BEIRUT: One of the Arab world’s most famous singers, Sabah Fakhri, who entertained generations with traditional songs and preserved nearly extinct forms of Arabic music, has died, Syria’s government said on Tuesday. He was 88.

It was not immediately clear what caused Fakhri’s passing.

Born Sabah Abu Qaws in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 1933, Fakhri got his stage name as an adolescent when he started performing.

He soon rose to fame to become one of the Arab world’s legendary tenors and one of its exceptionally charismatic entertainers.

Fakhri was a world class Tarab singer, an Arabic form of music associated with emotional evocation that could last for hours.

Onstage, Fakhri would engage the audience and sway to the music almost in a trance, turning the lyrics of his songs, often in classical Arabic, into refrains they can easily sing back with him.

He once performed for 10 hours straight in 1968, at a concert in Caracas, Venezuela, without a single break, earning an entry in the Guinness World Records.

Throughout his career, Fakhri preserved and popularised traditional forms of Arab singing and music, including Quddud Halabiya, native to his hometown Aleppo.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2021

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