Friday 3 of February, 2023
Download SceneNow app

Google Honours Afifa Iskandar - But Who Was She?

'The Blackbird of Iraq' had a brief migration to Egypt where she regaled us with her beautiful music.

Staff Writer

Today's Google Doodles honours the birth of old-school Iraqi singer Afifa Iskandar, otherwise known as 'The Blackbird of Iraq'. We've got great respect for our regional classics, especially since Afifa Iskandar built a good part of her career in Egypt, so CairoScene is here to pre-emptively answer a question that some millennials might be too bashful to ask - just who was Afifa Iskandar?

Born on this day in 1921 and having passed away in 2012, Afifa Iskandar was the daughter of a Christian Iraqi man and a Greek woman. She began singing from the early age of 5 and performed in concerts as a teenager. After gaining fame in Iraq for her talent with 'maqam al-iraqi', a 400-year old style of music that combined poetry with traditional instruments, Afifa Iskandar travelled to Egypt in 1938 where she enjoyed a celebrated career throughout the 1940's.

In Egypt, Afifa Iskandar performed with the biggest names of the time such as Mohamed Abdel Wahab, the iconic musical composer, Badia Masabni, the matron of modern belly dance, and Taheyya Carioca, a belly dancer and actress who starred in the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema. Afifa Iskandar also forged a cinematic career in her own right, headlining for films like 'Cairo-Baghdad' (1947).

Although she returned to Iraq about a decade after she left, Afifa Iskandar left a lasting impression on the Egyptian soundscape with her music, having sung almost 1,500 songs including 'Heragt Al Rooh', 'Qaleb Qaleb' and 'Jouz Menhom'.

What other iconic figures who participated in Egypt's musical and cinematic Golden Age would you want to see honoured like this? Let us know in the comments below.