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Saadalla Agha Al-Kalaa

(b al-Qrayya, Syria, Oct 18, 1915; d Beirut, Dec 26, 1974). Syrian singer, composer, ‘ūd player and film actor and producer. In 1924 political circumstances forced his family to move to Egypt. His mother, the noted singer ‘Aliyya al-Munther, taught him singing in the Syrian style. He studied the ‘ūd (lute) at the Cairo Institute for Arab Music. His professional work began as an ‘ūd player and singer at the national radio station and in Badī ‘a Maṣabnī's variety show saloon.

In 1941, through his sister Asmahān , he entered the cinema industry, and for the rest of his life was involved in films as a composer, singer actor, and producer. His singing of Syrian mawwāl (popular songs), tangos and rumbas achieved great popularity, and his work laid the foundations for Arab variety show films, cinematic operetta, orchestral musical overtures and comic and sad songs. His 31 films are mostly autobiographical and provide valuable insight into the role of the musician in society....


Craig A. Lockard

(b Vienna, Austria, May 2, 1924; d Los Angeles, July 21, 2015). American and Israeli actor and singer. Born into a Jewish family, he spent his youth in Austria. Following the Nazi occupation the Bikel family escaped to Palestine, where he made his stage debut in 1943. Moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he began his acting career in 1948 in A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954 he immigrated to the United States and, in 1961, became a naturalized American. He made his concert debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, in 1956 with a program of folk songs. In 1959 he was cast as Georg von Trapp in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. During his long career Bikel appeared in numerous films, plays, and musicals, from the lead in Zorba to over 2000 performances as the penniless milkman Tevye in ...


Hsun Lin

[Bryner, Youl]

(b Sakhalin, Russia, July 11, 1920; d New York, NY, Oct 10, 1985). American actor, singer, and photographer of Russian birth. He spent his early childhood in China and was brought up in Paris, where he sang in clubs before moving to the United States. He was noted for his deep, rich voice and strong stage presence. His Broadway debut came in the musical Lute Song with Mary Martin in 1946, but his best-known character was the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I (1951), for which he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor. He also played the King in the 1956 film version, which won him an Oscar. Brynner shaved his head for this character and baldness became one of his personal trademarks. He received a Special Tony Award (1985) in honoring his 4525 performances in The King and I...


Krystyn R. Moon

[Frank Lee; Lee Tung Fook; Lee Sing]

(b Watsonville, CA, 1875; d Los Angeles, CA, May 1, 1966). American singer, vaudevillian, and film actor. Lee was a Chinese American music pioneer who helped to open the vaudeville stage to other Asian American performers. He began to study voice and music theory in 1897, relatively late in life, with Margaret Blake Alverson, a prominent music teacher in the Bay Area. After eight years of studying and performing in local churches, he received his first vaudeville contract to sing at the Empire Theater in Oakland, California in January 1905. For the next 14 years, he toured the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Belgium. Based on theater reviews and correspondence with his music teacher, it is clear that Lee’s act consisted of light operatic and popular songs as well as ethnic send-ups, which included Irish, Scottish, and Chinese caricatures. Of particular significance were his Chinese numbers, in which he made fun of stereotypes of Chinese immigrants and wore elaborate costumes. His Scottish routines, which were based on Harry Lauder’s Highlander caricature, were also popular. With the decline of vaudeville, Lee moved in the late 1920s or early 1930s to Hollywood where he performed minor and walk-on roles in at least 39 films....



Alison Arnold

[Mathur, Mukesh Chandra ]

(b Delhi, July 22, 1923; d Detroit, Aug 27, 1976). Indian film actor, playback singer and recording artist . Mukesh’s singing career began in 1940 when a respected actor and distant relative, Motilal, brought him to Bombay after hearing him sing at his sister’s wedding in Delhi. Motilal initially supported Mukesh, providing accommodation in his house and arranging vocal training. Mukesh’s first film role was as the hero in National Studios' Hindi movie Nirdosh (1941), in which he sang his first film song as an actor-singer, ‘Dil hi bujha hua’. Despite the film’s box-office failure he spent two more years working as an actor-singer for Ranjit Movietone. In 1945 he sang his first playback song, ‘Badariya baras gai us par’, for Ranjit’s film Murti, and in the same year he recorded the song ‘Dil jalta hai to jalne de’ by the music director Anil Biswas for Paheli nazar...


David W. Bernstein

revised by Wendy F. Hsu

(b Tokyo, Japan, Feb 18, 1933). American performance artist, composer, singer, and songwriter of Japanese birth. Ono was born into a wealthy banking family and raised in Tokyo. In 1953, she moved to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College where she studied music and philosophy. Ono married Toshi Ichiyanagi in 1956. In the early 1960s the couple’s Manhattan apartment became the site of many performance events; several of the artists who performed there later became associated with Fluxus. Dubbed “the high priestess of the happening,” Ono was a pioneer in the conceptual art movement. She once claimed that “the only sound that exists … is the sound of the mind.” Her conceptual scores, described by George Maciunas as “Neo-Haiku Theater,” often consist of only brief instructions. Earth Piece (1963), for example, instructs the performer to “listen to the sound of the earth turning.” A specialist in extended vocal techniques, Ono performed self-composed pieces that featured her virtuosic vocal exploration of screams, sighs, moans, gasps, and multi-phonics....


Gayle Murchison

(b Bombay [Mumbai], India, c1947). Indian singer and actress. From an affluent family, Puthli attended college in Mumbai. After studying Indian classical music and dance and Western opera as a youth, she began singing jazz and pop with local bands at age 13 and made her first recording in 1968. She met author Ved Mehta, who wrote about her in Portrait of India (New York, 1970). She appeared in two films by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, The Guru (1969) and Savages (1972). A dance scholarship from the Martha Graham Company brought her in that same year to New York, where Mehta introduced her to CBS executive John Hammond. In 1972 she recorded two critically acclaimed tracks for Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction album. She recorded two pop and two disco albums of her own for CBS (1973–6) and a disco album for the TK label in ...