Middle East

Renowned Lebanese singer Wadih al-Safi dies at 92

A picture taken on 27 October 2010 shows Lebanese singer Wadih al-Safi acknowledging the audience during a concert at the Opera House in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Image caption Wadih al-Safi belonged to a golden age of music in the wider Arab world

One of the pillars of Arab music, Wadih al-Safi, has died at the age of 92 in a hospital in Lebanon.

The singer was at the forefront of a movement that made Lebanese music hugely popular in the region.

Often referred to as the "voice of Lebanon", Mr Safi was one of the big names in what was seen as a golden age of Arab music.

Since his death was announced, many have paid tribute to what they describe as a musical legend.

Mr Safi was with his son when he was taken ill on Friday, and later died in hospital.

'Frank Sinatra of the Middle East'

A Christian, he first came to prominence in the late 1930s when he won a Lebanese singing contest.

In subsequent decades, he contributed to a movement revitalising Lebanese music that saw it spread in influence across the Arab world.

The BBC's Sebastian Usher says Mr Safi's stately, classical music - like his female equivalents, Fairouz and Sabah - gave Lebanese a sense of pride in their country as it was in danger of being torn apart during the civil war.

With a catalogue of some 3,000 songs, Mr Safi was best known for creating a modernised form of folk music, but he also sang Lebanese and Arabic poetry.

Hundreds have paid tribute to the singer and composer since his death was announced, with some dubbing him the Frank Sinatra of the Middle East.

A union for Lebanese musicians has called on the authorities to declare a national day of mourning, the NNA news agency reports.

Meanwhile, the office of President Michel Suleiman described Safi's death as a "great loss for Lebanon's folk music".

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