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Warda, Algerian singer, dies at 72

CAIRO -- The Algerian singer Warda, whose sultry voice and range helped make her one of the giants of Arab song, has died. She was 72.

Egyptian state TV said Warda died yesterday at her home in Cairo. The official MENA news agency said her body will be flown to Algeria on Friday for burial.

Along with Lebanon's Fayrouz and Egypt's late Umm Kalthoum, Warda was one of the legendary singers of the Arab world, with a voice that has been described as both sweet and powerful.

She lived in Egypt on and off for more than 40 years, and it was in Egypt that she earned both her cinematic and singing breakthroughs that won her fame across the Middle East. She had at least five lead roles in Egyptian films, and some 300 songs to her name.

Warda Aldjazairia, or the Algerian Rose, was born in France in 1939 to an Algerian father and Lebanese mother. She began singing as a little girl, gaining a following among Arab children in France through her songs broadcast on local radio.

She traveled to Algeria for the first time in 1962 after the country gained independence from it French colonial rulers. She married an Algerian, and quit singing for 10 years.

After moving to Cairo, at the time the heart of the Arab cultural and artistic scene, she had her big break in the late 1970s with the hit "My Times Are Sweeter With You." She frequently worked with Egypt's and the broader Arab world's best-known composers, and eventually married one -- Baligh Hamdy. They formed a formidable team, even after their divorce, making some of the most memorable Arab love songs, including "Stay Here, Stay" and "Listen To Me." Late Egyptian singer and composer Mohammed Abdel-Wahab said Warda had "a broad voice with special abilities that other singers lack."

"I feel safe when she sings my tunes," he said.

Warda sang in all Arab dialects, and although better known for her love songs, she also sang nationalistic songs for Algeria and the larger Arab world.

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