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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 ‘...

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Natan Shahar

(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 ...

Article

Abdel-Hamid Hamam

(b Jan 17, 1929). Jordanian traditional composer, singer and buzuq player of Palestinian Gypsy origin. At an early age he joined a group of Gypsy musicians as a singer and player of the ‘ūd (short-necked lute) and the buzuq (long-necked lute), and performed at weddings and other celebrations in Jerusalem and the neighbouring villages. He began to learn religious chants and Qur’anic recitation at the age of nine. In 1949 he joined the choir of the broadcasting service in Ramallah, and in 1959 he joined the music section of the newly established radio station in Amman. In 1963 he was appointed leader of the radio station’s music ensemble; he held this position for several years, during which he performed many of his songs and also had the opportunity to join a group of researchers making a field survey of folk heritage including Jordanian folk singing and music in an area covering both banks of the river Jordan. As a ...

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

Alma Kunanbayeva

(b Maty-Bulak, Semirechye [now Krasnogorsk], 1884; d Almata, 1976). Kazakh traditional composer, singer, narrator and dömbra player. He was born to the family of a poor herder and lost his mother when he was seven years old. His family was musically talented and Azerbayev gained the nickname Bala-aqyn (‘Child-singer’) early in his life. At the age of ten or 11 he wrote the songs Ri qoyïm (‘Shoo, my Sheep’, a shepherds' cry) and Boz torgai (‘Sparrow’), which revealed his outstanding talent and became widely popular. Kazakh and Kyrgyz musicians often met in the region of Semirechye, and Azerbayev became famous as a performer of Kyrgyz songs and the Manas epic as well as the Kazakh traditional repertory; his songs also became popular in Kyrgyzstan. More than 200 of his works were recorded by the folklorists B. Erzakovich and A. Serikbayeva. Azerbayev's songs are stylistically linked with aqyn genres of recitation in their melodic construction, which follow the rhythm and meaning of the verse. He composed many songs in response to important events in Kazakhstan; songs such as ...

Article

Maria Lord

(b Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, March 24, 1776; d Ettayapuram, Tamil Nadu, October 21, 1835). South Indian composer and musician. He was a member of the Karnatak trimūrti (‘trinity’) of singer-saints (see also Tyāgarāja and Śāstri, Śyāma). Unlike the other two composers of the ‘trinity’, Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar was born into a musical family. While he was still young his parents took him to Manali, an estate outside Madras, where his father, Rāmasvāmi Dīkṣitar, had been asked to perform. It was there that Muttusvāmi received his first training in vīṇā and vocal music from his father. At the age of 15 he accompanied a yogī on a pilgrimage to Varanasi, where he remained for five years. This period in the North is said to account for his long and serious compositions, which may be influenced by dhrupad. He is known as a bhakta of Devi and Subrahmanya, whose ...

Article

Eliyahu Schleifer

(b Kiev, June 1, 1898; d Tel-Aviv, Jan 27, 1964). Israeli cantor and composer of Ukrainian birth. Born into a family of cantors (both of his grandfathers were cantors, as was his father), he made his cantorial début in Kiev at the age of eight. At the age of 14 he became the choir director at his father's synagogue, where he helped to introduce the 19th-century polyphonic repertory. He studied the piano and theory at the Totovsky Conservatory and later counterpoint and composition with Glière. In 1920 he moved to Chişinău, now in Moldova, where he served as cantor and continued his studies with Abraham Berkowitsch (known as Kalechnik), an authority on cantorial recitatives. After emigrating to the USA in 1926 he served as cantor for congregations in New York and Los Angeles. His extensive recordings with Asch and RCA Victor made him famous in Ashkenazi Jewish communities. In ...

Article

Wendy F. Hsu

(b Taipei, Taiwan, Dec 15, 1973). Rock musician and songwriter of Taiwanese birth. Hsu moved to Houston, Texas, with his family in 1989. His brother, Kevin Hsu, was a pop star in Taiwan who signed to Golden Point/BMG. Self-taught in guitar, keyboards, voice, and drums, Hsu formed in 2001 the alternative rock band Johnny Hi-Fi, which has toured extensively in the United States and Asia. As a songwriter Hsu writes songs in both English and Mandarin Chinese. He has collaborated with Taiwanese recording artists and producers and has had success overseas. His song titled “Don’t Go,” performed by Richie Ren, reached the top 10 pop music chart in Taiwan. Hsu also has toured with Taiwanese rock musician Chang Chen-Yue on his US tour in 2004.

In 2004 Hsu began organizing the Asian Rock Fest in recognition of Asian American Heritage Month in May. An annual festival series, Asian Rock Fest has brought together Asian American artists and showcased rock music talent including Eyes Like Knives, Kite Operations, Carol Bui, Burning Tree Project, Festizio, Vudoo Soul, Jack Tung, and Johnny Hi-Fi. The first Asian Rock Fest took place at The Pianos in New York. The festival continued to feature Asian American musicians after Hsu’s relocation to the west coast in ...

Article

Alexander M. Cannon

(b Savannakhet, Laos, 1947). Laotian composer and singer. He began his musical training by studying Lao folk songs with Buddhist monks. Before age 20, he already had garnered a reputation as a creative maulam, or narrative singer of lam (or lum)—a genre of traditional vocal music from southern Laos of solo or male–female repartee singing accompanied by khene and oftentimes a small ensemble. He later studied composition and performance and was employed in 1965 by the Department of Lao National Fine Arts. In 1968, he entered the army and worked as a singer for the National Radio Broadcast. After the Pathet Lao came to power in 1975, he worked at the military radio station singing propaganda songs. In 1979, he escaped to Thailand, and in 1980, immigrated to the United States, first living with his cousin, Bountong Insixiengmay, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He soon relocated to Minneapolis—a city with a large population of Lao émigrés—and in ...

Article

Alma Kunanbayeva

(b Semirechye, Zhetysay, Feb 28, 1846; d Alma-Ata, June 22, 1945). Kazakh poet-singer. He was an apprentice of the poet-singer (aqyn) Suyumbai. Between 1870 and 1912 he was undefeated in contests (aitys), and in 1919 he was the winner at the first meeting of Zhetysu poets. He was an expert on and performer of the epic songs (dastan) 1001 noch’ (‘1001 Nights’), Shakhname, Leyila i Medjnun, Kyz-Zhibek and Edige, and the author of the epics Utegen-batyr (‘The Epic Hero Utegen’) and Suranshi-batyr (‘The Epic Hero Suranshi’). In 1934 he took the grand prize at the first Republican meeting of Kazakh art masters. He took part in festivals of Kazakh arts in Moscow four times following the first ten-day festival of Kazakh literature and art in Moscow in May 1936. His many awards included the Order of the Red Banner of Labour (...

Article

Abdul-Wahab Madadi and John Baily

(b Kabul, 1931). Afghan singer and composer. He came from an upper-class family, part of the Mohammadzai (royal) clan which had previously had no involvement with music as a profession. In 1949 he gave his first broadcast as a singer. He became a schoolteacher, but resigned in 1953 and began a career at the radio station. There he occupied various staff positions as well as being employed as a singer and songwriter. He received some training in singing from Ustād Ghulām Husein (father of Ustād Sarāhang) in the context of music courses organized and held at the radio station. In 1965 he studied thumri and ghazal singing with Ustad Salāmat Ali Khān in Pakistan.

Khyāl became one of Afghanistan's most celebrated singers and composers of popular songs for radio broadcasting. As a songwriter he was prolific, and he won many prizes for his singing and compositions. He had many students; he coached them and wrote songs for them to record for Radio Afghanistan. The most famous were the women singers Mahwash, Jhila and Nahid, and the male singer Rahīm-e Ghafārī. In ...

Article

Alma Kunanbayeva

(b Erbol [now in Kokchetav province], 1831; d 1894). Kazakh traditional composer and singer. He was born to the family of Turlybai and began composing songs at the age of ten. He belonged to a special category of artists in Kazakh society known as sal and seri, masters of the art of song who usually functioned as part of a group which included those skilled in wrestling and horse-racing, dömbra players, storytellers, jewellers and masters of wit. Birjan was a talented aqyn (poet-singer) and took part in numerous aitys (contests), the most famous of which was with Sara Tastanbekova. He travelled throughout Kazakhstan and became well known. Many of his songs became widely popular, notably Birjan-sal (an autobiographical song), Leyailam-shrak (a girl's name meaning ‘my dear flame’) and Zhonïp aldï (literally ‘polished’, ‘shaved’). He also composed two songs based on verses by Abai Kunanbaev, in whose household he was on occasion a guest. Birjan's songs were characterized by a number of features including melodic originality, indissoluble unity of text and music, and the inclusion of his own name in the texts of his songs, many of which were autobiographical. Several legends concerning the creation of his songs also became well known. In ...

Article

Joseph S.C. Lam

[given name, Shangquan ]

(fl 1522–72). Chinese composer, singer and theorist . He played a central role in developing the Kunshan qiang, a regional singing style of the Kunshan area of Jiangsu province that had first emerged in the middle decades of the 14th century, into a national genre of operatic music known as Kunqu that came to dominate the Chinese theatre from the late 16th century and the 17th.

Details of Wei’s biography are vague, but available data describe him as a singer of ‘northern arias’ (beiqu) from Jiangxi province who, after moving to Taicang in Jiangsu province, devoted himself to the development of Kunshan qiang. Finding the original Kunshan qiang bland and lacking in interest, he yet realized its expressive potential, and refined it by incorporating aspects from other contemporary vocal styles. His new version of the Kunshan qiang style featured melismatic melodies perfectly matching the linguistic tones of the lyrics, floating around the accompaniment of ...

Article

Jared Pauley

[Shimura, Tsutomu; (“Tom”)]

Rapper, producer, and songwriter. Shimura was born in Tokyo, Japan to Japanese and Jewish Italian American parents. His delivery is noted for incorporating multiple syllables and an extensive vocabulary. Growing up in Berkeley, California, he was a co-founder of the independent label Quannum Projects, which has released albums by Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Pigeon John, and others, including his own projects.

Early in his career, Shimura went by the name Asia Born but later changed it to Lyrics Born. His first single, “Send Them,” was released in 1993. The song was produced by DJ Shadow, and it featured the B-Side single “Entropy.” He later formed a group with Lateef the Truthspeaker called Latryx, and they released Latryx (The Album) in 1997.

Lyrics Born’s greatest commercial success as a solo artist occurred in 2003 with the release of his album Later That Day. The album featured the song “Callin’ Out,” which ended up being a surprise hit. The song was licensed by Electronic Arts for use in video games and by the Coca-Cola Company. In addition to his work as a solo artist, Shimura is also active as a voice-over actor, lending his voice to several shows and cartoon programs on Cartoon Network’s ...

Article

Razia Sultanova

(b Kara-Bulak, 24 June/July 7, 1907; d June 1, 1978). Kyrgyz composer and singer. He graduated from the Kazakh-Kyrgyz Institute of Education and then attended the Moscow Conservatory (1940–41 and 1947–50) where he studied with Fere and Litinsky. His first compositions date from 1922 when he wrote a song for a dramatic production. He later wrote the opera Aychurek in collaboration with Fere and V. Vlasov for the celebration entitled the First Decade of Kyrgyz Art held in 1939, the year in which he became head of the Kyrgyz Composers' Union. It is generally acknowledged that he was the founder of Kyrgyz professional music and created new genres, especially vocal ones, based on Kyrgyz folklore. He became a National Artist of the USSR in 1939, and in 1970 was awarded the State Prize of Kyrgyzstan in recognition of his opera Toktogul. His daughter Zhïldïz (...

Article

Kim Chang-nam

[Kim Min'gi]

(b 1951). Korean singer and composer of South Korean popular music. He graduated from the department of painting at Seoul National University. His musical career began in 1970 when he composed the song Ach'im isŭl ‘Morning Dew’. This song, released by the rising singer Yang Hŭiŭn, won great popularity among university students and became a prominent part of Korean modern folk music and youth culture. In 1971 Kim produced a solo album, but because he participated in the anti-government student movement and the rebellious grass-roots cultural movement, his songs were forbidden and he was banned from any official activity by governmental authorities. The songs he wrote, however, were distributed through underground routes, and he became a symbol of the oppositional student movement. In 1978 he produced a music drama tape, Kongjang Ŭi Bulbit ‘The Light of Factory’, about the labour struggle of the 1970s; this was one of the most significant forms of progressive cultural activity in the 1980s. Until the late 1980s Kim was not allowed to take part in any official music activity, and he worked in a factory and on a farm for some time. With the gradual democratization of South Korean society after ...

Article

Martin Stokes

(b Bursa, Dec 6, 1933; d Sept 24, 1996). Turkish composer, singer and film star . After completing his higher education at the Boğaziçi lycée, he took classes from Serif İçli and Refik Fersan and enrolled at the Fine Arts Academy in Istanbul. He first came to public attention through his radio concerts in the early 1950s as an interpreter of contemporary Turkish art music, although his repertory also covered Turkish versions of tango, chanson and the work of Arab singers such as Umm Kulthum and Farīd al Aṭrash (notably his version of the latter’s Zennübe). His voice, with its dramatic expressive qualities, was initially likened to that of Müzeyyen Senar, but the clarity and somewhat elevated nature of his sung Turkish marked a distinct and exceptional vocal style, which was one of the first in Turkey to make full use of the expressive potential of the microphone. In recognition of these qualities Müren was quickly nicknamed Sanat Güneşi (‘Sun of Art’), a title he bore until his death. His career was marked by his appearance in some 18 musical films, from ...

Article

Abdel-Hamid Hamam

(b Husn, near Irbid, 1922). Jordanian traditional composer and singer. After the sudden death of his father he was brought up by his grandfather, a poet-singer and rabāba player who regularly took his grandson to church to pray; there al-Nimrī began to learn religious chants. At an early age he sang at wedding celebrations, and subsequently developed his interest in music by studying the ‘ūd with Alfred Samāwī in Husn. After the establishment of the broadcasting station in Jerusalem in 1936, al-Nimrī performed many of his songs for broadcasts. Like most Jordanian musicians of his time, he had a trade other than music; he worked as a watch-repairer while pursuing his interest in singing and composition. He studied music theory in Jerusalem with Yūsuf Baṭrūnī. He also took lessons with Muḥammad Maḥfūẓ in Damascus. In 1949 he joined the Ramallah broadcasting service; in 1959 he was appointed director of the music section of the newly established radio station in Amman and in ...

Article

Megan E. Hill

(b Osaka, Japan, 1957). Jazz and blues pianist, singer, and composer of Japanese birth. She took piano lessons briefly as a child and was exposed to the blues while growing up in Osaka in the 1960s and 1970s. As a high school student, she formed the Yoko Blues Band with classmates. The band earned some success, winning first prize and a recording contract in a television-sponsored contest. In 1984 she moved to the United States to pursue a jazz and blues career in Chicago. Initially a singer, she studied piano with boogie, blues, and jazz pianist Erwin Helfer. In the early 1990s Noge established the Jazz Me Blues Band, which has played regularly in Chicago since its formation. In addition to Noge on piano and vocals, the ensemble has included Noge’s husband, Clark Dean, on soprano saxophone, saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, trombonist Bill McFarland, and bassist Tatsu Aoki. In addition to playing more conventional jazz and blues, Noge has made a name for herself through the unique compositions she has written for the group, which meld Japanese folk music styles with Chicago blues. Active in the broader Asian American community, she cofounded the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in ...

Article

Izaly Zemtsovsky

(b Arbat region, Moscow, 1924; d Paris, 1997). Russian poet, writer and singer of Georgian origin. Okudzhava was the founder of a new popular genre known as gitarnïye pesni (‘guitar songs’) or avtorskiye pesni (‘author's songs’, songs composed by singer-songwriters) which became a new ‘folk’ tradition. Before perestroika these songs were published on cassettes by the underground magnitizdat or samizdat press and were widely sung by young people as an expression of opposition to authoritarianism. Okudzhava was one of a group of singer-songwriters or ‘bards’ (bardy) which also included Aleksandr Galich (1918–77) and Vladimir Visotsky (1938–80); they acknowledged Aleksandr Vertinsky (1889–1957) as the father of the new genre. At the beginning of the 21st century this genre continues to flourish, notably through the work of Zhanna Bichevskaya; her arrangements of village and urban Russian songs sound like American country music and have become a musical symbol of ideological opposition to official Soviet culture....