The Arab pop music scene is mourning the sudden death of Egyptian composer and music arranger Ashraf Salem on Thursday at the age of 50, after two days at a hospital in Cairo due to chest pains.
"Ashraf Salem is one of the closest people to my heart," prominent poet Bahaa El Din Mohamed said on social media, requesting fans pray for the deceased.
Singer Samira Said, who worked with the composer, wrote that Salem’s passing “was totally unexpected” and said she was grieving.
Salem’s style of cyclic, catchy melodies entertained millions of pop fans over several decades.
He was one of the most successful composers of the early 2000s era, collaborating with a host of big names.
His debut was with Mohamed Mounir, dubbed “the king” by his ardent fans, for whom he composed Om El-Khodoud Romman (“Cheeks of Pomegranate”) for 1999's El-Farha (“Joy”) album.
He then paired with pop producer Hamid El-Shaeri, who insisted on singing Salem's Lyalina El-Helwa (“Our Sweet Nights”) himself despite megastar Amr Diab expressing an interest in the song.
In the same year, Salem composed Rouhi (“My Soul”). He wrote it for El-Shaeri but it was eventually sung by Samira Saida, and found wide success. In return, Salem gave the arranger his duet with Mostafa Amar, Ghazaly (“My Gazelle”), which was a major hit.
His success with El-Shaeri led Salem to team up with most of the pop stars in the region, creating dozens of hit melodies for names like Nawal El-Zoghbi, Saber Rebaï, Latifa, Diana Haddad, Hani Shaker, Medhat Saleh, Mohamed Fouad, Ehab Tawfik, Jannat, Mohamed Mohie, Bahaa Sultan, and Loay and Amal Maher, to name but a few.
Salem boosted the first steps of many singers, including Aline Khalaf, Mai Kassab and Khaled Selim, for whom he composed the full Eish (“Live”) album that enhanced the success of hit film El-Sellem Wel Teban (“The Ladder and the Snake”), the debut script by Mohamed Hefzy and directed by Tarek Al Eryan.
Some major 2000s-era hits written by Salem include Mohamed Mounir's Weily (“I'm on Fire”) and Soutek (“Your Voice”), Samira Said's Leila Habibi (“A Night, Lover”), Magd El-Qassem and Mai Kassab’s duet Ghammad Einek (“Close Your Eyes”), Mohie's Fel-Awel (“In the Beginning”), and Mostafa Amar's Aref Leih (“Do You Know Why”).
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