Daniel Caux, both a professor at the University
of Vincennes and a musical critic, used to ask
for particulars about the singers he wanted to
write about for "Charlie Hebdo", a weekly paper
which was very popular at that time (1975).
day he wanted to write about Warda Aldjazairia:
she had just made her comeback for the tenth anniversary
of the Algerian Independence, after ten years'
silence. In spite of her having stayed away from
audiences for so long, her success was immediate
in the Arab World - a rare case of a singer getting
her audience again on making her comeback. I could
tell Daniel Caux about the different stages of
her career which she had started in 1951 at the
early age of eleven. Every Thursday she used to
introduce my weekly broadcast on the RTF (French
Radio and Television); she would present the programme
and sing for her young listeners. As she had met
with an overwhelming success, composers began
to write songs for her, adapted to her age. Thus
Zaki Khrayef composed "Ya mrawah lelblad", Jamussi
"Bladi ya bladi", Redha Elkala "Ya habib elqalb",
Saber Essafh "Khaf min allah". Young Warda's fame
among the listerners, increased by the records,
spread all over the Arab World. After Um Kaltsum's
death everybody said she was going to be a new
Um Kaltsum. Yet Warda disliked this statement
on two grounds. First she admired the "Grand Lady"
of the Arab song very much; then she had other
ambitions. She has stated over and over again:
"I don't want to tread in anybody's footsteps.
I want to be myself. True, I sang "Ya dalemni"
when I was fourteen - it was not released in France
then - and I even had a personal version of it
recorded, which does not oblige me to sing Um
Kaltsum's songs during all my life!".
go back to Warda's biography. She was born near
Paris in Puteaux in July 1940. Her father, one
of the first Algerian immigrants to France, ran
a hostel for migrant workers at Boulogne-Billancourt.
In 1936 this hostel was already one of the main
meeting places of the "North African Star", the
first nationalistic organization to fight for
the independence of the Maghreb. Later Warda's
father was the owner of the Tam-Tam, a cabaret
in the Quartier Latin, with Warda starring. This
very cabaret was going to be the seat of the FLN
(Algerian Freedom Fighters) up to 1958, when it
was closed down and the whole family left France.
Warda's mother was a Lebanese born in Beirut in
a Moslem family of good social position. She had
taught Warda every Lebanese song of some importance.
Thus the girl's liking for the Middle Eastern
song had developed thanks to oral transmission,
a most authentic way to hand down traditions.
She was only a little girl when she would sing
songs by Abdelwahab or Farid Elatrash. Her singing
for North African children on the French Radio
and Television made her turn towards the Maghreb
song, especially the Tunisian one.
she was only fourteen in 1954, when the Algerian
War of Independence began, she would sing patriotic
songs such as "Ya habibi ya mudjahid" (O friend,
O fighter), "Bladi ya bladi" (O my Country), "Ya
mrawah lelblad" (Thou who goest back to thy Country).
1958, as Paris was more and more concerned by
the development of the Algerian War of Independence,
the whole family had to seek refuge in Beirut
where she went on singing militant songs such
as "Djamila", dedicated to the women fighting
in Algeria, "Ana mil djazair ana arabia" (I am
from Algeria, I am an Arab). Though Riad Sombati
had only heard her on an Egyptian radio broadcast
singing "Djamila", a song she had rendered at
the Damascus Festival, he was going to make two
songs, for her to sing, on two poems written by
the Algerian poet Salah Elkharfi and dedicated
to the Algerians fighting for their independence:
"Essaidune" (To the underground fighters)
and "Nidau adhamir" (Conscience calling). When
she arrived in Cairo in 1960 she found Riad Sombati
willing to help her: he set to music poems by
an Egyptian poet: "Ya huria ana bendahlek" (I
am calling you, O Liberty), "Dalia djamila", in
honour of Palestine, and he also composed the
musical part of a play "Alikhwa thalata Deir Yassine"
(The three brothers from Deir Yassin).
1961, together with the singers Nagat Esseghira,
Sabah, Shadia, Abdelhalim Hafez, Mohammed Kendil
and others, she sang both "El guil essaed" (The
rising generation) and "Elwatan elakbar", dedicated
to the Arab fatherland, in which she sang the
passage about Algeria. It was when militing for
the Algerian cause that Warda became Warda Eldjazairia
(The Algerian Rose).
few months after Algeria had got its independence,
she arrived in her country, a country where she
had never been before. She got married. Her husband
asked her to give up singing for audiences to
look after her family - which she did for ten
years. Ten years' silence ! She was very unhappy
about singing only for her children, some friends
and her own pleasure. As to her career it seemed
to be definitively over.
in 1972, as festivities were planned to commemorate
the tenth anniversary of the Algerian Independence,
President Hûari Bûmedien asked Warda
to sing on this special occasion. She agreed,
with the result that her marriage broke down.
She kept repeating she needed music as badly as
one needs breathing. She had made her choice -
you have to sacrifice many things to live up to
so great a passion. To accompany her, a whole
Egyptian orchestra was sent for. Thus she was
accompanied by the Elmassia ensemble complemented
by a few Algerian musicians when she sang her
comeback song: "Ad'uka ya amali", a poem by the
Algerian poet Salah Kharfi, newly set to music
by Baligh Hamdi who had been sent for to be present
on that occasion. She gave a first recital in
Algiers on July 5th, then a second one on November
Ist, for the eighteenth anniversary of the War
of Independence. She achieved a great triumph.
December of the same year she left for Cairo where
she became very rapidly one of the most famous
Arab singers with "Elûyûn essûd",
"Khallik hina" and other songs in the same vein
composed by Baligh Hamdi, whom she had just married.
She played a part in two films: "Sût elhob"
(The voice of love) and "Hikaiti maa ezzaman"
(My fate and me), in which she sang works by M.
Abdelwahab, Kamal El Tawil, Mohammed Elmûgui
and by her husband Baligh Hamdi. According to
Daniel Caux: "It's enough to listen to one of
her records of that time to understand how people
became increasingly infatuated with Warda Eldjazairia.
She seems to possess all the qualities necessary
to an Arab singer: an engaging voice, perfect
intonation and rhythm, an extraordinary command
of nuances giving a many-sided singing, a never-ending
inventiveness and an outstanding personality.
Warda can't be compared with any other contemporary
singer, she surpasses them by far".
a lecturer of Arabic music at the University of
Vincennes, Daniel Caux asked his students: "How
are we to define Warda 's specificity which is
so much easier to feel than to put into words?
I think Warda plays on a specific emotional range
combining successfully strength and frailty: on
the one side will-power, self assertion, even
challenge; on the other side sweetness and a tenderness
implying some kind of vulnerability. But the paradox
is that this vulnerability acts as a strength
on the emotional level since it moves and fascinates
us. In turn, and sometimes simultaneously, her
voice gaining strength sings out to the whole
audience. In doing so she never overstrains her
voice to the extreme but she sooner changes its
texture. Becoming more diffuse, her voice widens
subtly till it fills the whole space."
wanted to quote Daniel Caux at some length because
he has defined Warda 's vocal and artistic qualities
very well in his lecture. Let's insist on the
very personal way Warda has in singing in flexible
arabesques about the underlying definite structures
and on her running more and more risks, assuming,
then transcending them.
is presently the only Arab singer able to reach
beyond the linguistic and musical boundaries within
the Arab World. If her musical background, her
very extraction enable her to interpret all kind
of Arab folklore remarkably, from countries as
different as those along the Arabian Gulf, the
Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean, her own influence
is very conspicuous in Baligh Hamdi's compositions
with their Flamenco, Oranese and Shawian songs,
traditional Andalusian vocalization and the powerful
singing of the Tunisian Sahel. It is particularly
noticeable in the songs posterior to 1972.
her comeback, Warda has released four or five
albums every year: her repertory is now a large
one. It looks as if Warda wanted to make up for
the ten years' silence. There is none of her gala
performances in Arab countries without some novelty
apt to surprise the audience. It happens unfortunately
that some of the songs don't come up to her talent
and also people are not always ready to follow
her in her wild attempts to come with new achievements
again and again.
firmly established her reputation, she has been
honoured in every possible way. Loved by all people,
she gives them what their affectionate hearts
are longing for: sensivity and tenderness. She
is loved and appreciated for what she is - she
is not a substitute for Um Kaltsum. She is Warda
Eldjazairia. We may be sure that we'll hear a
lot more about her in the coming years. Her long
and and brilliant career is an ornament to Arab
music and will certainly become a landmark in
the present CD the songs interpreted by Warda
were sung in the presence of President Bûmedien
at the evening performance given to celebrate
the tenth anniversary of the Independence of Algeria.
The most important part of the concert, "Min baid"
is a poem written by an Algerian poet Salah Elkharfi,
set to music by an Egyptian composer, Baligh Hamdi.
A number of melodic passages draw their inspiration
from airs that are part of the Algerian folklore.
Here Warda's interpretations are at their best;
her pleasure in improvising freely on those topics
familiar to her is evident. "Min baid" is both
a love song and a patriotic anthem; in this case
the love borne Algeria is far more important than
two other songs interpreted by Warda in 1972 were
composed in the first years of her career when
she had met with great success. One was composed
by Mohammed Abdelwahab: "Es'al dûmû
aineya", the other one by Riad Sombati: "Laobat
el Ayyam". Both emphasize the importance of human
love, a felicitous choice which balances "Min