Sapho

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Sapho was born in 1950 to Jewish parents in the predominantly Islamic country of Morocco (Marrakesh, to be exact). When she was 16, her family emigrated to France, although Sapho continued her studies…
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Sapho was born in 1950 to Jewish parents in the predominantly Islamic country of Morocco (Marrakesh, to be exact). When she was 16, her family emigrated to France, although Sapho continued her studies at a boarding school in Switzerland. By 18, she was living on her own in Paris, taking acting lessons, and playing guitar and singing on the streets.

A short time later, a musician friend convinced her to audition for the famed music school, Le Petit Conservatoire de Mireille. Sapho soon abandoned her acting studies in favor of music. A demo tape that was shopped around led to a signing by RCA, who released Le Balayeur du Rex in 1977 to little notice.

After a brief stint as a French journalist in New York, it was back to Paris, then to London to record her second album, Janis, released in 1980. Now fully back into music, Sapho released three albums over the next three years before taking another brief break to concentrate on a book of drawings that was eventually published.

Sapho returned to music in 1985, with Passions, Passons, which saw her leaving the rock sound of her previous albums to embrace the Middle Eastern sounds she had grown up with; leading to a series of concerts at Le Bataclan, where she began performing her arrangements of songs made popular by the great Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum.

The next few years saw Sapho branching out further: she published two novels, was involved with making a film about the Intafada, and performed in a Threepenny Opera, all the while still performing and recording her own music. Starting in 1992, she focused on the music of Oum Kalthoum, releasing a full album of that material, and touring the world, even performing in Jerusalem in 1994. Her next album, Jardin Andalou (1996), blended rock with Arabic and Andalusian elements. This was followed by Digital Sheikha, a more dance-based album for the Swiss Baraka label. In 1999, La Route Nue des Hirondelles was released, along with her third novel, Beaucoup Autour de Rien. She transformed La Route Nue des Hirondelles into a stage show, which she toured for the next couple years while also continuing with the Oum Kalthoum material. Returning to recording, Orients was released in 2003.