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Star of Egyptian Music Elsherei Dies at 64

Egypt's iconic musician, composer and singer Ammar Elsherei honored with top award at Cairo's International Film Festival in 2010 (Courtesy M. Al-Kaffas-Elsherei)
Ammar Elsherei, a giant of Egyptian music as a composer and performer, died Friday in a Cairo hospital, where he was being treated for a heart ailment. He was 64.

The award-winning Elsherei was one of Egypt's most popular musicians, penning such prominent songs as "Habibati" and "Al Hodoud," which has become an anthem for the Egyptian diaspora.

The American- and British-educated pianist, keyboardist and arranger wrote soundtracks and scores for movies, television series and soap operas. He also hosted "A Diver in A Sea of Tunes," an extremely popular radio and television show.

Elsherei suffered a severe heart attack last year in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where he joined protesters demanding the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's ruler for 30 years.

Renowned as a superstar among Arab contemporary musicians, Elsherei was born blind in southern Egypt in 1948. Reviewers said his melodic style and unconventional time signatures embodied a blend of the accessible and the progressive.

During his 42-year career, Elsherei released a series of brilliantly received conceptual albums, codifying a musical vocabulary of love and patriotism that resonated with millions of Egyptians and Arabs.

His funeral will be held in Cairo Saturday, then his body will be flown to his hometown of Samalut in southern Egypt.