Amal al-Atrash, better known by her stage name, Asmahan, was one of the most acclaimed singers and actresses in Egypt during the 1930s and ‘40s. Known for her powerful voice, versatility, and commanding stage presence, she was a star who earned fame at a time when society often frowned upon women entertainers. Having relocated to Egypt during childhood, her family, from Syria, knew the composer Dawood Hosni, and she Amal soon sang complicated compositions. Her voice was one of the few in Arab music world to pose serious competition to that of revered female singer Umm Kulthum, considered one of the most distinguished singers of the 20th century.
Her beauty, and mysterious death in a car accident in 1944 aged just 31 shocked the public. Journalists spread gossip about her turbulent personal life and an alleged espionage role in World War II, and her legendary success began to help pave the way for the female performers who came after her.
Today, Sophie Diao’s is the animator behind Google Doodle's honour of Asmahan, paying tribute to her signature performing style and highlighting the intimate way she would look deeply into the camera and sing directly to her audience. Diao also captured Asmahan’s iconic, glamorous look, and used black and white colouring to simulate film grain from the time... A technological nod to one of Arab history's most interesting female characters...