Mary Jubran (1911-1956) was born in Beirut,
but raised in Damascus during the early years of World War I. She launched her artistic career
at the age of 16, performing on the stages of Beirut, Aleppo, and Jerusalem.
In 1929, Jubran performed
before Salama al-Hijazi, an Egyptian contractor visiting Damascus. Hijazi loved
her voice and brought her to Cairo for a one-year contract. In addition to
singing, Jubran acted on the Egyptian stage with theatre star Hussein al-Barbari.
She returned to Syria when
her contract expired, but was unable to find a decent job given that show
business and stage singing were frowned upon by conservative society in
went briefly to Beirut where she performed at local nightclubs, becoming
popular for her beauty and strong voice. Syrian agents were no longer able to
ignore her. They hunted her down in Beirut and offered to bring her to the
Damascus stage, to perform nightly at the Qasr al-Ballour Nightclub in Bab
In 1932, Badia Masabni, an Egyptian dancer,
hired Jubran for another contract in Egypt, where as a more mature performer
she became a huge success. Her performances had improved and her physical
features matured, making her one of the main attractions of Cairo nightlife and
earning her the nickname, "Mary the Beautiful." She befriended
leading Egyptian composers like Mohammad al-Qassabji, Zakariya Ahmad, and Daoud
Husni. These men had helped elevate the Egyptian diva Um Kalthum to stardom and
had previously done wonders for the Syrian singer Asmahan.
Her rapid fame, however, annoyed many
well-established Egyptian artists, who began to defame her, claiming that she
should return to Syria. They applied pressure on the Egyptian government to
extradite her, and when that failed, circulated rumors that tarnished her
reputation. In spite of strong pressure to leave, she remained in Egypt until
When she returned to Syria, Mary Jubran
became the number one artist in Damascus. She signed a contract for daily
performances at Abbasid Club in Damascus for a staggering salary of 150 gold
coins per month. She performed her own songs, but also sang the well-known
songs of the Egyptian divas Um Kalthum and Munira al-Mahdiyya. When the Syrian
National Radio was established in 1947, Jubran began to perform on radio and
recorded her classic song, Khamrat al-Rabi (Wine of Spring).
During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Jubran
stopped singing romantic verse. Instead, she concentrated on national anthems
and lyrics. Among her classics in 1948 were the songs Dimashq and Zanoubia,
composed by Zaki Mohammad.
In 1950, she co-founded and was voted president of the
Syrian Musicians Syndicate, a predecessor of the Artists Guild that was later
established in the 1960s.
Mary Jubran developed cancer and died at the age of 45 in June 1956.