(b Cairo, 1910; d Cairo, May 3, 1991). Egyptian composer and singer. As a child he had a remarkable musical memory, and at the age of seven he joined a drama troupe to sing during intervals. In 1920 he began studies of traditional Arab music at the Arabic Music Club (now the Institute of Arabic Music), and he also studied Western music for a time at the Bergrün School in Cairo. He then embarked on a dual career as a singer-composer; possessing a fine baritone voice, he achieved great popularity, and he also won fame for his improvisations on the ‘ud (lute). His acquaintance with the poet Aḥmad Shawqī helped him socially, and his settings of Shawqī are classics of the genre. Chosen by Sayyid Darwīsh to perform in his operetta Al-barouka (or La mascotte), ‘Abd al-Wahhāb some years later completed Darwīsh's posthumous Cleopatra, though he composed no original music for the theatre. However, he played in many musical films, performing his own songs. Among the awards he received are the Order of Merit and the State Prize for the Arts....
Lisa A. Urkevich
[Muḥammed ‘Abdu ‘Othmān Marzuq al-Dehel al-‘Asīrī]
(b Jizan, Saudi Arabia, 1949). Saudi singer, composer and ‘ūd (lute) player. His father was a well-known sailor who died when Muḥammed was two years old. Muḥammed began singing at the age of six, and at nine he received his first vocal training through the study of Qur'anic recitation, which, along with the call to prayer (adhān), he offered at school events. About the age of 13 he became involved with amateur traditional singers and learnt to play the ‘ūd. Because of his close proximity to Yemen, he encountered master musicians of the al-yamānī style. He gained a diploma in shipbuilding and was offered a scholarship to study in Japan, but declined the offer, preferring to become a professional musician. His first recognized composition was Hala yā bū sha'ar tha'ir (1965). He went on to record over 80 albums in a variety of styles, including popular Egyptian styles, but he has been most appreciated for his folkloric, traditional Saudi and Gulf pieces. He gained an international reputation and has often been called ‘...
[Masikini, Abeti ]
(b Stanleyville [Kisangani], Belgian Congo [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Nov 9, 1951; d Paris, Sept 29, 1994). Congolese singer and songwriter. Abeti first reached prominence in West Africa in the early 1970s under the tutelage of Togolese impresario Gérard Akueson who later became her husband. On the strength of her West African following, Abeti performed at the Paris Olympia concert hall in 1973 and made her first recording shortly thereafter, an album called Abeti for the record label of Pierre Cardin. Abeti returned home to Congo to widespread acclaim. Her enormous popularity opened the door for other women to enter the region's male-dominated music business.
Abeti helped to pioneer le spectacle, the ‘show style’ of performance. Her stage presentations included an array of musicians (Les Redoutables) and dancers (Tigresses), lavishly costumed and precisely choreographed. She played Carnegie Hall in 1974 and the Olympia again in ...
(b Cape Town, June 26, 1947). South African drummer, percussionist, singer, and leader. Known first for his singing, he developed as a drummer by accompanying other singers in Cape Town and playing with the quartet led by the pianist Cecil May. In 1962 he joined the Coon Carnival stage show. He then spent seven years in Swaziland, where he played bop with the pianists Roy Peterson and Howard Belling and accompanied Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1975 he traveled to England and worked in variety and dance bands before joining Dudu Pukwana’s group Zila. In 1981 he founded the trio District Six with Mervyn Afrika and the guitarist Russell Herman, both of whom grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town; with Abrahams as its leader, the trio expanded to a sextet (including Jim Dvorak from 1983 to 1993 and Claude Deppa at some point thereafter) and became an important focus for musicians who played both jazz and African rhythms. Abrahams also worked with Ronnie Scott, John Taylor, Johnny Dyani, and the Brotherhood of Breath. In ...
Barry Jean Ancelet
(b nr Gueydan, LA, June 27, 1913; d Basile, LA, May 13, 1981). American cajun accordionist, singer, and songwriter. He came from a musical family; his father, mother, and at least one uncle played instruments. He was among the second generation of Cajun musicians to record, in the 1930s, and helped lead a revival of accordion and traditional Cajun music after World War II. He sometimes performed with Amédé Ardoin. The titles of some of his best known songs, such as “Service Blues” and “French Blues, indicate that blues was a major influence. In 1949 Abshire had a regional (Gulf Coast) hit with “The Pine Grove Blues,” after which he named his band, the Pine Grove Boys. Its various lineups included such musicians as Will Kegley (fiddle), Ernest Thibodeaux (guitar), Atlas Frugé (steel guitar), and Robert Bertrand (fiddle and vocals), and its best known recordings were released by Swallow Records. In the 1960s Abshire performed with Dewey Balfa and his brothers at colleges and festivals across the country and in doing so helped bring Cajun music to the national folk music circuit. He was featured in several documentary films, including ...
[Alexander, John Marshall ]
(b Memphis, TN, June 9, 1929; d Houston, TX, Dec 25, 1954). American rhythm-and-blues singer and songwriter. He served in the US Navy in World War II, then played piano with the Memphis-based group the Beale Streeters alongside Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Roscoe Gordon, and B. B. King; they played electric blues in the style of Sonny Boy Williamson, and in the early 1950s recorded for Ike Turner and Sam Phillips. Ace then signed a contract as a solo artist with Don Robey’s Duke recording company; his record “My Song” reached number one on the rhythm-and-blues chart in 1952, as did “The Clock” the following year. Using a smoother style, he made a series of successful recordings in 1953 and 1954, and became a popular live performer. After his death, his song “Pledging my Love” (1955) became his greatest hit; it was later recorded by Elvis Presley, among others. Ace developed a sophisticated type of rhythm and blues, and had more success as a performer of emotional ballads than as a bluesman. His earnest, suppliant style became a model for later romantic singers....
(b Helsinki, April 23, 1876; d Nummela, Aug 8, 1944). Finnish soprano. She studied first with her mother, a principal soprano of the Helsinki Opera, and made her début there in 1893. After further study at the Paris Conservatoire, she appeared at the Opéra, on 8 October 1897, as Gounod’s Marguerite. Her success there and in other European cities led to her engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, where in 1904 and 1905 her roles included Marguerite and Juliet in Gounod’s operas, and Wagner’s Eva, Elsa and Elisabeth. In 1907 she sang with Van Dyck’s company in the German season at Covent Garden, and in the same year at Leipzig gave her first performance as Richard Strauss’s Salome, the role for which she became most famous. She sang it also in the British première in 1910 under Beecham and was commended especially for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils herself. The later part of her career was spent largely in Finland, where in ...
(b Maynardville, TN, Sept 15, 1903; d Nashville, TN, Nov 23, 1992). American country singer-songwriter and publisher. He was first influenced by traditional music heard at home, much of it British, and by music at the church where his father was the pastor. His Southern Baptist heritage became evident in the mournful, wailing style of his vocals. A keen sportsman, he was denied a professional athletic career through ill-health, but learnt to play his father’s fiddle. His early career was in so-called medicine shows, and radio appearances with local musicians led to the formation of his first group, the Tennessee Crackerjacks. His first record followed in 1937, and he made his début on ‘The Grand Old Opry’ radio show, subsequently becoming a regular contributor as Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys. His recording of the Carter family classic Wabash Cannonball earned him a gold disc and led to nationwide tours as well as work in Hollywood....
(b Dresden, Aug 1, 1926). German bass-baritone. As a boy he was a member of the Dresden Kreuzchor, and he studied in the city and at Weimar before making his début at the Dresden Staatsoper in 1949. He joined the Berlin Staatsoper in 1952. That year he made his début in a small role at Bayreuth, graduating to King Henry in 1954 and to Wotan in 1963; his later roles there included the Dutchman, Amfortas and Hans Sachs. At the Salzburg Festival he was heard as Ochs (1969) and Wozzeck (1972), and at the Vienna Staatsoper he sang the title role in a new production of Don Giovanni in 1972. Also in Vienna he sang a memorable Pizarro in the Beethoven bicentenary production of Fidelio at the Theater an der Wien in 1970, conducted by Bernstein. His other roles included Philip II, King Mark and La Roche (...
(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.
Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...
(b Bristol, Dec 20, 1928; d Norwich, April 8, 1996). English bass . He was a chorister at Worcester Cathedral and later became an actor. After singing in the D’Oyly Carte Opera chorus, from 1953 to 1969 he was principal bass of the company. In 1963 he co-founded ‘G&S for All’, with whom he toured extensively in Australia and the USA. In 1983 he sang the Mikado in Chicago, returning for Baron Mirko Zeta and the Theatre Director/Banker (Lulu). He made his Covent Garden début in 1983 as a Frontier Guard (Boris Godunov), and later sang Quince and Frank. For the ENO (1985–92) he has sung Dikoj (Kát’a Kabanová), Mozart’s Bartolo, and Pooh-Bah; for the WNO (1985–7) his roles included Monterone and Rossini’s Bartolo. He also appeared at Glyndebourne (Dikoj, Quince and Swallow), Amsterdam, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Geneva. In ...
revised by Harold Rosenthal
(b Cambridge, MA, Nov 28, 1872; d London, Feb 5, 1953). American soprano. She studied with Mathilde Marchesi and Bouhy in Paris and made her début at the Opéra in 1895 as Juliet; she seems to have studied both Juliet and Faust's Marguerite with Gounod himself, who greatly admired her brilliant yet flexible tone and fine technique. She sang at Covent Garden (...
(b Houston, TX, Aug 27, 1961). American gospel music singer. Adams credits her earliest musical influences as James Cleveland, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Nancy Wilson, and Stevie Wonder. She worked in a variety of jobs, including stints as a fashion model, television news anchor, and schoolteacher, before devoting herself to gospel music. She began her career as a lead singer touring with the Southeast Inspirational Choir, with whom she garnered the attention of composer/producer Thomas Whitfield who oversaw her debut solo album Just As I Am (1988) with Sound of Gospel Records. Grounded in traditional church music but open to diverse musical influences, Adams is known for infusing traditional gospel with urban musical influences such as jazz, R&B, and hip hop. Her mainstream album Mountain High … Valley Low (Elektra, 1999) is of particular importance in this regard because its diversity of musical styles had the ability to reach both Contemporary Christian and urban music listeners. The album achieved multi-platinum status and went on to earn a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album (...
revised by Katie Buehner
(b New York, NY, July 24, 1925). American soprano. Her vocal and musical abilities won her scholarships to Westminster Choir College, Princeton (BM 1946), and the Berkshire Music Center, where she studied with Boris Goldovsky. She made her recital debut at Boston in April 1948 and, after further coaching with Povla Frijsh in New York, appeared at Town Hall in January 1952. This established her reputation and led to engagements with many American orchestras and the New England and New York City Opera companies. She dubbed the title role in Samuel Goldwyn’s film Porgy and Bess (1959). On 23 September 1962 she sang in the inaugural concert at Lincoln Center; she toured the USSR in 1963. The silvery timbre of her voice, her agility, and her distinguished musicianship all made her an ideal performer of Baroque music, as her recordings of Bach (St. Matthew Passion...
(b Springhill, LA, Jan 13, 1962). American country music singer. In line with country “hat acts” and neo-traditionalists such as Toby Keith and Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins has forged a working-class image and hard-driving sound by merging honky-tonk with Southern rock, gospel, and blues. His masculine bravado and allegiance to a blue-collar ethos has solidified his position as one of country’s top acts.
After time spent working on an oil rig, Adkins moved to Nashville in 1992 to pursue his musicalcareer. There he met producer Scott Hendricks, who signed him to Capitol Records. His 1996 debut album, Dreamin’ Out Loud, yielded the successful singles “Every Light in the House,” “I Left Something Turned on at Home,” and “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” which became his first number-one country hit. Despite problems with alcoholism and a drunk-driving charge, his 2001 album Chrome reached the top five on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. In ...
(b Yekatrinoslav [now Dnepropetrovsk], Dec 5, 1894; d Tel-Aviv, April 2, 1982). Israeli composer and singer. He emigrated to Palestine from the Ukraine in 1906. He studied at the Teacher's Seminary in Jerusalem where his teachers included Abraham Zvi Idelsohn. During World War I he moved to Egypt and enlisted in the British Army. After the war he returned to Palestine and, while earning his living as an accountant, took singing lessons with Jehuda Har-Melaḥ. A countertenor with a phenomenal ability to improvise, he travelled to the USA in 1923 to further his singing studies; there he specialized in improvisation and distinctive vibrato singing, similar in style to Arab-Bedouin singing or ululation. Commissioned to write an orchestral accompaniment for songs improvised in a Bedouin style, he enlisted the compositional assistance of Lazar Seminski, who encouraged him to continue to compose. His first songs, Ya leil (‘Oh night’) and ...
(b Zurich, July 27, 1939). Swiss cellist, violinist, and singer. She studied piano and violin from a very young age and played in the orchestra at the conservatory in Geneva. An encounter with Steve Lacy in Italy in the late 1960s led her to abandon classical music; the couple were married, and in 1970 they settled in Paris. Under Lacy’s counsel, as well as that of Dave Holland and Jean-François Jenny-Clark, Aebi taught herself to play cello, which became her preferred instrument in the group constituted by Lacy. She often makes use of her deep voice in the group, reciting as well as singing literary and political texts (from such authors as Lao Tzu, Guillaume Apollinaire, Herman Melville, and Brion Gysin) set to music by the saxophonist. Aebi has also performed with Kent Carter, notably in the string group Pinch with Jean-Jacques Avenel, with Takashi Kako, and with Oliver Johnson. She may be seen in the video ...
(b Cluj, Aug 16, 1955). Romanian baritone. After studying in Cluj, he made his début there in 1979 as Silvano (Ballo in maschera), followed in 1980 by Sharpless. During the next decade he sang Don Giovanni, Malatesta, Germont, Luna, Posa (Don Carlos), the title role of ...
( b Baillieston, nr Glasgow, April 11, 1964). Scottish tenor . He won a choral scholarship to Magdalene College, Oxford, where he read music. After singing in consorts and professional choirs, he quickly established a reputation in the early music field, where his agile, elegant tenor has been particularly admired in the French haute-contre repertory. Agnew has worked frequently with leading conductors in the field, including John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, Paul McCreesh, Trevor Pinnock and Christopher Hogwood. He also sings regularly with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, with whom he has performed many works by Rameau and his contemporaries (including the title role in Hippolyte et Aricie at the Palais Garnier, Paris), and other works such as Handel's L'Allegro (which he sang at the Proms in 2001). In 2001 Agnew appeared in Rameau's Platée at the Opéra Bastille, and in Berlioz's Les Troyens at the Edinburgh Festival. His other non-Baroque roles include the Male Chorus in ...
(b New York, NY, Dec 18, 1980). American singer. She is one of the most popular singers of her generation. Her father (originally from Ecuador), a sergeant in the US Army, and her American mother, a Spanish teacher, divorced when Aguilera was seven. As a child, Aguilera placed second on the television show Star Search, and performed on the Mickey Mouse Club along with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. In 1998, she launched her recording career with a track for Disney’s animated film Mulan. In 1998 she also signed with RCA, and her first album, Christina Aguilera (1999) reached number one on the Billboard 200. Her singles from that album, “Genie in a Bottle,” “What a Girl Wants,” and “Come on Over Baby” reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her first Spanish language album, Mi reflejo (2000), stood for 20 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Latin charts and earned her a Latin Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Album. In ...