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Amal Al-Atrash, the Syrian-Lebanese singer and actress known as Asmahan was one of the most influential singers of her time.
She was born in 1912 or 1917 to Druze Syrian and Lebanese parents. Her father was a governor in late Ottoman and fled to Beirut with the family in 1917. Growing up, Asmahan also lived in Damascus and Haifa, and eventually settled in Cairo.
When the famous composer Dawood Hosni was visiting the family, he overheard Asmahan singing in her room, immediately decided to push her toward success, and suggested she adopt the name Asmahan. She quickly rose to fame, debuting at the prestigious Cairo Opera House as a teenager. Although she came from Levantine origins, Asmahan sang mainly in classical Arabic and colloquial Egyptian Arabic. Her favourite songs to perform were by legendary Egyptian musical stars Umm Kulthoum and Mohamed Abdel Wahab. When singing about patriotism, she referred to Egypt.
Asmahan's family wanted her to marry and move to Syria. She eventually agreed to marry her cousin, Hassan al-Atrash under certain conditions. As she missed her musical career and lifestyle in Cairo, she got a divorce and returned to Egypt, drawing controversy for her free lifestyle. When her first film "Intisar al-Shabab" released in Syria, a Druze man is reported to have shot at the screen when she appeared.
In 1941, the British and French requested Asmahan to travel to Jabal (Mount) al-Druze to inform the Druze that the British would be invading through the territory and to convince them not to oppose them. She received £40,000 for this mission. The Druze agreed as the forces initially promised the independence of Lebanon and Syria, but they did not follow through, which caused Asmahan to attempt to contact the Nazis in Turkey, yet she was caught and deported to Lebanon.
In 1944, a mysterious car accident killed Asmahan in Mansoura, when the singer was just in her early 30s. The driver however, managed to escape. Rumors were rampant about the suspicious death, especially following her association with the British and the Nazis. Many believed that British intelligence decided to kill her after her attempt to reach the Nazis and vice versa.