon, Edward Spears, believed that “she is, and always will be, one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.” He left an indelible impression on everyone he met. Her untimely death also bestowed on her eternal youth.
But what resonates most is her image as a strong and rebellious woman.She lived boldly and freely, regardless of the expectations of her family and community. Although she was supported by her brother and her mother, she was looked upon with shame and fear by the conservative Druze society and was subject to her intense pressure. Twice married to her cousin Prince Hassan al-Atrash and living in Syria for six years, she sometimes succumbed to the pressure.
“When I first heard that Asmahan was a young Druze, she felt like the closest role model I had,” says El-Khalil, who is distantly related to Asmahan through his paternal grandmother. “I felt an affinity with the desire to fully express myself as an artist but have to restrain myself because of social pressure. She did a really good job breaking out of that mold. comes from a very similar family background and there is a part of me that I felt I could relate to as well as respect her. If Asmahan could do this 80 years ago, so can I (today).”
Asmahan is featured prominently in El-Khalil’s book Beirut, I Love You and sees parallels in his own life as an artist. “When Asmahan didn’t sing, she got sick. There is so much courage in how she has had to break social norms in order to not only become a woman, but to be a woman who expresses herself, a woman to be seen, a woman to be heard, a woman in the public eye. There’s a thing, in the Druze culture women aren’t allowed to do that, your job is to obey orders, follow the patriarchy, bear children, be a good mother and a good member of society. “
Of all the icons featured in this series, Asmahan is arguably the most complex. This complexity has led to a level of dedication often lacking in relationships with other stars in the Arab world.Filmmaker Aza El Hassan once told her two stories about her. I was. One was that of an Iraqi who shot herself outside a movie theater after she saw “Her Love and Revenge”. Another is that of a woman who died trying to catch a glimpse of the Princess of Druze, and she will forever be known as the “Martyr of Asmahan”.
El Hassan of the 2014 documentary Asmahan’s Intolerable Existence said, “What makes Asmahan so meaningful and what makes her so different is that she’s not perfect. is,” he said. She is also an alcoholic though. She is a princess and her concubine. She’s simply a bunch of contradictions, and that’s what makes her like you and me. She’s far from perfect, and her imperfections make it easier to relate to her and sympathize with her downfall. ”