Why We Loved Warda

Yesterday, 72 year old French-born Algerian-Lebanese songstress Warda Al-Jazairia passed away. Known just as Warda to her millions of beloved fans, she leaves behind a legacy comparable to such musical stars as Umm Kulthum. Warda died in Cairo, her adopted home since the 1970s.

She became popular throughout the Arabic-speaking world with “The Greatest Nation,” an anti-colonial and pan-Arab anthem we’ve referenced before on this blog (the handsome fellow that first sings is the legendary Abdel Halim Hafez, and Warda appears at minute 6:37):

Warda’s inclusion in the line-up, composed by the Egyptian master Mohammad Abdel-Wahhab, was apparently personally requested by Gamal Abdel Nasser. Her voice and her devotion to Algerian independence were well-known, and part of what contributed to her immense popularity.

Like most popular singers at the time, Warda and her voice appeared in a few films (all of them astoundingly cheesy):

And this, “Betwanes Beek” (“happy to be with you,” roughly) might be her most popular hit — at least, it was with the Alexandrian music vendors during my childhood:

Despite some complications with her health later in life, Warda continued to sing, releasing her last album in 2011. She will be sorely missed for her political consciousness as well as her brilliant voice. Salaam, ya Warda!

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