Wide Angle

Maya Casabianca, Morocco-born singer and Farid El Atrach’s lifelong lover

Born in Casablanca to a Jewish family, Maya Casabianca is a singer who was known for her love relationship with Egyptian-Syrian singer Farid El Atrach. Never married, Maya loved the lifelong bachelor until the last day of her life.

Maya Casabianca, a Morocco-born French-Israeli singer. / DR
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When Syrian-Egyptian singer, composer and actor Farid El Atrach visited Morocco for the first time in the 1950s, little did he know that one day he would do so for the love of a Moroccan singer.

The lifelong bachelor was deeply in love with Casablanca-born singer Maya Casabianca. But their love affair never translated into marriage and remained a beautiful memory that was celebrated and cherished by the Jewish singer until the last day of her life.

Born in 1940 in Morocco to a Jewish family, Maya was, like many young girls of her generation, an adamant fan of Farid, an icon of romance in the Middle East and the Arab world during last century.

Her musical journey started in Paris in the 1950s, after she joined her parents, after a short stay in Israel with her aunt. Her father, who worked as a concert organizer, helped her debut in the artistic world.

Meeting Farid in France

Born under the name Margalist Azran, the young singer was given her stage name by Italian-French actor and singer Yves Montand, referring to her birthplace, Le Figaro wrote. Maya recalls in her memoirs, the first time she met Farid.

During her first concert, in October 1960, Maya performed in front of a big group of renowned artists. One of them was Farid El Atrach. «I looked at the crowd and was amazed at the large number of known names that came to attend my first concert», she recalled, adding that Farid was among the attendees.

«I wanted Farid to remember the voice of that girl who sang», Casabianca said. And so he did. Farid loved her singing and talent. «I must say that the spark of love started that day, I was excited and stressed, shaking the hand of this handsome man whose songs I spent hours singing and who I was dreaming to meet», she said.

This is how Farid and Maya’s love story started. In her autobiography, published in 2001 in Arabic and in Hebrew, Maya spoke about her relationship with El Atrach. She revealed that «she asked Farid to marry her many times but he stayed adamant on his decision to remain a bachelor».

She even said that his song «Ya Gamil, Ya Gamil» was written about her. After it was released, Maya sang the translated version of the song in French, which «made her into a global superstar». The Morocco-born singer has even reported that Farid El Atrach composed most of her 320 songs.

The break up

Although she loved him and kept a portrait of him in her house, even after his passing, Maya had to break up with the singer.

After gaining fame in France, Lebanon and Syria, Maya received backlash for her «infamous Hatikvah concert in the Soviet Union, in which she decided to reveal her Jewish identity».

After hiding her Jewish identity for years under the request of her producers, Maya had to leave Beirut and eventually leave Farid El Atrach.

In her memoir, she «mentions the moment [she] saw Farid for the last time», recalling that she «burst out crying». «Farid told [her] 'if I could I would be by your side forever'», she added. After leaving Farid in the 60s, Maya refused all marriage proposals that came her way and decided to live on the memory of her first and last lover.

On December 31, 2018, she passed away in Israel, 44 years after the death of Farid El Atrach.

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