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Article

Samha El-Kholy

(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....

Article

Abeti  

Gary Stewart

[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 ...

Article

Val Wilmer

(Stanley )

(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 ...

Article

(bIsmâ’ ilîya, Egypt, June 8, 1931). Frenchsinger and pianist. He studied music in Paris and played piano with Don Byas (1955) and Stephane Grappelli (1957). He was a singer with the Blue Stars (1955–6), toured and recorded with the Double Six (1959–65), and took part in a session with Jon Hendricks and others (1965). Aldebert was married to the singer Monique Dozo (b Monaco, 5 May 1931; later known as Monique Aldebert-Guérin), who had sung with Bernard Peiffer (1947) and performed in Paris clubs with Byas, Django Reinhardt, Bobby Jasper, the Double Six (with which she recorded in 1959 and 1964), and Bill Coleman (1966). After moving to the USA (1967) the couple settled first in Las Vegas, where they appeared in revues, and then in Los Angeles (...

Article

Daniel Avorgbedor

(b Adiemmra, Ghana, March 31, 1945). Ghanaian popular guitarist, singer and master of guitar-band. Highlife and concert parties. He formed the African Brothers International Dance Band in 1963, a band that produced important musicians such as the late Eddie Donkor. Ampadu acquired rudimentary guitar skills with the help of P.K. Yamoah and worked briefly at the Ministry of Agriculture in his home district area. He performed briefly with the T.O. Jazz band led by T.O. Ampoma in 1962, but it was not until 1966 that he landed his first major recording contract with Philips West Africa Limited in Accra with the song, Agyanka Dabere. His most popular highlife single release was Ebi Tie Ye (1967), a song that illustrates his skills as musician, storyteller, moralist, satirist and social commentator. As a master of the concert party genre and a musician rooted in Akan verbal lore, the songs of Ampadu address a wide range of personal, political and social issues in very humorous and satirical ways. His music has won several national awards, including the ...

Article

Saadalla Agha Al-Kalaa

(b during a voyage from Turkey to Syria, 1917; d Egypt, July 14, 1944). Syrian singer. Born to a well-known Syrian family, she moved to Cairo with her family in 1924 and made some commercial recordings while still a teenager. In 1932 she married her cousin Prince Ḥasan al-Aṭrash and returned to Syria. After giving birth to a daughter she was pronounced unable to produce any more children (and not therefore a son and heir). She left her husband to give him the chance of having an heir, and thereafter deep sadness marked her life and the romantic meanings in her songs.

Staying in Cairo with her mother, she made singing her profession. She sang compositions by her brother, Farīd al- Aṭrash, and later co-starred in his film Intiṣār al-shabāb (‘Triumph of youth’). The greatest composers wrote for her: Midhat Assem, Zakariyyā Aḥmad, Muḥammad al-Qasabjī and Riyāḍ al-Sunbaṭī. She sang in Muḥammed ‘Abd al-Wahhāb's film ...

Article

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....

Article

Daniel Avorgbedor

[Aster]

(b Gonder, Ethiopia, 1961). Ethiopian singer. Ashter began her singing career in the early 1970s in Addis Ababa, and performed with the band Roha (formerly Shebele Band). Her formative musical years were also shaped by the music of Bezunesh Bekele and the philanthropy of Ali Tango, which provided motivation for the singer. Ashter emigrated to the USA in 1981 after a few cassette releases (such as Munaya) in Ethiopia and has since produced important albums for Sony: Kabu remained among the top ten of Billboard's world music charts for ten weeks and Aster Aweke Alive was recorded at a sold-out concert in London in 1996. Her popularity spread further with the inclusion of her songs on compilation releases involving multiple artists, such as Afrika, Under African Skies (BBC Videos, vol.2, 1989) and Fruits of Freedom. Ashter possesses a unique musical style that fuses indigenous musical and linguistic traditions with influences from singers such as Donna Summer and Aretha Franklin. Along with Angélique Kidjo and Oumou Sangare, Ashter Aweke represents an important African female voice in the popular music industry. She returned to Ethiopia in ...

Article

Andrew Porter

(Stanley)

(b Birmingham, March 23, 1933). English baritone. He studied at Rhodes University, South Africa, and at the Vienna Music Academy, making his début with the Vienna Chamber Opera as Tobias Mill in Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio in 1959. He sang at Linz (1960–63) and in Germany (1963–7), where his roles included Rigoletto, Boccanegra, Nabucco and Renato. He joined the Sadler’s Wells Opera (later the ENO) in 1967, making his British début in Manchester as Mozart’s Count Almaviva; he celebrated his 25th anniversary with the company in 1992 as Sharpless. His London début, as Hans Sachs under Goodall (1968), established him as a Wagnerian of more than local importance, and he later undertook the role at Covent Garden, in Hamburg, Brussels and Munich, and at Bayreuth. He was an equally impressive Wotan (in a new production of the Ring at the London Coliseum, ...

Article

Gregory F. Barz

(b Democratic Republic of the Congo). Congolese singer and performer. Formerly a singer with Tabu Ley Rochereau’s band Afrisa International during the 1980s, Bel began her career as a dancer for Abeti Masekini, an important early singer in the Zaïrean popular tradition. While Bel’s earlier performances and recordings, especially those made with Rochereau, are firmly rooted in the heavily guitar-driven Zaïrean Soukous and other popular dance traditions, her most recent efforts have embraced more popular African and Western cross-influences and have propelled her high on the international scene. Yet, Bel and her collaborators, such as guitarist Rigo Star and singer Vivick Matou, still draw on the roots, both rhythmic and melodic, of earlier Zaïrean popular musics.

M. Bel Rochereau & Mbilia Bel, Gaeto 01 (1985) Beyanga, Sonodisc GENCD1020 (1986) Phénomène, Mélodie CD 35001 (1989) Ba gerants ya malaba, Sonodisc CD GENCD1010 (1991) Boya yé, Sonodisc GENCD1016 (1991)...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

[Benjamin, Beatrice Bertha; Beatty; Satima]

(b Cape Town, South Africa, Oct 17, 1936). South African singer. The name Sathima, which means “person with a kind heart,” was given to her by Johnny Dyani and was originally spelled Satima. She sang standards and show tunes in local groups as a teenager and was performing professionally by the late 1950s. From 1959 she worked with Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand, with whom she moved to Zurich in 1962 to escape the politics of apartheid in South Africa. In Paris in 1963 she made her first recording as a leader, accompanied by a small group under the direction of Duke Ellington that included Svend Asmussen, the double bass player Johnny Gertze, and Makaya Ntshoko, with either Brand, Billy Strayhorn, or Ellington on piano; the results were not issued until 34 years later. In 1965 Benjamin performed with Ellington’s orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival, and in the same year she married Brand, after which she often sang in his groups; Brand took the Muslim name Abdullah Ibrahim in ...

Article

Gregory F. Barz

[Seydou Kone]

(b Dimbokro, Côte d'Ivoire, Jan 1, 1953). Ivorian singer. He is known for his performances of Afro-Reggae. He and his band Solar System sing in French, English, Arabic, Hebrew and Dioula. Unlike the lyrics of Jamaican reggae, Blondy's lyrics are primarily political; his songs often concern issues of freedom, unity and social revolution. His first single, Brigadier Sabari, documents his experience of being arrested in Abidjan in the 1980s and his subsequent mistreatment by the police. He received the Senghor prize for ‘Best African Group’ in 1986, and in the same year one of his most popular recordings, Jerusalem, was released; this recording and Apartheid is Nazism established his position as a leading European recording artist. After his successful tour of North America many regarded Blondy as the successor to Bob Marley.

A. Blondy Cocody Rock, Pathé Marconi EMI 24 0233 1 (1984) Apartheid is Nazism, Pathé Marconi EMI 24 0449 1 (1985)...

Article

Ray Pallett

(b Laurenço Marques [now Maputo], Jan 7, 1899; d London, April 17, 1941). British popular singer. His father was Greek, his mother was Lebanese. Bowlly was brought up in South Africa and joined Edgar Adeler’s leading dance band in 1922, touring South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, East Africa and the Far East. He left Adeler in 1924 and took up a residency at Raffles Hotel, Singapore. In 1927 he went to Germany and made his first recording, Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies. A prestigious engagement lasting one year followed at the Savoy Hotel, London, with the bandleader Fred Elizalde. He had a major break in 1930 when he joined a recording studio band led by Ray Noble, with whom he made the original versions of songs which have become standards. These, all by Noble, included The Very Thought of You, Love is the Sweetest Thing, The Touch of your Lips...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Durban, Oct 9, 1953). British mezzo-soprano of South African birth. She studied in London at the RCM, then joined the ENO in 1978 as a soprano, singing Zerlina, Pamina, Cherubino, Martinů's Julietta, Jenny (Bennett's The Mines of Sulphur), Marzelline and Mimì. By 1981 her voice had deepened, and she took on mezzo travesty roles such as the Composer, Octavian, Orlovsky, Nicklausse and Handel's Sextus, as well as Charlotte, Pauline (The Gambler), Nefertiti in the British première of Akhnaten (1985), Sonetka (Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District), Laura in the British stage première of Dargomïzhsky's The Stone Guest (1987), Carmen, Judith (Bluebeard's Castle), the Witch (Die Königskinder) and Dulcinea (Don Quichotte). In 1983 she sang Siébel (Faust) at her Covent Garden début and Smeraldina (The Love for Three Oranges) at Glyndebourne. For Opera North she has appeared as Berlioz's Dido, Amneris, Laura (...

Article

James May

(Maria Sophia )

(b Durban, June 12, 1932). South African soprano . After initial studies in Johannesburg she was a pupil of Maria Hittorf and Joseph Witt in Vienna (from 1954). She made her début at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1956 as the Queen of Night, a role with which she achieved considerable fame and which she sang in most of the major opera houses in Europe. From ...

Article

Vera H. Flaig

(b Kan Kan, Guinea, West Africa, 1958). American singer, dancer, and drummer of Guinean birth. As a child, Conde contracted polio, which left him unable to walk by the age of 14. While living with his grandfather in a nearby village, Conde discovered his gift for music. Despite his physical limitations, he learned to dance for his initiation ceremony. From 1984 until 1986, Conde was a member of Bandes 22 de Kan Kan, the official orchestra of Kan Kan. Conde moved to Conakry in 1986 and founded Message de Espior; a traditional dance ensemble of differently-abled Guineans. Since this time Conde has worked as manager of operations for “L’Association nationale de la République de Guinée pour les handicapés.” From 1986 to 1995 Condé was a member of Ballet Communal. In 1987 he joined Conakry’s premiere ballet, Les Merveilles.

Upon his arrival in New York in 1998, Conde founded the drum and dance ensemble ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Port Elizabeth, Oct 22, 1946; d London, February 18, 2012). Irish soprano of South African birth. She studied at the London Opera Centre, making her début in 1972 as a mezzo-soprano at Wexford as Varvara (Kát'a Kabanová). With Australian Opera (1973–4) she sang Venus, Kostelnička and Amneris. Engaged by the ENO (1975–80), she sang Eboli, Azucena, Mariya Bolkonskaya (War and Peace), Herodias, Waltraute (which she recorded under Goodall), Kabanicha, Eglantine (Euryanthe), Rossini's Isabella, Bartók's Judith, Sieglinde, Santuzza, Donna Elvira and Marina. She made her Covent Garden début in 1976 as Viclinda (I Lombardi). After Ortrud and Brangäne at Bayreuth (1980–81), she cancelled all engagements, reappearing in 1983 as a soprano. Following performances of Fiordiligi at La Scala, she sang Electra (Idomeneo) in Salzburg and Norma in Geneva. She made her Metropolitan début as Vitellia (...

Article

Harold Rosenthal

revised by Alan Blyth

(b on board ship between Oran, Algeria, and Altea, Aug 12, 1891; d Valencia, April 2, 1952). Spanish tenor. He studied in Madrid, where he sang in the chorus at the Teatro Real. At first he sang minor roles, then began to assume leading roles (Cavaradossi, Don José and Turiddu) in Barcelona and Valencia. In 1917 he sang in South America, where his roles included Beppe (Pagliacci). He was a regular guest at the Teatro Costanzi, Rome (1920–23); he also appeared in Milan, Naples and Turin, and in 1927 sang Radames at the Verona Arena. He sang in Chicago (1924–32) and San Francisco (1924–6). His roles in the USA included Edgardo, Manrico, Radames, Chénier, Canio, Cavaradossi, Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut), Enzo (La Gioconda) and Don José. His only Covent Garden season was in 1931 when he sang Calaf, and Hippolytus in Romani’s ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Newcastle upon Tyne, Jan 7, 1908; d South Africa, May 1988). South African bass of English birth . He studied in Dresden, making his début in 1931 at Leipzig as Monterone (Rigoletto), later singing King Henry (Lohengrin), Osmin, Sarastro, Philip II and many Wagner roles. He appeared at Munich, Dresden, Vienna and Berlin, where he spent the war years. At Bayreuth (1942–4 and 1951) he sang Hagen, Fafner and Pogner. After an engagement at Munich, he joined Covent Garden in 1951. There he created John Claggart in Billy Budd (1951), Sir Walter Raleigh in Gloriana (1953) and Calkas in Walton’s Troilus and Cressida (1954). He sang the Doctor in the British stage première of Wozzeck (1952) and his repertory included King Mark, Hunding, Caspar, Pizarro, Ochs, Kečal, Sparafucile and Mozart’s Bartolo. From 1957 to his retirement in ...

Article

Samha El-Kholy

[Sayed]

(b Alexandria, March 17, 1892; d Alexandria, Sept 15, 1923). Egyptian composer and singer. He is the most popular figure in Egyptian music. He had a hard childhood, during which he learnt the Qur'an and religious chants, as well as picking up the current secular songs. For two years he studied Islamic theology at a branch of the Al Azhar mosque, but he then decided to make his career as a singer-composer. He had to sing at modest local cafés, and he attributed his early compositions to a famous composer. Under family pressure he was sometimes forced to take manual jobs, and his early marriage, the first of four, complicated matters. Once, while working as a builder and singing to entertain his fellow workers, he was heard by the Syrian brothers Attalah, who engaged him to sing with their drama troupe on a trip to Syria. During his travels he learnt a great deal about classical Arab vocal forms from the master ‘Uthmān al-Mawṣilī....