Today’s Doodle celebrates the 110th birthday of Syrian-born Egyptian composer, singer, instrumentalist, actor, and film producer Farid al-Atrash, widely considered one of the Arab world’s great performers of his time. A virtuosic player of the stringed Middle Eastern instrument called the oud, al-Atrash forever left his mark on music and cinema in Egypt and beyond, releasing over 220 original songs and starring in 31 musical films across his prolific career.
Farid al-Atrash was born on this day in 1910 into the prominent al-Atrash family in Jabal Druze in the Syrian province of Suwayda. As a child, al-Atrash emigrated with his mother and siblings to Egypt, escaping the French occupation. Later, they were naturalized by the Egyptian government as citizens. There, he went on to pursue a musical education— inspired by his mother who was a professional singer and musician herself. Exhibiting a rare musical talent, by the early ‘30s he was singing regularly on Egyptian radio.
Al-Atrash soon began to release his own music and rose to a new level of fame with his big-screen debut–alongside his sister (Asmahan)–in the 1941 film “Intisar al-Shabab” (“The Triumph of Youth”). He went on to lead a massively successful film career during Egypt’s golden age of cinema over the following decades. Meanwhile, he composed many songs considered classics of modern Arab music and through his extraordinary instrumental prowess earned the nickname “King of the Oud.”
Happy birthday, Farid al-Atrash!