'Voice of the Earth': Tributes paid as Iraqi singer Yas Khidr dies aged 85

Popular Arab musicians and cultural personalities honour the late artist

Iraqi artist and singer Yas Khidr has died at the age of 85 in Baghdad, Iraq. YouTube
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Iraqi singer Yas Khidr died on Saturday aged 85.

The celebrated artist, known as the “Voice of the Earth” and regarded as an authentic voice of Iraqi folk music, passed away in Baghdad.

News of his death was announced by the Iraqi Artists Syndicate on Facebook.

“With great sadness and sorrow, the Iraqi Artists Syndicate mourns the passing of the Voice of the Earth, the artist Yas Khidr, who passed away this evening in Baghdad as a result of an incurable disease,” read the statement.

Popular Iraqi and Arab musicians and cultural personalities paid tributes to Khidr online.

“I do not bid farewell to Yas Khidr, but I bid peace upon him and for his soul, which bestowed joy on millions of Arabs,” said Iraqi oud composer Naseer Shamma.

Moroccan-Iraqi singer Shatha Hassoun added: “The Voice of the Earth, Yas Khidr, has bid farewell. May God have mercy on him.”

Born in 1938 in the city of Najaf, south-west of Baghdad, Yas's mellifluous voice first gained prominence as a public reciter of the Quran.

It was in the late 1960s when his career took an artistic bent after he collaborated with Iraqi composer Muhammad Jawad Amori for the song Al Hadl. The tune became a mainstay on the local radio.

Not long after, he worked with influential composer Kamal Al Sayed for one of Khidr's signature songs Al Makir.

Khidr's later years featured plenty of career honours, including being feted at the 2005 Doha Tribeca Film Festival and at the 2008 Najm Al Qasid television ceremony in Dubai’s Zabeel Park.

Khidr continued to release music throughout his career, including 2022’s Ayami, which was released with a music video.

Translated to My Days, the song's lyrics speak of a gruelling life well lived: “I have had my share in this life. I will not live in this world. Even if I sell patience, where do you buy it?”

Khidr's death comes only a day after the Iraqi poet Karim Al Iraqi passed away, aged 68.

Al Iraqi's most popular songs were with singer Kadim Al Sahir.

The duo collaborated for more than four decades to produce several hits, including Nas Wa Nas and La Tahramouni Minh.

Shamma noted the deaths of these two Iraqi cultural ambassadors online.

“Yas Khidr leaves a few hours after the departure of Karim Al Iraqi, as if they were on a date for a song,” Shamma wrote.

Updated: September 03, 2023, 12:02 PM