Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Umm Kulthum

Umm Kulthum

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Umm Kulthum'
Start a new discussion about 'Umm Kulthum'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Umm Kulthum (December 31, 1898–February 3, 1975) was an Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian singer, songwriter
Songwriter
A songwriter is an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer...

, and actress. Born in Tamay ez-Zahayra village that belongs to El Senbellawein
El Senbellawein
El Senbellawein is a city in the Dakahlia Governorate of Egypt. Located about south of el-Mansurah, it has a population of around 435,000 inhabitants....

, she is known as "the star of the East" (kawkab el-sharq). More than three decades after her death, she is widely regarded as the greatest female singer in Arab music history.

Various spellings of her name include Om Kalsoum, Om Koulsum, Om Kalthoum, Oumme Kalsoum and Umm Kolthoum.

Early life


Umm Kulthum was born in Tamay ez-Zahayra village in El Senbellawein
El Senbellawein
El Senbellawein is a city in the Dakahlia Governorate of Egypt. Located about south of el-Mansurah, it has a population of around 435,000 inhabitants....

, Dakahlia Governorate
Dakahlia Governorate
Dakahlia Governorate is an Egyptian governorate lying north east of Cairo. Its area is about 3,500 km² and it has a population of about 5 million. The capital is Mansoura.-Overview:...

, Egypt, in Dakahlia, in the Nile Delta
Nile Delta
The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers some 240 km of Mediterranean coastline—and is a rich...

, near the Mediterranean Sea. Her birth date is unconfirmed as birth registration was not enforced throughout the Arab world. The Egyptian Ministry of Information seems to have given either December 31, 1898, or December 31, 1904. She was likely born some time between these two dates.

At a young age, she showed exceptional singing talent. Her father, an Imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

, taught her to recite the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

, and she is said to have memorized the entire book. When she was 12 years old, her father disguised her as a young boy and entered her in a small performing troupe that he directed. At the age of 16, she was noticed by Mohamed Aboul Ela
Mohamed Aboul Ela
Mohamed Abo Elala is an Egyptian player, who plays for El-Entag El-Harby. Abo Elala was a former Zamalek captain. The left-footed can play either as a Centr-Midfielder or Left Wingback.-Zamalek:...

, a modestly famous singer, who taught her the old classical repertoire. A few years later, she met the famous composer and oud
Oud
The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern music. The modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor via diverging paths...

ist Zakariyya Ahmad
Zakariyya Ahmad
Zakariyya Ahmad was an Egyptian musician and composer. He composed many pieces in a traditional Egyptian folk style. His works include solo pieces and film scores, and he composed for Umm Kulthum beginning with a taqtuqa written in 1925.His father was Egyptian and his mother was Turkish.-External...

, who invited her to come to Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

. Although she made several visits to Cairo in the early 1920s, she waited until 1923 before permanently moving there. She was invited on several occasions to the house of Amin Beh Al Mahdy, who taught her how to play the oud, a type of lute. She developed a very close relationship to Rawheya Al Mahdi, daughter of Amin, and became her closest friend. Kulthum even attended Rawheya's daughter's wedding, although she always tried to avoid public appearances.

Amin Al Mahdi introduced her to the cultural circles in Cairo. In Cairo, she carefully avoided succumbing to the attractions of the bohemian
Bohemianism
Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits...

 lifestyle, and indeed throughout her life stressed her pride in her humble origins and espousal of conservative values. She also maintained a tightly managed public image, which undoubtedly added to her allure.

At this point in her career, she was introduced to the famous poet Ahmad Rami
Ahmed Rami (poet)
Ahmed Mohammed Rami was an Egyptian poet. He is best known for writing lyrics for the famous Egyptian singers Umm Kalthoum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Rami was also a translator. His famous works include translations of several of Shakespeare's plays and the famous quatrains of the Persian poet...

, who wrote 137 songs for her. Rami also introduced her to French literature
French literature
French literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the French language, particularly by citizens of France; it may also refer to literature written by people living in France who speak traditional languages of France other than French. Literature written in French language, by citizens...

, which he greatly admired from his studies at the Sorbonne
Sorbonne
The Sorbonne is an edifice of the Latin Quarter, in Paris, France, which has been the historical house of the former University of Paris...

, Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, and eventually became her head mentor in Arabic literature
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

 and literary analysis. Furthermore, she was introduced to the renowned oud
Oud
The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern music. The modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor via diverging paths...

 virtuoso and composer Mohamed El Qasabgi
Mohamed El Qasabgi
Mohamed el-Qasabgi was an Egyptian musician and composer, and is regarded as one of the five leading composers of Egypt in the 20th century. Most of his credits went to Umm Kulthum, Asmahan, and Layla Murad who sang most of his great works and scores...

. El Qasabgi introduced Umm Kulthum to the Arabic Theatre Palace, where she would experience her first real public success. In 1932, her fame increased to the point where she embarked upon a large tour of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, touring such cities as Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, Syria; Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Iraq; Beirut
Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

 and Tripoli, Lebanon
Tripoli, Lebanon
Tripoli is the largest city in northern Lebanon and the second-largest city in Lebanon. Situated 85 km north of the capital Beirut, Tripoli is the capital of the North Governorate and the Tripoli District. Geographically located on the east of the Mediterranean, the city's history dates back...

.

Fame


Umm Kulthum's establishment as one of the most famous and popular Arab singer was driven by several factors. During her early career years, she faced staunch competition from two prominent singers: Mounira El Mahdeya
Mounira El Mahdeya
Mounira El Mahdeya was an Egyptian singer born in 1885 in Alexandria; she died in 1965. The singer, better known under the nickname of "Sultana of the song" or "The Sultana", was considered to be the leading Egyptian singer between the two wars.-Career:She studied in a French nuns’ school, after...

 and Fathiyya Ahmad, who had equally beautiful and powerful voices. However, Mounira had poor control over her voice, and Fathiyya lacked the emotive vocal impact that Umm Kulthum's voice had. The presence of all these enabling vocal characteristics attracted the most famous composers, musicians, and lyricists to work with Umm Kulthum.

In the mid-1920s, Mohammad el Qasabgi, who was the most virtuosic oud player and one of the most accomplished yet understated Arab composers of the 20th century, formed her small orchestra (takht
Takht (music)
For uses of Takht in contexts other than music, see Takht.Takht is the representative musical ensemble, the orchestra, of Middle Eastern music...

) composed of the most virtuosic instrumentalists. Furthermore, unlike most of her contemporary artists who held private concerts, Umm Kulthum's performances were open to the general public, which contributed to the transition from classical, and often elitist, to popular Arabic music.

By 1934, Umm Kulthum must have been one of the most famous singers in Egypt to be chosen as the artist to inaugurate Radio Cairo with her voice on May 31. Over the second half of the 1930s, two initiatives sealed the fate of Umm Kulthum as the most popular and famous Arab singer: her appearances in musical movies and the live broadcasting of her concerts performed on the first Thursday of each month of her musical season from October to June. Her influence kept growing and expanding beyond the artistic scene: the reigning royal family would request private concerts and even attend her public performances.

In 1944, King Farouk I of Egypt decorated her with the highest level of orders (nishan el kamal), a decoration reserved exclusively to members of the royal family and politicians. Despite this recognition, the royal family rigidly opposed her potential marriage with the King's uncle, a rejection that deeply wounded her pride and led her to distance herself from the royal family and embrace grassroots causes, such as her answering the request of the Egyptian legion trapped in Falujah during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict to sing a particular song. Among the army men trapped were the figures who were going to lead the bloodless revolution of July 23, 1952, prominently Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

, arguably he was a fan of Umm Kulthum and who would later become the president of Egypt.

Early after the revolution, the Egyptian musicians guild of which she became a member (and eventually president) rejected her because she had sung for the then-deposed King Farouk of Egypt. When Nasser discovered that her songs were forbidden from being aired on the radio, he reportedly said something to the effect of "What are they, crazy? Do you want Egypt to turn against us?" It was his favor that made the musicians' guild accept her back into the fold. But it is uncertain if that happened. In addition, Umm Kulthum was a dedicated Egyptian patriot since the time of King Farouk. Some claim that Umm Kulthum's popularity helped Nasser’s political agenda. For example, Nasser’s speeches and other government messages were frequently broadcast immediately after Umm Kulthum's monthly radio concerts. Umm Kulthum was also known for her continuous contributions to charity works for the Egyptian military efforts. Umm Kulthum’s monthly concerts took place on the first Thursday of every month and were renowned for their ability to clear the streets of some of the world's most populous cities as people rushed home to tune in.

Her songs deal mostly with the universal themes of love, longing and loss. They are nothing short of epic in scale, with durations measured in hours rather than minutes. A typical Umm Kulthum concert consisted of the performance of two or three songs over a period of three to four hours. In the late 1960s, due to her age and weakened vocal abilities, she began to shorten her performances to two songs over a period of two and a half to three hours. These performances are in some ways reminiscent of the structure of Western opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, consisting of long vocal passages linked by shorter orchestral interludes. However, Umm Kulthum was not stylistically influenced by opera and she sang solo most of her career.

During the 1930s, her repertoire took the first of several specific stylistic directions. Her songs were virtuosic, as befit her newly trained and very capable voice, and romantic and modern in musical style, feeding the prevailing currents in Egyptian popular culture of the time. She worked extensively with texts by romantic poet Ahmad Rami
Ahmed Rami (poet)
Ahmed Mohammed Rami was an Egyptian poet. He is best known for writing lyrics for the famous Egyptian singers Umm Kalthoum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Rami was also a translator. His famous works include translations of several of Shakespeare's plays and the famous quatrains of the Persian poet...

 and composer Mohammad El-Qasabgi, whose songs incorporated European instruments such as the violoncello and double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

, as well as harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

.

Golden age


Umm Kulthum's musical directions in the 1940s and early 1950s and her mature performing style led this period becoming popularly known as 'the golden age' of Umm Kulthum. In keeping with changing popular taste as well as her own artistic inclinations, in the early 1940s, she requested songs from composer Zakariya Ahmad and colloquial poet Mahmud Bayram el-Tunsi
Mahmud Bayram el-Tunsi
Mahmud Bayram el-Tunsi was an Egyptian poet who was exiled from Egypt by the British for his nationalist poetry.Bayram el-Tunsi received his education at religious schools. However, he learned the art of poetry by listening to oral presentations in the form known as zajal...

 cast in styles considered to be indigenously Egyptian. This represented a dramatic departure from the modernist romantic songs of the 1930s, mainly led by Mohammad El-Qasabgi. Umm Kulthum had abstained from singing Qasabgi's music since the early 1940s. Their last stage song collaboration in 1941 was "Raq el Habib" ("The Lover's Heart Softens"), one of her most popular, intricate, and high-caliber songs.

The reason for the separation is not clear. It is speculated that this was due in part to the popular failure of the movie Aida, in which Umm Kulthum sings mostly Qasabgi's compositions, including the first part of the opera. Qasabgi was experimenting with Arabic music, under the influence of classical European music, and was composing a lot to Asmahan
Asmahan
Amal al-Atrash , better known by her stage name Asmahan , was a Syrian Druze singer and actress. Having immigrated to Egypt in childhood, her family knew the composer Dawood Hosni, and she sang the compositions of Mohamed El Qasabgi and Zakariyya Ahmad...

, a singer who immigrated to Egypt from Lebanon and was the only serious competitor for Umm Kulthum before her tragic death in a car accident in 1944.

Simultaneously, Umm Kulthum started to rely heavily on a younger composer who joined her artistic team a few years earlier: Riad El-Sombati. While Sombati was evidently influenced by Qasabgi in those early years, the melodic lines he composed were more lyrical and more acceptable by Umm Kulthum's audience. The result of collaborations with Rami/Sombati and al-Tunisi/Ahmad was a populist and popular repertoire that had lasting appeal for the Egyptian audience.
In 1946, Umm Kulthum defied all odds by presenting a religious poem in classical Arabic during one of her monthly concerts, Salou Qalbi ("Ask My Heart"), written by Ahmad Shawqi and composed by Sonbati. The success was immediate. It reconnected Umm Kulthum with her early singing years, defined Sombati's unique style in composing and established him as the best composer of music for poems in classical Arabic, toppling Mohammed Abdel Wahab
Mohammed Abdel Wahab
Mohammed Abdel Wahab , also transliterated Mohammed Abd el-Wahaab was a prominent 20th-century Arab Egyptian singer and composer...

. Similar poems written by Shawqi were subsequently composed by Sombati and sung by Umm Kulthum, including Woulida el Houda ("The Prophet is Born"; 1949), in which she raised eyebrows of royalists by singing a verse that describes the Prophet Mohammad as "the Imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 of Socialists".

At the peak of her career, in 1950, Umm Kulthum sang Sombati's composition of excerpts of what Ahmad Rami considered the accomplishment of his career: the translation into classical Arabic of Omar Khayyám
Omar Khayyám
Omar Khayyám was aPersian polymath: philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology and theology....

's quartets (Rubayyiat el Khayyam). The song included quartets that dealt with both epicurism and redemption. Ibrahim Nagi
Ibrahim Nagi
Ibrahim Nagi was an Egyptian poet. Nagi was also a doctor in internal medicine. Nagi's most famous poem is "El Atlal" or "The Ruins" which was eventually sang by famous Egyptian singer Om Kalthoom. He was a co founder of the Cairo Society for Romantic Poetry...

's poem Al-Atlal ("The Ruins"), composed by Sonbati and premiered in 1966, is considered by many as Umm Kulthum's best song. While this is debatable as Umm Kulthum vocal abilities had regressed considerably by then, the song can be viewed as the last example of genuine Arabic music at a time when even Umm Kulthum had started to compromise by singing Western-influenced pieces composed by her old rival Mohammed Abdel Wahab.

The duration of Umm Kulthum's songs in performance was not fixed, but varied based on the level of emotive interaction between the singer and her audience and Umm Kulthum's own mood for creativity. An improvisatory technique, which was typical of old classical Arabic singing and that she wonderfully executed for as long as she could have (both her regressing vocal abilities with age and the increased Westernization of Arabic music became an impediment to this art), was to repeat a single line or stance over and over, subtly altering the emotive emphasis and intensity and exploring one or various musical modal scales (maqām
Arabic maqam
Arabic maqām is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type...

) each time to bring her audiences into a euphoric and ecstatic state." For example, the available live performances (about 30) of Ya Zalemni, one of her most popular songs, varied in length from 45 to 90 min, depending on both her creative mood for improvisation
Improvisation
Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or...

s and the audience request for more repetitions, illustrating the dynamic relationship between the singer and the audience as they fed off each other's emotional energy.

The spontaneous creativity of Umm Kulthum as a singer is most impressive when, upon listening to these many different renditions of the same song over a time span of 5 years (1954–1959), the listener is offered a totally unique and different experience. This intense, highly personalized relationship was undoubtedly one of the reasons for Umm Kulthum's tremendous success as an artist. Worth noting though that the length of a performance did not necessarily reflect either its quality or the improvisatory creativity of Umm Kulthum. Some of her best performances were 25-45 min in duration, such as the three available renditions, including the commercial version of El Awwila Fi'l Gharam ("First in Love"), and Ana Fi Intizarak("I am waiting for you"), (commercial and 3-3-1955 performance). On the other hand, her songs as of the mid 1960s would extend sometimes over a duration of two hours (premiere of Enta Omri, Enta el Hobb, etc.); however, the repetitions, mostly executed upon the request of the audience, were often devoid of creative musical improvisations and limited to vocal colorful variations on a syllable, letter or word.

Around year 1965, Umm Kulthum started cooperating with composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Her first song composed by Abdel Wahab "Enta Omri" (You are my Life") was condiered the "summit meeting". Several beautiful songs composed by Abdel Wahab followed such as "Amal Hayati" ("The Hope of my Life"), "Fakkarouni" ("They reminded Me"), and others.

Umm Kulthum also sang for composers Mohammad El Mougi and Sayyed Mikkawi.

Legacy


Umm Kulthum has been a significant influence on a number of musicians, both in the Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

 and beyond. Among others, Jah Wobble
Jah Wobble
Jah Wobble is an English bass guitarist, singer, poet and composer. He became known to a wider audience as the original bass player in Public Image Ltd in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but left the band after two albums...

 has claimed her as a significant influence on his work. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

 has been quoted as saying, "She's great. She really is. Really great." Maria Callas
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

, Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

, Marie Laforêt
Marie Laforêt
Marie Laforêt is a French singer and actress, .In 1978 she moved to Geneva, Switzerland and took out Swiss nationality.-The sources of her birth name:...

, Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí
Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

, Nico
Nico
Nico was a German singer, lyricist, composer, musician, fashion model, and actress, who initially rose to fame as a Warhol Superstar in the 1960s...

, Bono
Bono
Paul David Hewson , most commonly known by his stage name Bono , is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he met his...

, Farin Urlaub
Farin Urlaub
Jan Ulrich Max Vetter, better known as Farin Urlaub was born on 27 October 1963 in West Berlin, Germany. He is best known as the guitarist/vocalist for the German punk rock band Die Ärzte...

, and Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

 are also known to be admirers of Kulthum's music. Youssou N'Dour
Youssou N'Dour
Youssou N'Dour is a Senegalese singer, percussionist and occasional actor. In 2004, Rolling Stone described him as, in Senegal and much of Africa, "perhaps the most famous singer alive." He helped develop a style of popular music in Senegal, known in the Serer language as mbalax, a type of music...

, a fan of hers since childhood, recorded his 2004 album Egypt
Egypt (album)
Egypt is a Grammy Award-winning album by Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour, on which he is accompanied by the Egyptian Fathy Salama Orchestra. In the original Senegalese release, it was named Sant Allah ....

 with an Egyptian orchestra in homage to her legacy. One of her best known songs, "Enta Omri," has been the basis of many reinterpretations, including one 2005 collaborative project involving Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i and Egyptian artists.

She was referred to as the Lady by Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

, and is regarded as the Incomparable Voice by Maria Callas
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

. Umm Kulthum is remembered in Egypt, the Middle East, and the Arab world as one of the greatest singers and musicians to have ever lived. It is difficult to accurately measure her vocal range at its peak, as most of her songs were recorded live, and she was careful not to strain her voice due to the extended length of her songs. Even today, she has retained a near-mythical status among young Egyptians. She is also notably popular in Israel among Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 (of Mizrahi/Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 background) and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s alike, and her records continue to sell about a million copies a year. In 2001, the Egyptian government opened the Kawkab al-Sharq (Star of the East) Museum in the singer's memory. Housed in a pavilion on the grounds of Cairo's Manesterly Palace, the collection includes a range of Umm Kulthum's personal possessions, including her trademark sunglasses and scarves, along with photographs, recordings, and other archival material.

Voice


Kulthum had a contralto
Contralto
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C to the second G above middle C , although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B above...

 vocal range. It is known that she had the ability to sing as low as the second octave, as well as the ability to sing as high as between the seventh and the eighth octaves at her vocal peak; yet she also could easily sing over a range surpassing two octaves near the end of her career. Her ability to produce approximately 14,000 vibrations per second with her vocal cords
Vocal folds
The vocal folds, also known commonly as vocal cords, are composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally across the larynx...

, her unparalleled vocal strength (no commercial microphone utilized for singing could withstand its strength, forcing her to stand at a 1- to 3-meter radius away from one), and her voice surpassed convention arguably made her one of the most incomparable voices in the world. Her ability and capability to sing every single Arabic scale
Arabic maqam
Arabic maqām is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type...

 made her one of only five women in the history of the Arab world to be able to do this, along with Asmahan
Asmahan
Amal al-Atrash , better known by her stage name Asmahan , was a Syrian Druze singer and actress. Having immigrated to Egypt in childhood, her family knew the composer Dawood Hosni, and she sang the compositions of Mohamed El Qasabgi and Zakariyya Ahmad...

, Fairouz, Sabah
Sabah (singer)
Sabah , Wadi Chahrour, Lebanon is a Lebanese singer and actress.She has released over 50 albums and has acted in 98 movies, as well as 20 stage plays...

, and the late Thekra
Thekra
Thekra Mohammed Abdullah Al Dali , better known as Thekra was a Tunisian singer. The word "Thekra" is Arabic for a memory or memorial.- Early life :...

.

Selected discography

  • Aghadan alqak ("Shall I see you tomorrow?") maqam ajam (1971)
  • Ana Fi Entezarak (" I am waiting for you") (1943)
  • Alf Leila wa Leila ("One Thousand and One Nights").....maqam
    Arabic maqam
    Arabic maqām is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type...

     nahawand (1969)
  • Arouh li Meen or Arook Lemeen ("Whom Should I Go To").......maqam rast (1958)
  • Al Atlal ("The Ruins")......maqam huzam (1966)
  • Amal Hayati"; Sono ("Hope of My Life") (1965)
  • Ansak Ya Salam ("Forget you? Come on!") (1961)maqam rast
  • Aqbal al-layl ("Night has arrived") (1969)
  • Araka asiya al-dam ("I see you refusing to cry") (1964)
  • Awwidt 'ayni ("I accustomed my eyes") (1957) maqam kurd
  • Baeed Anak ("Away From You").......maqam bayyati (1965)
  • Betfaker fi Meen ("Who Are You Thinking Of?").....maqam bayati (1963)
  • Dalili Ehtar ("I am lost") (1955) maqam kurd
  • Dhikrayatun (Qessat Hobbi or the story of my love) ("memories")(1955)
  • El Hobb Kolloh ("All The Love").......maqam rast (1971)
  • Ental Hobb ("You Are The Love").......maqam nahwand (1965)
  • Enta Omri – Sono ("You Are the love of my life")........ maqam kurd (1964)
  • Es'al Rouhak ("Ask yourself")maqam hugaz kar (1970)
  • Fakarouni ("They reminded me").......maqam rast (1966)
  • Fit al-ma' ad ("It Is Too Late"or "the rendezvous is over") Sono Cairo.......maqam sikah (1967)
  • Gharib' Ala Bab erraja ("Stranger at the door of hope") (1955)
  • Ghulubt asalih ("Tired of forgiving") (1946)
  • Hadeeth el Rouh ("The Talk of The Soul")......maqam kurd (1967)
  • Hagartek or Hajartak ("I left You") EMI
    EMI
    The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...

      (1959)
  • Hasibak lil-zaman ("I will leave you to Time") (1962)
  • Hathehe Laylati ("This is My Night")......maqam bayyati (1968)
  • Hayart Albi Ma'ak ("You Confused My Heart")......maqam nahwand (1961)
  • Hakam 'alayna al-haw'a ("Love has ordered me") (1973)
  • Hobb Eih ("Which Love").....maqam bayyati (1960)
  • Howwa Sahih El-Hawa Ghallab ("Is love really stronger?") (1960)maqam saba
  • Kull al-ahabbah ("All the friends") (1941)
  • La Diva – CD, EMI Arabia, 1998
  • La Diva II – CD, EMI Arabia, 1998
  • La Diva III – CD, EMI Arabia, 1998
  • La Diva IV – CD, EMI Arabia, 1998
  • La Diva V – CD, EMI Arabia, 1998
  • Leilet Hobb ("a Night of Love") (1973)maqam nahawand
  • Lel Sabr Hedod ("Patience Has Limits")......maqam sikah (1964)
  • Lessa Faker ("You Still Remember").......maqam ajam (1960)
  • Men Agl Aynayk ("For your eyes") (1972)
  • Othkorene ("Remember Me") (1939)
  • Raq il Habeeb ("My Beloved Tendered Back") (1941)
  • Retrospective – Artists Arabes Associes
  • Rihab al-huda (al-Thulathiyah al-Muqaddisah) ("the paths to repentance or the holly trinity")(1972)
  • Rubaiyat Al-Khayyam ("Quatrains of Omar Khayyám
    Omar Khayyám
    Omar Khayyám was aPersian polymath: philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology and theology....

    ").......maqam rast (1950)
  • Sirat el Houb ("Tale of Love").......maqam sikah (1964)
  • Toof we Shoof ("Wander and wonder") (1963)
  • The Classics – CD, EMI Arabia, 2001
  • Wi-darit il-ayyam ("And Time Passed By").......maqam nahwand (1970)
  • Ya Karawan ("O Plover") (1926)
  • Yali Kan Yashqiq Anini ("You who enjoyed my cries") (1949)
  • Ya Msaharny ("You that keeps me awake at night") (1972) maqam rast
  • Ya Zalemny ("You who were unjust to me") (1954)maqam kurd
  • Zalamna El Hob ("We Have Sinned Against Love") (1962)

Sources

  • Danielson, Virginia. The Voice of Egypt: Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  • Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces (1990) (film). This DVD contains an extra feature short film that documents Arab film history, and it contains several minutes of an Uum Kulthum public performance.

External links