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Asmahan, sister and co-star of the great Farid al-Abash, has been called the only voice that can be compared with Umm Kulthum's, but with (as one Arab expert put it) more "tenderness and femininity." A master of the traditional sound, she was also on the cutting edge of the film-oriented and to some extent Western-oriented 1940s "new music," and some of her most unforgettable songs were in that vein. Her brother sings with her on many of her recordings. Asmahan's fame was increased by her (not very) private life. During World War II she was reputed to be a triple if not quadruple agent, and the more heated Cairene gossip even claimed her fatal car accident was courtesy of the British Secret Service! ~ John Storm Roberts