Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1224, (4 - 10 December 2014)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1224, (4 - 10 December 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary - Sabah (1927-2014) Mournful dabke

Mournful dabke
Mournful dabke
Al-Ahram Weekly

Legendary Lebanese singer and actress Sabah (born Jeanette Jirjis Al-Feghali on 10 November 1927) had specified in her will that her funeral should be accompanied by music and dancing. Thus from her birthplace in Wadi Chahrour to the Saint Georges Church in Beirut, the rhythm of the dabke punctuated the funereal procession held for the 87-year-old star’s final journey on Wednesday 26 November.

Celebrated throughout the Arab world as both Al-Sharoura (the Blackbird) and Al-Sabbouha, Sabah made her name in Egyptian cinema in the 1940s, debuting in filmmaker Henri Barakat’s Al-Qalb Laho Wahed (The Heart Has Its Reasons), produced by Asia Dagher. She quickly rose in the ranks of stardom, becoming a pillar of the golden age of Egyptian cinema and acting opposite the likes of Abdel-Halim Hafez in Share’ Al-Hob (Love Street, 1959), Roushdi Abaza in Al-Ragol Al-Thani (The Second Man, 1960), Ahmed Mazhar in Al-Aydi Al-Naema (Soft Hands), Farid Shawki in Goz Merati (Husband of My Wife, 1961), Hussein Fahmi in Leila Baka Fiha Al-Qamar (The Night the Moon Cried, 1980) and Farid Al-Atrash in Lahn Hobbi (My Love’s Melody, 1954), appearing in up to six films a year and nearly always giving singing performances as part of her role.

Sabah recorded over 3,500 songs in both Egyptian and Lebanese dialect, performing tunes by all the greats: Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, the Rahbaniya brothers and Baligh Hamdi, who composed Ammourti Al-Hilwa (My Beautiful Daughter), one her best loved songs, dedicated to her daughter Howeida, by the Egyptian violinist Anwar Mansi, who appeared alongside her in the film in which she first performed it,  Nar Al-Shou’ (Fire of Desire, 1970). Sabah was the first Arab singer to perform at the Carnegie Hall, also making appearances at such prestigious venues as the Olympia in Paris and the Piccadilly Theatre in London. Her life was the subject of a 2011 television drama, Al-Shahroura, written by Fedaa Al-Shandawili and directed by Ahmed Shafik.

Sabah was married to Najib Chammas and Roushdi Abaza, among others. She disappeared from the limelight at the start of the 2000s, and rumours of her death would periodically spread until she began to give television interviews more recently.


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