I wholeheartedly believe that one of God’s simple edicts is, that if your intention is to do good, then every once in while you will also receive abundant grace. This gem came into my path in just such a way. It felt like it was a reward for my good intentions to share something with my brother that brings him joy, and to thank him for all the love and goodness he brings into my life.
A couple of weeks before Eid Al-Fitr, I came across an ad for an Assala Nasri concert. It was to take place on the 2nd day of Eid, at the Dubai opera. I may have not gone for it, if it was just me, but since I knew that my brother would enjoy a concert of hers and I liked her voice, I asked him if he would like to go, and he said yes. I got seats that I knew would have good acoustics and looked forward to our time together.
As always during Eid, that day was a nightmare to drive in the Dubai Downtown area, as it’s one of the most happening areas in the city for people to gather. We barely managed to make it to the Opera House in time, but then sat back to enjoy. Assala turned out to be wonderful in so many ways.
Firstly, I was delighted by her engaging and unaffected manner as she interacted with us. She would talk about the songs, Dubai, and her reaction to the evening honestly but with a light and human touch. I admired how she deftly dealt with the cries of adoration from her fans and, it’s mostly males who cry out in this context. One was too ardent so she called out asking if that was her husband out there in the audience. As really, only her husband should take that tone with her, haha. Another man did it so politely that she said I love you too and isn’t love a gift. Another one later on screamed a declaration of undying love for her. And she said: to that degree? Let’s not get anyone upset on the day of Eid and mention death. There it was, that Syrian sense of boundary to keep the right dynamic and space.
She sang passionately with that voice of hers known for its beauty and depth, switching between the most popular Arabic dialects, from khaliji to Egyptian. Then she sang a medley about “Al-Sham”, paying homage to The Levant and Damascus, or more specifically Syria, where she is from. She started to tear and stopped to say, as a way of sharing and comforting her audience, that she doesn’t cry all the time it’s just when she sings that she gets affected. She had me by then.
Assala sang a medley for Sabah Fakhri who, by the way, is an iconic Syrian tenor and an operatic giant. Originally from Aleppo, he is especially well known for mastering the Arab maqams in general and the ones of his home town, as well as modifying and popularizing the then-fading forms of traditional Arabic music, Muwashshahat and Qudud Halabiya. He is also widely admired for his exceptionally strong vocals and charismatic performances. He is also regarded as an excellent performer of authentic Arabic Tarab.
After the stirring Sabah Fakhri medley, Assala went on to sing a “mawwal” about Riyadh as some of her most ardent fans come from Saudi Arabia. Nothing draws me like kindness and gratitude in a person’s character.
Then, towards the end of the evening, Assala did something that touched me so deeply. She mentioned a dear friend who was a composer, Khaled El-Bakri who had just passed away in a car accident. She said she waited until the end of the evening so we may remember him and pray for him as he was a soul worth praying for. I googled him right then and there and learned that he had died as he was driving from Cairo to Alexandria. He had stopped on the side of the road and left his children inside the car to cross the road and give water to a thirsty dog. A car hit him on the road. She said she didn’t know if she would be able to sing that night but forced herself to stop crying and come sing for us.
The range of beautiful characteristics that Assala managed to show during this concert was touching. I pray for her and her loved ones that light and success fills their hearts and days. When talents meets humanity there is nothing like it.
LEARN more about Assala Nasri
Assala was born in Damascus, Syria. Mostafa Nasri, her father, was a revered composer and singer and Assala began her musical career by performing patriotic, religious, and children's songs when she was four years old. She sang the theme song "Qessas Al Sho'oub" (Arabic: قصص الشعوب), of the cartoon show, Hekayat Alamiyah (Arabic: حكايات عالمية). In 1986, Mostafa Nasri died after suffering from internal bleeding caused by a car accident. Aged 17 she helped care for her siblings, Reem, Amani, Ayman and Ayham with her mother.
Ever since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, in 2011, Assala Nasri claimed her support for the Syrian rebels and her commitment against Bashar al Assad, showing her commitment by singing at the International Peace day as a new ambassador for "Peace Building Through Music."
LEARN more about Sabah Fakhri
Sabah Abu Qaws, also known as Sabah Fakhri (Arabic: صباح فخري; born May 2, 1933), is an iconic Syrian tenor singer from Aleppo.
Over the past 50 years of fame and popularity as a singer, Sabah Fakhri modified and popularized the then-fading forms of traditional Arabic music, Muwashshahat and Qudud Halabiya. He is well known for his exceptionally strong vocals, impeccable execution of Maqamat and harmony, as well as his charismatic performances. He has numerous admirers around the world, and is regarded as an excellent performer of authentic Arabic Tarab.
LEARN more about Khaled El-Bakri
An Egyptian-Syrian composer famous for the romantic tunes of leading Egyptian and Arab singers. He has also composed many dramas and thousands of pictorial music sequences.