I had been curious about her for a while. Who was this Egyptian singer whose first name was "Om" and why were there so many of her tpaes and CDs in the Tower Records in Philadelphia (something which has, I think, changed since)? Eventually I randomly bought one of her CDs. The first recordings of hers that I heard, a few years before becoming very interested in Arabic music through more recent recordings in a much different style, were from late in her career: "Amal Hayati" and "Arouh Limeen," neither of which appealed to me. (They still are not favorites, though I prefer "Arouh Limeen" to "Amal Hayati.") The accompanying orchestra sounded a little too corny, as if it were a westerner's idea of what Arabic music should sound like. The not-at-all-rocking electric guitar in "Amal Hayati" did not help matters. Incidentally, that piece apparently contains an imitation of American "hoedown" music, something I didn't recognize as such until having it pointed out to me.
When I started going to an Arab grocery store to buy music cassettes, the owner sold me or loaned me--I forget which--an Oum Kalthoum cassette, along with the New Sound tapes I mostly was buying. (That was the basis of an inadvertant comedy routine between the owner and me. "So what do they call this music in Egypt?" "New Sound." "But what's the Arabic name?" "They call it New Sound." "There's not Arabic name?" "Well, sometimes they call it jeel, but, really, they call it New Sound." I was unable to grasp that they were using an English designation for this new form of spunky, but rather too formulaic, dance music. I would have been much happier calling it jeel or something exotic sounding like that.) It was another recording from late in her career. It might have been "Hazihi Leylati" or "Alf Lyla." I can't remember any longer. I listened to it, and I thought, "What is this?" Again, there was a strange mixture of strings and some modern instruments. Oum Kalthoum's voice did not sound particularly pretty or appealing. (Warda's was much easier for me to get into.) The audience periodically laughed or broke into frantic applause for reasons I could not comprehend. I was not sold.
However, I developed a taste for some other Arabic music: George Wassouf (whose versions of Oum Kalthoum songs were often my first exposure to those songs), Warda, Mohammed Abdo, Milhem Baraket, and other things here and there. My sense of this chronology is pretty blurred, mind you. At some point, I ended up listening to some Oum Kalthoum songs that made an impression on me. I got to like some of the later, sometimes wildly eclectic, pieces, but not primarily for Oum Kalthoum's singing. (I still often don't really enjoy her singing on the later (60's/early 70's) recordings.) One of the first recordings I remember really impressing me, for the quality of her singiing, was "Ya Zalamny." There is a point when she slows down and really stretches out the line she is singing in a way that reminded me of Qur'anic recitation (which I had already heard a bit of by this point). And she was doing something. I don't know what she is doing, but she's doing something, maybe switching from one maqam to another. She's bending the line she's singing and it's doing something to me. I don't often consider her voice really beautiful, as such, but in this recording it is. Rarely does she sound as vulnerable as she does in the opening lines of "Ya Zalamny."
As I started listening more carefully to her singing, and listening to recordings beore 1960, I began to pay attention to the variations in the way she would deliver the same line, one of the places where much of her art occurs. I started getting into the way she would hold one syllable for a while (often an "m") and then suddenly toss out the remainder of the phrase. And I found her singing to be moving, and not just a technical excercise.
There are some limitations to these recordings. The strings are still sometimes a stumbling block for me--not Ahmed al-Hifnawi's often brilliant soloing, but the overall sound of the string section. As her career progressed, the formula for the way the string parts were written seemed to become more rigid (though this is not to say I don't enjoy any of the string parts at this point, at lest for specific sections). This is my impression anyway. In some of the earlier recordings there is more evident interplay among the instrumentalists. Sometimes I am not in the mood to focus so much on this one singer, or the dramatic persona she is musically conjuring. There is always an ego at the center of this music, not necessarily Oum Kalthoum's ego, but an imaginary one expressing a moment or telling a story. This isn't necessarily music you put on just to create an atmosphere. Perhaps it was that way for me when I started getting into it, but now I kind of feel that I have to follow the unfolding drama of her singing. You are kind of stuck with this person or persona the entire time.
However, she covers a lot of ground. Although I don't like all the decisions her composers made, they were clearly brilliant, taken overall. Riad el Sounbatti and Zakariya Ahmed created incredible vehicles to bring out her creative powers as a singer. I'm less convinced that Abdel Wahab did this as well, but there are some unforgetable all-instrumenal passages in some of his compositions for her. There are distinctive phases to compositional style from the 1920's through to the 1970's, so there is a fair amount of variety across her career. It has taken me a whle to acquire a taste for this music and to learn to feel it, but given some patience, it can be quite rewarding.
― DeRayMi, Wednesday, 14 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Josh, Wednesday, 14 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Lynskey, Wednesday, 14 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Okay, I'll go to bed now and leave this alone.
BUT...please don't forget about Asmahan, another great singer who
died early in life. Om Kalsoum's only true competition.
Asmahan's brother is also a very good.
― , Thursday, 15 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― mark s, Thursday, 15 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
mark s, I've seen some unbelievable versions of some of these titles,
including one for "Robaiyat el Khayam" which was something
like "Robaaaiyaaet" etc. with all these a's in a row.
― DeRayMi, Thursday, 15 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Umm when I was updating information for a reprint of it she told me
she'd heard Rounder was about to release some lavish retrospective. I
called Rounder to confirm -- they have great zydeco hold music on
their phone system -- but they said they had no idea what I was
― nabisco, Thursday, 15 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Actually I even bought a copy of her dissertation before the book came
out (the only dissertation I've ever purchased). My appreciation for
the book has increased as I've continued to listen to Oum Kalthoum.
It might be of some general interest as a slice of 20th century
Egyptian social history, though it's probably going to mainly be of
interest to those interested in Arabic music.
The Rounder rumor is intriguing. I imagine I would already have a lot
of what such a collection would cover though. I think it would be
difficult to make a compilation of her works, since she usually
stretched songs out to around an hour or so.
― Paul Eater, Friday, 16 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― DeRayMi, Friday, 16 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
My favorite general choice for an introduction to her work is Robaiyat el Khayam. I consider it a comparatively accessible recording, but one which still gives some indication of why she was great (and a recording, incidentally, which I find I can listen to in just about any mood). Ya Zalamny, mentioned above, has a very immediate emotional impact (at least to me) which I think also makes it a good entree into this artist's work.
Because of the (somewhat unusual) degree of improvisatory interaction between ensemble members and Oum Kalthoum in Ana Fe Entezarak I consider it a particularly good introduction for listeners coming from a jazz orientation. I find the beginning somewhat slow-going but it builds into something quite remarkable. Other early works that I particuarly like include: Habibi Yessaied, Salo Koos, and Ya Toul Azzabi.
I don't find her singing in the recordings from the 60's quite as impressive, but there is still some good music here. Inta Omry is quite popular, though not really a personal favorite. (If you buy it, try to buy the studio version.) The 60's introduced into her orchestra some odd combinations of electric guitar and electric organ, often with what sounds to my ears to be a psychedelic tinge. (Hearing Arabic played on electric organ tends to be inherently psychedelic, however.) There are some passages, which are pretty mind-bogglingly wonderful. At other times the material sounds overly dated, or too campy. Some good examples would be Mein Agle Aynaika, Layalt Hob and Hazihi Leylaty (which is probably the best of those three, with some pretty fine singing--but make sure you have the live version). Fakarouni is also pretty good, though I'm not sure if it's the sort of thing that would attract a first time listener to Oum Kalthoum.
There's quite a bit more that I have which is worthwhile, and then there are a lot of recordings I haven't yet gotten.
― DeRayMi, Sunday, 25 August 2002 00:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― boxcubed (boxcubed), Sunday, 25 August 2002 00:51 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― DeRayMi, Sunday, 1 September 2002 15:13 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I really enjoyed it and now i'm off in another direction. I hope to get hold of more recordings in the coming months (yr list above will be a guide) though I will prob spend more time with this cassete for now (I just want to spend sometime at home just listening to records).
Thanks for the cassete. that was very very kind of you.
I'm gonna burn a cecil taylor disc for you. How abt 'Silent tongues' (a solo set from 1974)? If you got it already let me know because I've got more.
― Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 1 September 2002 17:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― DeRayMi, Sunday, 1 September 2002 17:58 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Shady Amin, Thursday, 26 December 2002 08:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
My two centsJan
― Jan Geerinck, Thursday, 26 December 2002 08:53 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Actually, I'd be interested in recommendations on the best Abdel Wahab recordings. I hadn't heard much performed by him that I liked, but this past summer I picked up the CD with "Toul Oumri" "Igry Igry" etc. and found that I enjoyed it.
This board (as you can see) isn't particularly focused on Arabic music, but we can still discuss it.
I think I need to get a high-speed connection before I get back into collectng MP3s.
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 12:39 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 16:51 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I have a question. What looks to be a fairly respectable series of Khaltoum CDs called "Diva of Arabic Music" turns up on the Web a lot (although I've never seen them in local shops). Do you know anything about these--do they contain music from throughout her career, etc? Also, have you heard any of her work from the 1920s'? The All Music Guide lists two compilations on the label Artistes Arabes. Do you know if and where these might be available?
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
What city do you live in, incidentally?
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
(Nabisco: I may have met you. But -- how do we break the veil of anonymity without revealing our identities to all and sundry?)
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:16 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:36 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:39 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I dunno, was it at a Microphones show? I'm not super-keen on the veil of anonymity thing, my name's Nitsuh.
― nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:39 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:45 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 17:52 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 18:53 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 19:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 19:56 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 20:02 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 20:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 20:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
A good web-site for online distribution of Arabic music is www.maqam.com. A little more thorough than amazon.com.
― Rockist Scientist, Thursday, 26 December 2002 20:59 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 21:08 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 21:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
(I think Lata Mangeshkar is still numerically ahead.)
― rs, Thursday, 26 December 2002 21:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I should just get the book, shouldn't I.
― Amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 26 December 2002 22:40 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Wednesday, 8 January 2003 03:32 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Not particularly recommended: Habibati Man Takoun, Ya Malik an [Malikan?] Kalbi, Maddah el Amar.
A lot of people can't stand him and consider him a creation of Mohammed Abdel Wahab meant to compete with Farid el Atrache when Abdel Wahab could no longer sing; but Oum Kalthoum said good things about Abdel Halim Hafez, so it's hard to believe he wasn't a good singer. However, I personally don't think he's on the same level as Oum Kalthoum, Asmahan, Abdel Wahab, Farid, and Fairouz.
I think Oum Kalthoum acted and sang in about five films. (Yes, get the book: it's pretty good.) She was generally not considered as effective as a film star as she was as a live concert performer. Asmahan was much more comfortable as an actor, and she also had the glamorous looks for it. (On the other hand, she was pretty terrified of live performances. It would have been very interesting to see how the competition between these two would have unfolded had Asmahan not died at 24.) If you're interested in Asmahan, btw, the recently released EMI Arabia BBC recordings of Asmahan are a good (though the sound quality is spotty). Farid el Atrache had a long career starring in movies, and I'm pretty sure that Abdel Halim also appeared in films. I think they pretty much all did, to one degree or another. Plus there were some less known, but still pretty prominent, singers who also had combined singing/acting careers.
I'm glad to see this thread was recovered. I was a little worried.
― Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 8 January 2003 04:12 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 10 January 2003 18:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Rockist Scientist, Saturday, 11 January 2003 17:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Shady Amin, Tuesday, 14 January 2003 23:32 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 15 January 2003 00:56 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― curmudgeon, Friday, 13 January 2017 18:23 (one year ago) Permalink
The fourth performance on that playlist has some phenomenal instrumental soloing toward the end. It's great to hear some of the key accompanists stretch out more than they often have the chance to do. The concert ends up feeling very distinctive. Crowd is completely nuts.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 05:54 (one year ago) Permalink
The oudist almost never takes solos, and here he is laying down this amazing takasim.
Needles to say, she had nothing but the best musicians in her orchestra, especially in lead roles.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 05:57 (one year ago) Permalink
This fifth performance, she is messing with the audience's head early on. I think she's working in an unexpected modulation to a different maqam, but not even during an unmetered section where improvisation is more expected. Really interesting stuff. I wasn't as taken with the second and third performances on this playlist.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 21:15 (one year ago) Permalink
This is fantastic.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 21:18 (one year ago) Permalink
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 21:39 (one year ago) Permalink
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 21:40 (one year ago) Permalink
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 January 2017 21:45 (one year ago) Permalink
I don't know if this excerpt is from a concert posted in complete form elsewhere. It's hard to explain why some of this is so amazing. If you aren't familiar with the song (I'm still listening through the Ya Zalamny playlist linked to above), it would probably be more difficult to hear it. The pauses/breaks are quite distinctive.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 16 January 2017 05:21 (one year ago) Permalink
Sahran Lewahdi with what I guess are shortwave radio (or some kind of radio) noises mixed in here and there!
Ney solo + woooOOOOoooo of scifi radio bubble sounds.
Good performance too.
― _Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 17 January 2017 05:43 (one year ago) Permalink
Good entry point for fans of early electronic music.
― _Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 17 January 2017 05:44 (one year ago) Permalink
ولد الهدى Woleda el Hoda (Oulida el Hoda)
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 22 January 2017 00:20 (one year ago) Permalink
I noticed that in some of the 50s recordings, the percussion jumps out, at least at times, more than in later recordings. I like it. It might particularly be drew of the religiously-themed material (like the song above).
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 22 January 2017 00:24 (one year ago) Permalink
I don't understand why there aren't more performances of "Habibi Yes`ed Awqatu" (حبيبى يسعد اوقاته). I think that is one of her greatest songs. It's one of the first ones I really liked. The Palestinian who helped me get oriented in Arabic music was surprised that I singled that one out, as he said he had only recently come to appreciate it (and perhaps music by Zakaria Ahmed from that era in general).
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 22 January 2017 04:16 (one year ago) Permalink
Haven't finished with this, but so far it's yet another extraordinary performance of Robaeyat El Khayam:
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 28 January 2017 06:57 (one year ago) Permalink
Like the lines are different channels she is switching between, always on, but only heard one at a time.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 28 January 2017 16:33 (one year ago) Permalink
I somehow forgot about the Robaeyat El Khayam playlist (on Nizar Nasser's channel) before. This is high priority hear-before-I-die material.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 30 January 2017 04:50 (one year ago) Permalink
Studio version of Robaeyat el Khayam. I've never heard this before:
― _Rudipherous_, Thursday, 23 February 2017 03:56 (one year ago) Permalink
Relationship of accompaniment to vocal line is quite different in places. 22:25-22:40. Those heavy flourishes from the accompaniment. Sounds odd to me. Anyway, I've never noticed any live versions that stick to that. Maybe it's there and I just haven't noticed. But it almost has to be more subtle if it hasn't jumped out in the same way, so it would still be different to a degree.
― _Rudipherous_, Thursday, 23 February 2017 04:54 (one year ago) Permalink
Odd how there is a slow instrumental conclusion to the performance. In live performance the real ending is always with her last climactic vocal closure.
― _Rudipherous_, Thursday, 23 February 2017 05:09 (one year ago) Permalink
A very strong Shams El Aseel:
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 2 April 2017 04:03 (one year ago) Permalink
One of the best songs written for her in the 60s, Aqolak Eh An El Shouq:
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 22 May 2017 02:54 (one year ago) Permalink
Longer than the standard recording, and I'm pretty sure it's from a different concert. Some of the ornamentation on the lead violin's lines in the beginning isn't there in this one, if I'm not mistaken. I should know for sure, but it's not something I've listened to all that recently.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 22 May 2017 02:56 (one year ago) Permalink
Takes her accompaniment a long time to realize she is going to repeat the verses she just sang, rather than move on, at: 5:47. Maybe her kanunist missed a cue.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 22 May 2017 23:15 (one year ago) Permalink
"Ela Arafat Allah," in a similar style as Nahj el Borda and Oulida al Hoda:
― _Rudipherous_, Friday, 26 May 2017 00:26 (one year ago) Permalink
Youtube is placing an add in the middle. Man, is that annoying. I am hoping that will go away if I play as embedded video.
― _Rudipherous_, Friday, 26 May 2017 00:27 (one year ago) Permalink
"Ela Arafat Allah" is so good.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 29 May 2017 16:21 (one year ago) Permalink
Kinda bugs me, that with her deserved fame, her name is still "mother of Kalthoum". Her birthname, btw, is Fātimah ʾIbrāhīm as-Sayyid al-Biltāǧī.
― it's just locker room treason (Sanpaku), Monday, 29 May 2017 16:36 (one year ago) Permalink
I guess you know that Umm Kulthum was one of the companions of the Prophet, so it's got a certain cachet in that cultural context.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 29 May 2017 23:23 (one year ago) Permalink
I don't know the history of how the subject of this thread ended up with that name though. I don't remember if I've ever read an explanation.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 29 May 2017 23:24 (one year ago) Permalink
I can also see how the name's background doesn't necessarily make it any less annoying that her name is mother of somebody or other.
― _Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 30 May 2017 01:34 (one year ago) Permalink
40s and 50s songs are generally so much better. There are a few exceptions, but really just a few as far as I'm concerned. *eating a handful of Ajwa dates*
I love that Spotify has a bunch of her "singles" in chronological order now. There are some difficult songs with difficult titles that I've always had trouble keeping track of. This helps.
― _Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 30 May 2017 03:57 (one year ago) Permalink
I mean, a lot of the later material has fantastic and memorable melodies but the songs don't work as well as vehicles for her singing.
― _Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 30 May 2017 04:03 (one year ago) Permalink
"taking a [vocal] line out for a walk"
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 10 June 2017 21:53 (one year ago) Permalink
Another Saturday with El Sett, coming later, once I'm more awake.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 17 June 2017 16:31 (one year ago) Permalink
If the single-digit humidity doesn't kill me.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 17 June 2017 16:34 (one year ago) Permalink
I made an Oum Kalthoum playlist. Nothing special, just my favorite songs as available on Spotify. (There are some crucial, commercially available live recordings missing from Spotify.)
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 25 June 2017 15:14 (eleven months ago) Permalink
I actually feel guilty it's so short, but I was being very selective. I might add some later songs eventually. If they had a good live Hazihi Leylati. . . Or maybe if they had the studio Inta Omri. . . The beginning of Baid Anak is stunning, but I do think it goes on too long, with too many audience-demanded repetitions of sections that don't actually help.
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 25 June 2017 15:19 (eleven months ago) Permalink
I haven't watched this yet, but the introduction alone is mind-blowing. Nasser arrives with his security detail/entourage, at one point.
Domtek is either a great new channel or one I had missed previously.
― _Rudipherous_, Sunday, 3 December 2017 23:58 (six months ago) Permalink
I don't really love Amal Hayati though.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 4 December 2017 00:22 (six months ago) Permalink
A very fast-tempoed Howwa Sahih that I don't think I've heard before. Definitely have not seen before.
That's more like it.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 4 December 2017 02:26 (six months ago) Permalink
(Abdel Wahab songs so overrated. Sorry to be a broken record.)
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 4 December 2017 02:29 (six months ago) Permalink
I think Oum Kalthoum audiences might be my favorite audience. Another Nasser siting at the end of the video above, incidentally. Unfortunately, there's a glitch in the middle and the sound drops out.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 4 December 2017 18:11 (six months ago) Permalink
Also, the seriousness of the announcers is great.
Howwa Sahih really has Zakariya Ahmed written all over it.
― _Rudipherous_, Saturday, 6 January 2018 02:12 (five months ago) Permalink
Patience has its limits, indeed.
― _Rudipherous_, Monday, 8 January 2018 23:30 (five months ago) Permalink
Have we realized yet how perfect this is?
― How do I feel a complaint? (_Rudipherous_), Saturday, 13 January 2018 17:40 (five months ago) Permalink
Did not realize till the other night that there’s a song in the Tony Award winning musical, The Band’s Visit, called “”Oum Kulthum and Omar Sharif.” One of the stars of the show who sang it on the Tonys, gave a shoutout when she won an award, to the late Kulthum.
― curmudgeon, Wednesday, 13 June 2018 04:07 (five days ago) Permalink
Anyone seen 'Looking for Oum Kulthum'? I wasn't that big of a fan, Shirin Neshat makes it into a meta-movie that is to a large part about herself, but the recreations of scenes from Kulthums career are really good.
― Frederik B, Wednesday, 13 June 2018 11:51 (five days ago) Permalink
Haven’t seen it.
― curmudgeon, Wednesday, 13 June 2018 15:26 (five days ago) Permalink