Warda Al-Jazairia – The Rose of Algeria

Most often referred to simply as Warda, Algerian singer Warda Al-Jazairia (Rose of Algeria) had a voice that has been described as powerful, yet sweet and sultry. Certainly, her soulful songs and vibrant personality earned her many fans over the years of her successful career and the news of her death on May 17 in Cairo has resulted in an outpouring of grief and tributes. Warda sang in various Arab dialects and was well known for her love songs and her patriotic songs for the Arab world at large, and particularly for Algeria.

As the youngest of five children, Warda Al-Jazairia discovered her love and talent for singing at a young age. She learned the songs of her mother’s homeland Lebanon, and the songs of her Algerian father, and gathered quite a following among the young ones in the neighborhood in France where her family lived for a time. She also had the opportunity to perform on the local radio program singing Song for the Mother.

Warda married an Algerian and lived in Algeria for about ten years following the country’s independence, moving to Cairo when she divorced her husband. It was in Cairo that Warda got her big break into the music world in the late 1970s with her hit song My Times Are Sweeter With You. She worked with some of Egypt’s greatest composers, and at the request of Gamal Abdel Nasser – the second President of Egypt – Warda was given a part in Watani Al-Akbar (My Great Homeland), a production by Arab Egyptian singer and composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab. The production promoted the ideology of Panarabism that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, urging nations of the Arab League to make a stand against Colonialism. The production gave Warda the opportunity to perform with some of the most famous personalities in the Arab music world at the time, including Abdel Halim Hafez, Nagat Al Saghira, Shadia, Faida Kamel and Sabah. Warda married Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy and they produced many hit songs together, including Listen to Me and Stay Here, Stay. They reportedly continued to work well together even after they divorced.

Revealing her great love for Algeria, Warda’s last work was a video recording of a song celebrating the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. Her son, Riyad Qasry, has confirmed that Warda Al-Jazairia will be buried in Algeria, as per the request of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.