Sabah (singer)

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Sabah in the 1960s
Sabah in the 1960s
Background information
Birth nameJeanette Georges Feghali
جانيت جرجس فغالي
Born(1927-11-10)10 November 1927
Bdadoun, Greater Lebanon
Died26 November 2014(2014-11-26) (aged 87)
Beirut, Lebanon
GenresArabic music, Traditional
Occupation(s)Singer, actress
Years active1943–2014

Sabah (Arabic: صباح Ṣabāḥ Lebanese pronunciation: [sˤɑˈbaːħ]; born Janet Gerges Feghali, جانيت جرجس فغالي; 10 November 1927 – 26 November 2014) was a Lebanese singer and actress. Nicknamed Shahruret-el Wadi English: شحرورة الوادي,[1] شحرورة الوادي, (meaning the Songbird of the Valley, based upon her region of origin, Wadi Chahrour also called Ourrouar) in the Arab world. She was among the first Arabic singers to perform at the Olympia, Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and the Sydney Opera House.[2][3][4] She is considered one of three Lebanese icons, along with Fairuz and Wadih El Safi. Sabah, came to Egypt in the 1950s, where she participated in many Egyptian movies and songs.[5]

Early life[edit]

Sabah was born to a Maronite Christian family in Bdadoun in Aley, she was also nicknamed Al Shahroura also called Ourrouar, a small town southeast of Beirut. She loved the Sasso's who she thought were the only genuine people around her. She came from a troubled family; her father physically abused her and tried to steal her early movie earnings. Her first marriage was to escape her father's control. Her brother also killed her mother because he believed she was having an affair.[6][7]


Sabah on the cover of Al Chabaka Magazine, April 1965

Sabah emerged at a time when the field of Arab singers was already crowded with formidable competitors. These included Umm Kulthum (1898-1975), Nagat El Sagheera[8] (born 1938), Warda Al-Jazairia (1939–2012), Shadia (1931–2017), Fairuz (born 1934) and others.

Sabah started singing in a very young age, and released her first song in 1940 at the age of 15, in Lebanon. She later went to Egypt where she first participated in the movie El-Qalb Luh Wahid (The Heart Has Its Reasons), released in 1945, which gained her regional fame and she then became officially known by her character's name — Sabah — which is Arabic for the morning. She also acquired several affectionate nicknames, including "Chahroura" ("songbird") and "Sabbouha," a diminutive of Sabah.

Sabah with Salah Zulfikar in Paris and Love (1972)

Among her most popular films were That's What Love Is (1961), Soft Hands (1963),Three Women (1968), Paris and Love (1972) and The Second Man (1959), in which she played a cabaret singer who vows to avenge her brother's death at the hands of a smuggling ring. In her parallel music career, she recorded more than 3,000 songs, working with a string of legendary Egyptian composers, including the late Mohammed Abdel Wahab. She specialized in a Lebanese folk tradition called the mawal, and her most famous songs included "Zay el-Assal" ("Your Love is Like Honey on my Heart") and "Akhadou el-Reeh" ("They Took the Wind"). Sabah released over 50 albums and acted in 98 films during her career. Sabah's youthfulness and the joy she brought in her performances made her a living symbol of the "belle époque" and of the "joie de vivre" in the Levant and the Arab world.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Sabah carried four different passports from four different countries: Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and the United States. She married seven times, most notably to Egyptian actor Rushdy Abaza,[9] as well as Lebanese businessman Najib Chammas, Egyptian musician Anwar Mansy, Egyptian television presenter Ahmed Farraj, Lebanese politician Youssef (Joe) Hammoud and Lebanese author-director Wassim Tabbara. Her last marriage was to the much-younger Lebanese artist Fadi Lubnan. She had two children, Sabah Chammas (from her marriage with Najib Chammas) and Howayda Mansy (from her marriage to Anwar Mansy). Sabah was a medical doctor in the United States and Howayda, a relatively well-known singer, actress and socialite.

Sabah, dressed as a bride, next to her hairdresser Joseph Gharib, during April Fools' Day joke, in April 2008.

In her advanced age, she refused to leave the limelight, as well as her garish outfits. But she was unabashed: "I'm proud that I'm a village girl, but I had a lot of ambition," she said in 2008. Chady Maalouf, head of programming at Voice of Lebanon Radio said, "She broke so many taboos. I don't know if she was even aware of it... She was the example of a star, she was totally complete in her appearance, behavior and voice. She shocked people all the time." It should be also added that she was known for her truly remarkable joie de vivre as she radiated to her public a sense of happiness and goodness in an embodiment of a belle époque in the modern Arab world![10]

She lived many love stories, but she never found love. She said in one of her interviews that her ex-husbands usually called her "Mrs. Bank". They married her just because of her large fortune, and that's why none of her love relationships worked out successfully, to say nothing of how many times they cheated on her, e.g., Wassim Tabbara. Anwar Mansy allegedly was a poker addict and used to beat her as well. As for Najib Chammas, he wanted her to get away from the spotlights and become a housewife.[11]

In April 2008, a publication with supporting photos announced that she had married Joseph Gharib, her hair-dresser of 17 years. It was later revealed that she was only pulling an April Fools' Day joke on the public.[12]

After selling her house in Hazmieh, which was described by the Diva herself as "too big and cold for only one person", she moved to the neighboring Hotel Comfort in Baabda, Mount Lebanon, a hill city overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea, and later lived in another hotel next to Baabda. She suffered from many illnesses due to several thrombuses in her brain, leading to loss of control of her left hand and foot. Though her condition was severe, she maintained the utmost concentration, her memory remaining intact.

Sabah in Beirut in 2007

Until 2009, she performed both in concert and on television, including such programs as Star Academy (the Arabic equivalent of the United Kingdom's Fame Academy), where she sang her new single on stage opposite a line of mannequins displaying costumes from several of her early films and musicals. In the 1990s, she and her former husband Fadi Lubnan (Kuntar) made a documentary about her life, which aired on Future Television under the title "The Journey of My Life", (مشوار حياتي). She also developed a close collaboration with singer Rola Saad in remaking some of her old hits, such as "Yana Yana". The accompanying video, in which Sabah is shown as "the notorious diva" to whom her younger colleague pays tribute, has received wide play on Arabic music channels. Sabah was hosted on the TV show Akher Man Yalam on 31 May 2010. In the 2011 edition of the Beiteddine Art Festival, a show retracing the journey of Sabah as a singer and movie star was performed. In the title role, Rouwaida Attieh shared the stage with more than 40 singers and dancers to honor her works.

Sabah is the aunt of Brazilian congresswoman Jandira Feghali. Her brother Ricardo Feghali, is a musician and songwriter and is a member of the highly acclaimed Brazilian band Roupa Nova.


Constant rumors involving Sabah's death had circulated days before she died. Amused by the rumors, Sabah said, "Even in my death, I'm making people busy."[13]

Sabah died on 26 November 2014, around 3:00 a.m., sixteen days after her 87th birthday, in her home at Hotel Brazilia from unspecified reasons. Clauda Akl, the daughter of her famous sister, actress Lamia Feghaly, published the sad news on her webpage at around 6:45 a.m. She mentioned that Sabah wished before dying that people would dance the Dabkeh at her funeral. They should not feel sad because she went to a better place, and should keep listening to her songs and always be happy no matter what, in the same way that Sabah always gave happiness to people. Sabah said: “I've lived enough”. After her death, her hairdresser Joseph Gharib said in an interview that during her last days, Sabah loved to wear red lipstick. She considered Joseph Gharib her son, and he considered her his mother.

On Sunday, 30 November 2014, four days after Sabah's death, thousands of people filled the streets to pay their respects. Her family, Lebanese officials, as well as many Arab delegates packed into St. George Cathedral in downtown Beirut to bid farewell to the famed singer, actress, and entertainer. The daylong proceedings took on a festive air as the crowds celebrated Sabah's taboo-breaking six-decade-long career. In front of the cathedral, the official Lebanese Army band played the national anthem followed by many songs from Sabah's repertoire, a first in the country's history. Fans clapped and sang their favorite Sabah songs. A troupe of dancers in traditional dress performed to the diva's music playing from loudspeakers. "I will call it a celebration and not a funeral," said Lebanese actress Ward El-Khal. "We feel today that we came here to share her feelings and to remember her. We will miss her."

Sabah mural on the Assaf building in Hamra Street, Beirut

For the funeral mass, Sabah's flag-draped coffin stood near the altar with a giant picture of the singer as a younger woman with her signature ultra-voluminous peroxide-blond hair. After the service, mourners carried the casket aloft to a hearse waiting outside while people clapped, threw flowers and reached out to touch it and take photographs. Sabah's body was carried through many towns to the church of her hometown of Bdadoun, where she was buried.[14]

Televised biography[edit]

Al Shahrourah,[15] a TV drama based on her life, aired during Ramadan 2011. She was portrayed by actress/singer Carole Samaha. Sabah's reaction was positive towards the series and was happy that it was a success; though, she commented about certain inaccuracies, such as the depiction of her father as wearing traditional Lebanese garb. [16]

Awards and legacy[edit]

Sabah received many awards and honours during her lengthy career. Recent examples include:

  • She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dubai International Film Festival.[17]
  • She was honored by the Egyptian cinema in Cairo.[18]
  • She was honored in Beirut with a statue.[18]
  • She was honored by the Lebanese Republic many times, e.g. by receiving the National Order of the Cedar medal.
  • A museum is being built in her village Bdadoun, which will contain her private letters, dresses, wardrobe accessories, rare old photographs of her and other memorabilia.
  • Her music is being taught in music classes in Lebanon.
  • She was honored by the Lebanese cinema and stage as well as Lebanese composers.
  • Months before she died, the Lebanese journalist Rima Njeim hosted a TV episode honoring her, which aired live on MTV Lebanon.
  • On 10 November 2017, Google celebrated her 90th birthday with a Google Doodle.[19]
  • Marvel's Moon Knight TV series plays her song Saat Saat from the 1980 Egyptian movie A Night When The Moon Cried, at the end of Episode 5.

In 2015, graffiti artists Halwani and the brothers Omar and Mohammad Kabbani commemorated Sabah in monumental murals on the sides of buildings in Beirut, paying tribute to the way she defied gender-based and other social taboos, challenging Lebanon's culture of sectarianism, and providing an alternative to images of political leaders and their sloganeering.[20]


Sabah released over 50 albums and acted in 98 movies as well as over 20 stage plays. She had a reported repertoire of over 3,500 songs. A Lebanese TV series named Al-Shahroura “الشحرورة” was made about her in 2011.

Selected filmography[edit]

  • 1986 Ayyam El Lulu ايام اللولو aka = Days Of The Lulu
  • 1972 Paris wal Hob باريس والحب aka= Paris and Love
  • 1970 Kanet Ayyam كانت ايام aka =It Were Days
  • 1970 Nar El Shoq نار الشوق aka = Fire Of Longing
  • 1969 Easabet El Nesa عصابة النساء aka = Gang Of Women
  • 1968 Thalath Nesaa ثلاث نساء aka = Three Women
  • 1966 Mawwal El Aqdam El Zahabiyyah موال الاقدام الذهبية aka =Popular Song Of Golden Feet
  • 1963 El Aydi el naema الايدى الناعمة aka = The Soft Hands
  • 1963 El Motamaradah المطاردة aka = The Chase
  • 1961 El Hob Keda الحب كده aka = That's What Love Is
  • 1961 Goz merti جوز مراتى aka = Husband Of My Wife
  • 1960 El Ragol El Thani الرجل الثانى aka = The Second Man
  • 1959 El Ataba El Khadra العتبه الخضرا aka=The Green Threshold
  • 1958 Shari' El Hobb شارع الحب aka = Love Sreet
  • 1958 Sallem Al Habayib سلم ع الحبايب aka = Say Hello To Lovers
  • 1956 Izayy Ansak ازاى انساك aka= How To Forget You
  • 1956 Wahabtak Hayati وهبتك حياتى aka = I Gave You My Life
  • 1954 Khataf merati خطف مراتى aka = He Kidnapped My Wife
  • 1953 Lahn Hobbi لحن حبى aka = Melody Of My Heart
  • 1953 Zalamuni El Habayib ظلمونى الحبايب aka = Were Unjust To Me, The Lovers
  • 1951 Khada'ni Abi خدعنى ابى aka = My Father Deceived Me
  • 1950 Ana Satuta انا ستوته aka = I'm Sattutah
  • 1948 Sabah El kher صباح الخير aka = Good Morning
  • 1947 Albi W Sefi قلبى و سيفى aka = My Heart And My Sword
  • 1947 lebnani Fi El gam'ah لبنانى فى الجامعة aka = Lebanese In University

Selected discography[edit]

Release Year Original Title Translation Label Main songwriter(s)/producer(s) Notable Songs
1957 Alhan Bilady Favourite Oriental Melodies Voix de l'Orient Folk Ya Huwaidalak
Abu Al-zuluf
Ghanni Maa Sabah Sing with Sabah Tayyib Tayyib
1959 Ajmal Aghani Sabah Sabah Sings Love Songs Philémon Wehbé Al-iza'a
Al 'Asfuriyya
1960 Mawsam El 'Ezz
(with Fairuz & Wadih El Safi)
Baalbeck International Festival
Assi & Mansour Rahbani
Wadih El Safi
Philémon Wehbé
Ain Al Roumane - Musical
(with Fairuz & Wadih El Safi)
The Village Assi & Mansour Rahbani Finjan Qahwa
Al Tayir
1963 Share' Al Hob - Sountrack From Ezzel Dine Zulficar's Motion Picture
(with Abdel Halim Hafez)
Street of Love Orient Hussein Al Sayed
Munir Mourad
Rahat Leialee Wa Jat Leialee
1964 Ash-Shallal - Musical The Cascade Voix de l'Orient Walid Gholmieh
Younes El Ebn
Ya Mrouj
Fatinat Ajjamahir Girl for the Masses Assi & Mansour Rahbani
Mohamed Abdel Wahab
Zaki Nassif
Philémon Wehbé
Sana Helwa
1966 Dawaleeb Al Hawa - Musical The Pinwheels Assi & Mansour Rahbani
Philémon Wehbé
Esmy Hala
Shams El Shoumous - Musical Sun of Suns Allo Beirut
1967 Sabah Philips Philémon Wehbé
Elias Rahbani
Michel Tohme
Al Bassata
1968 Al Al'aa Baalbeck Festival Romeo Lahoud Ya Ahl Al Al'aa
1969 Sabah Mohamed Abdel Wahab
Philémon Wehbé
Michel Tohme
Halim El Roumi
Jary Ya Jary
Ya Msafer
1970 Al Wahm - Musical Illusion Najib Hankash
Maurice Awad
Nehnal Hawa
1972 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Wa Marhaba Hello and Welcome Voix de l'Orient Walid Gholmieh
Younes El Ebn
Al Bassata
1974 Sett El Kol - Musical The First Lady Voice of Lebanon Philémon Wehbé
Michel Tohme
Ya Dalaa Dallaa
Helwe Ktir - Musical So Beautiful Nicolas El Deek
Michel Tohme
Marhaba Ya Habayeb
Oghniyat min Lubnan Songs of Lebanon Cairophon Rabie Loubnana
1976 Sabah in Paris (live) Voice of Lebanon Toufic Barakat
Nour Al Mallah
Dek El Kaf
1977 Shahr El 'Asal - Musical Honeymoon Melhem Barakat
Elie Choueiri
Men Aboukra
Hala Hala
Sabah Melhem Barakat
Farid El Atrache
Romeo Lahoud
Helwet Lebnan
Zay El Amar
Allah Makom Ya Chabab God Be with You Guys Duniaphon Allah Makom Ya Chabab
Zein El Abidin
Wetdallou Bikheir - Musical
(with Wadih El Safi)
May You Be in Good Health Zaki Nassif Ward El Janaen
1979 Live Performances (live) Voix de l'Orient Michel Tohme
Philémon Wehbé
Marhabtein W Marhabtein
1980 Ghnany 'Al Bal
(with Wadih El Safi)
Souvenirs Wadih El Safi
Philémon Wehbé
Altaf Diney
Aatouni Derbake
Leyla Beky Feeha Al Amar - Soundtrack From Ahmed Yehya's Motion Picture The Night the Moon Cried Sout El Hob Mohamed Abdel Wahab
Omar Batiesha
Yalla Naish El Hayat
1982 Wadi Shamsine Sings Elias Rahbani Rahbania Elias Rahbani Waadouni W Natarouni
Rakesni Hayk
1985 Sabah in Hollywood (live) Sphinx Ma'moun El Shinnawi
Samy Farag
Ahlan Wa Sahlan
Ayam El Loulou Days of Loulou Relax-In Elie Choueiri Ayam El Loulou
1988 Yalla Naish El Hayat Let's Live This Life Jamal Salama Yalla Naish El Hayat
1993 Khatwa Khatwa Step by Step Khatwa Khatwa
Shoufo Shoufo
1996 La Tiaanidni Don't Hate Me Disco 99 La Tiaanidni


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  2. ^ Aïssa Djermouni, Algerian singer of Berber origin, performed at the Olympia in Paris in 1937; the Egyptian Umm Kulthum did it when she was 22 years of age
  3. ^ "Presence des musiques arabes en France : Immigrations, diasporas et musiques du monde" (PDF). Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Biographie De Aissa Djermouni". 9 October 2008. Archived from the original on 9 October 2008.
  5. ^ محطات غنائية في أفلام الشحرورة
  6. ^ a b Tsioulcas, Anastasia (26 November 2014). "Remembering Sabah, An Iconic And Thoroughly Unconventional Arab Star". NPR. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  7. ^ "National News Agency - Lebanese officials, artists bid adieu singing legend Sabah". National News Agency. 26 November 2014 – via
  8. ^ ydha001 (19 June 2015). "Who is Najat Al Saghira? | najatalsaghira". Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Sabah – obituary". The Telegraph. 1 December 2014. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  10. ^ Diaa Hadid. "Sabah: Singer and actress who recorded more than 3,000 songs but whose lifestyle scandalized the Middle East". The Independent. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Legendary Sabah – Prestige Magazine". 27 June 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Singer Sabah scores 9th husband to the 'married-to-Sabah-club'". Albawaba. 23 June 2011.
  13. ^ "Sabah, Lebanese singing legend, dies aged 87". BBC. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Thousands bid farewell to Lebanese diva Sabah | News , Lebanon News". The Daily Star. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  15. ^ "myTV – Al Shahroura". Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  16. ^ "El Shahroura". IMDb. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  17. ^ "Dubai International Film Festival". Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  18. ^ a b Mike Sabbagh (18 August 2004). "Yahoo! Groups". Yahoo!. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Sabah's 90th Birthday". 10 November 2017.
  20. ^ Sinno, Nadine (9 March 2017). "A War of Colors: Beirut Street Art and the Reclamation of Public Space". ASAP/Journal. 2 (1): 71–104. doi:10.1353/asa.2017.0017. ISSN 2381-4721. S2CID 193868123.
  21. ^ "Retrospective of Sabah's work at Dubai film fest – Emirates 24|7". Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  22. ^ "Sabah Discography at Discogs". discogs. Retrieved 6 July 2017.