BEIRUT (AP) – One of the Arab world’s most famous singers, Sabah Fakhri, who has entertained generations with traditional songs and preserved extinct forms of Arabic music, has passed away, the Syrian government said on Tuesday. He was 88 years old.
The cause of Fakhri’s death was not immediately clear.
Born Sabah Abu Qaws in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 1933, Fakhri got his stage name as a teenager when he started performing.
He quickly rose to fame for becoming one of the legendary tenors of the Arab world and one of its exceptionally charismatic artists.
Fakhri was a world-class singer of Tarab, a form of Arabic music associated with an emotional evocation that could last for hours.
On stage, Fakhri would engage the audience and rock to the music almost in a trance, transforming the lyrics of his songs, often in classical Arabic, into choruses they can easily sing along with him.
He once performed for 10 straight hours in 1968 in a concert in Caracas, Venezuela, without a single break, earning an entry in the Guinness World Records.
Throughout his career, Fakhri preserved and popularized traditional forms of Arab song and music, most notably Quddud Halabiya, who hailed from his hometown of Aleppo.
Fakhri’s voice was so powerful and distinct that he once told his interviewers that his family recognized him when he was a baby.
âI started singing when I was born,â he once told an Egyptian CBC television interviewer. A family member pinched him to hear him cry because “he liked the sound of my crying.”
He memorized the Quran when he was young and began to recite it in mosques – a path common to a number of musicians and singers in the Arab world. Due to his powerful voice, Fakhri briefly worked as a muezzin – the person who calls to prayer – in a mosque in Aleppo.
âThe Koran is the great school of good and clear performance and pronunciation,â he said in the interview released in 2014.
Fakhri studied music and singing in Aleppo and Damascus.
He obtained several distinctions in the Arab world and was the head of the Syndicate of Syrian artists.
Fakhri is survived by four sons, including Anas, a singer.