“The light of music has gone out in the Levant”

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Syrian singer Sabah Fakhri has died aged 88.

The news was announced in a joint statement from the Syrian Ministry of Information and the Syrian Artists’ Union, on Twitter and Facebook.

No cause of death has been revealed.

The beloved musician has had a remarkable 70-year career that has seen Fakhri hailed as the ambassador of the Syrian folk music genre and a major influence on generations of Arab artists across the region.

This was reflected in the outpouring of tributes from an eclectic array of artists.

Saudi singer Sulainman Al Manah called Fakhri the “master” of Syrian folk song. “This is sad news. My sincere condolences to his family, his artistic family and his fans across the Arab world.”

Kuwaiti composer Fahed Alnasser paid homage to “the melody of Aleppo. And the light of music has died out in the Levant. Farewell”.

Syrian actor Moatasem Al Nahar posted a photo of Fakhri performing in his prime, with the caption: “Goodbye Sabah Fakhri. Goodbye.”

Lebanese TV host Neshan noted, “You will remain a source of pride for authentic Middle Eastern music.

Born in Abu Qaws in Aleppo in 1933, Fakhri’s art is based on rigorous training at the Academy of Arab Music in Aleppo and at the Damascus Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1948. His stage name is in honor of Syrian mentor and politician Fakhri al-Barudi.

Where his peers settled in industry hot spots such as Cairo and Beirut, Fakhri focused his efforts in his homeland in order to feel connected to the Syrian folk songs he was beginning to master. Early performances include the one in front of former Syrian President Shukri Al Quwaiti at the presidential plaza in 1948 and a program of relentless tours across the country.

This connection to his homeland was also manifested in the managerial positions of the industry he would occupy, such as twice leading the Syrian Artists’ Union and as a member of the Syrian People’s Assembly.

All of this behind-the-scenes work pales in comparison to his artistic contribution with his mountainous tenor popularizing Qudud Halabiya, a traditional form of Syrian music linked to Aleppo that combines classical Arabic poetry with religiously inspired melodies. These songs of love, longing and spirituality were performed by Fakhri in powerful pieces such as Halla Ya Jamlo and Ya Teira Tiri.

Update: November 2, 2021, 10:08 a.m.

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