Farida (c. 830–?)

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Farida (c. 830–?)

Arabian singer. Born around 830 ce; death date unknown; flourished in the court of Caliph al-Watiq (r. 842–847) and his brother Caliph al-Mutawakki (r. 847–861); married al-Mutawakki; children: at least one son.

Like many Arabian singers, Farida was a slave whose musical career depended not only on her own talents but also on the whims of her master. Farida was purchased, brought up, and educated by the singer Amr Ibn Bana before she was presented as a gift to Caliph al-Watiq. At his court, she studied with Shariyya , another singer, but rivalry began to distance the two. Their musical preferences may have caused dissent between them as Shariyya belonged to the romantic school of Arabic music while Farida preferred classical performers like Ishaq al-Mausili.

A member of Caliph al-Watiq's harem, Farida was his favorite and exerted considerable influence at court. But al-Watiq's obsession with her caused problems. As Farida played for him one day, he was seized with jealousy, perceiving that in the event of his death she would play as sweetly for his brother and heir. He kicked her from her seat and also broke her lute. When al-Watiq died, Farida did, indeed, come to belong to his brother, al-Mutawakki. Cut from the same cloth, al-Mutawakki became enraged whenever she sang mournful songs in memory of his late brother. Nonetheless, al-Mutawakki married Farida, and they had a son.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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