Milh al-Attara (fl. 840s)

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Milh al-Attara (fl. 840s)

Arabian singer. Flourished in the 840s at the court of Caliph al-Mutawakki (r. 847–861) in Samarra; associated with Shariyya, the great Arabian singer.

Little is known of the life of Milh al-Attara, whose name, possibly bestowed because of her love for scent, means "the perfumer." She was certainly a slave trained in the art of singing; she also had the good fortune to become part of the court of Caliph al-Mutawakki, who was greatly interested in the work of songstresses. Many of the most talented resided at his court. Milh al-Attara was described as an outstanding singer which must have been the case, given her presence at court. The only written instance from her life occurred when the great Shariyya had performed a song for the caliph. When he asked who had composed it, she did not know, but then Milh al-Attara told him who had composed it, thus demonstrating that she was knowledgeable as well as talented.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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