CAIRO: Algerian singer Warda, whose powerful vocal range and patriotic songs earned her legendary status throughout the Arab world, died of a heart attack late on Thursday aged 72, her family said.
Known throughout the region as Warda al-Jazairia (Warda the Algerian), she performed for presidents and popular audiences, reinventing herself throughout the decades to appeal to old and young alike.
"She dedicated all of her life to her art, and she dedicated her art to her country," Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told the APS news agency. "Her voice will be heard in all arenas of art, a gift that seals the greatness of her soul."
Warda, whose name means "Rose" in Arabic, will be buried in El Alia cemetery east of Algiers on Saturday after her body is flown home from Egypt following prayers in that country, according to Egyptian officials and APS.
A plane carrying her body landed in the capital Algiers at 2030 GMT. Its arrival aired live on Algerian television with three government ministers and a slew of artists on hand to greet the body.
Warda became known in the Arab world for her patriotic songs during the Algerian war of independence from France and began to work in Egypt, with the likes of famed singer Mohamed Abdelwahab.
She had music lessons from other renowned Egyptian vocalists, including Oum Kalthoum and Abdelhalim Hafez, before performing her own songs to music composed by her Tunisian mentor, Sadeq Thuraya.
After Algerian independence, she returned home and married in 1962. Ten years later, she returned to Egypt and performed some of her best-known songs and took roles in several films.
Algerian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi said the death of "the Algerian rose" meant "one of the most beautiful voices of Algeria and the Arab world has just become silent for ever."
She "has gone leaving behind her a deafening silence and a profound sadness," Toumi said in a message of condolences published by APS.
Born Warda Fatouki in France in 1939 to an Algerian father and Lebanese mother, the singer spent most of her adult life in Egypt.
The finest years of her career followed her meeting with composer Baligh Hamdi, who eventually became her second husband. She sold millions of albums, with a repertoire of more than 300 songs.
Warda's body will lie in state at the capital's Kouba culture palace from 0900 GMT to allow Algerians to pay their final respects.