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This article is a rough translation from Arabic. It may have been generated by a computer or by a translator without dual proficiency.
محمد عبده عثمان
Mohammed Abdu in 2009
|Birth name||Mohammed Abdu Othman|
|Also known as||The Artist of The Arabs|
|Born||June 12, 1949|
Abha, Saudi Arabia
|Genres||Saudi Arabian, Arabic Music|
|Associated acts||Talal Maddah, Abo Bakr Salim, Umm Kulthum, Warda Al-Jazairia, Baligh Hamdi|
Mohammed Abdu was born on June 12, 1949, in Abha, the capital of Aseer province. Some sources report that he was born in a small town called Al Darb in Al Darb governorate in the Jizan area. His father, Abdou Othman Al-A'asiri, was a poor fisherman in Tihamah, in the Asir area, who had six children with his wife Salma Nasr-Allah. Smallpox was causing an epidemic in Saudi Arabia at that time, and almost all of their children died, including a three-year-old 'Mohammed'. The couple vowed to name their next child in memory of him. After that time, the family decided to move to Jeddah where the 'other' Mohammed was born. His father left his job as a fisherman and took a new one as a bricklayer. But soon the father left them in 1953, after he fell ill, and died before Mohammed could even take his first steps.
As an orphan aged only 3, Mohammed went with his widowed mother and her other two siblings to an orphanage house called Ribat Abu-Zinadah; a Yemenite hostel for orphaned families. With the financial help of the soon-to-be crown prince Faisal, her children were accepted into one of the orphan-schools. Mohammed Abdou commented on the home saying "... I learned how to live and depend on myself." After his graduation from sixth-grade, he started taking many menial jobs; selling candy and mixed-nuts in the market, joining once as a temployer at the general post-office, working there as a collector, singing at weddings, and so on, until he joined a vocational institute to make a living for himself and his family, moving with them to a new house with what little money he'd been given as a graduation gift by the time he'd finished.
In 1989, his mother died, and Mohammed stopped singing altogether. It was "One of the saddest moments in his entire life," as he put it in more than one interview. She was the real love of his life, and the one for whom Abdou sang and wanted to be famous for after all the difficult years that she had to go through when he was at the orphan school. Mohammed Abdou was so saddened by her death that he decided not to issue any more albums from 1989 until 1997.
After eight years, in 1997, he sang in a National Day celebration for Saudi audiences who were amazed at how his voice became more mature. His voice was marvelous and more tact. But the arrangements were full of vibrant music (strings, endless violin strings...), and the ever-hateful keyboard became the first and most audible musical 'non'-instrument in the orchestra that grew so much, from a dozen or so players, to 80-plus players. That year, he went to London to sing at three concerts with Warda Al-Jazairia and issued five albums in the following three months to feed the demand for his voice in Arabia.
The next year saw his official comeback when he sang at the Abha Music Festival in 1998, issuing another three albums concurrently. Follow-up concerts in Qatar, Dubai, and Cairo were the much-needed efforts to put him back on the Arab musical map.
The artist began his music career in the beginning of the 1960's. He entered the world of singing at an early age, going from only a student at the Institute of Industrial Jeddah, which he graduated from in 1963. From there, he was taken on a mission to Italy for the shipbuilding industry. The flight changed from Rome to Beirut, from building ships to a music career.
Abdou's music was based on the older generation's ageless talents and songs of perhaps a thousand years of heritage, but nevertheless, he was credited with at least preserving these songs called mawrouth (the inherited songs) without much change in their buildup or musical arrangements. His Chaabyat albums that he released through his label "Voice of Al-Jazeerah" in the 1990s were his attempt at documenting that old tradition. These jalsat (sittings) were where his talent is best seen; his oud was an instrument which he spoke to almost spiritually, in a manner never seen elsewhere in any Arab singer other than Farid al-Atrash, Baligh Hamdi, and Talal Maddah. In admiration, Abdou sang one of Baligh's compositions 'Sert Al-Houb' (Love Story) for Umm Kulthum on her 69th birthday.
His earliest songs that he used to sing were religious chants and anasheed (Islamic songs that people are allowed to sing), and reciting the Quran after prayer time, or in his school's celebrations. Students and teachers alike used to gather around him to hear him sing these marvels at recess breaks, or whenever they were allowed. Fearing that he might quit school to follow a career as a singer, his mother asked him to sing only on invitation when the older singers were around, so that her son would stay a pupil to these established singers. His voice and oud playing overcame this fear when jaws dropped after he gave a rendition of an old Yemeni adwar (old songs of known Maqama) known for their near impossibility for a young singer to master. These songs were old chants Yemeni singers sang and competed with each other to take each other to tarab.
From 1983 until 2009, Mohammed was married to Umm Abdul Rahman with whom he has seven children. In 2011, Mohammed married a French woman in Paris, where he was recovering from a stroke.
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