A series about the masters of the Egyptian classical music. Souma Live!
The star from the East: Oum Kalthoum
On 1 June the Holland festival http://hollandfestival.nl will open with a tribute to the greatest Arabic female singer of the past century: Oum Kalthoum. An occasion for our programme to pay attention to the oeuvre of this legendary singer. Oum Kalthoum, born in the Egyptian Nile Delta, circa 1902/1904, is known in her birth country as Oum Kolsoum or Souma. The "Star of the East" and the "Queen of Arab singing" died on 3 February 1975. A half a century of ecstasy of the traditional tarab music had come to an end. Souma started singing when she was 13 years old. Together with her father and brother she toured on the countryside of the Nile Delta to earn some money on parties with Quran recites and Islamic singing. Around 1923 she left for the capital Cairo and soon after she begun making recordings for Odeon, that still appeared on 78 rpm records at the time. In 1924 she met Ahmad Rami, the poet who wrote most of her lyrics and the composer Muhammad El-Qasabgi. Shortly after she was was contracted by Mansour Awadh, the manager of Gramophone Egypt. The official Egyptian Radio started broadcasting her music in 1934.
A few years later the monthly concerts of Oum Kalthoum started to become a national tradition. The Egyptian people tuned into the live concert of Souma El-Set (The Lady) every first Thursday of the month. Every concert usually existed of three long compositions with in between a break. From about 10 o’clock in the evening until 2 or 3 in the morning the listeners in Egypt and a lot of other Arab countries were glued to the radio. Oum Kalthoum was not only appreciated for her strong voice, feeling and control over the oriental maqams and improvisation, but also for her interaction with the public. She was the last great star in Egypt who belonged to a tradition in which interaction with the public and improvisation were the essential elements of Arabic singing.
Towards the end of the sixties her health started to decline. As a result of this her concerts became shorter and the repertoire lighter. Her last concert was in January 1973.
In this episode of Orient Express we will play remarkable live executions of Oum Kalthoum. We have made a selection of recordings from the early period, when her voice and capacities were optimal. The recordings will also show how she developed a composition by improvisation and musical fantasy.
1. Part of Raq El-Habib (Live concert 1954)
composition by Muhamad El-Qasabgi,
lyrics by Ahmad Rami 10.30
2. Hallet Layyali El-qamar (Live concert from the 40s),
composition by Riad El-Sunbati,
lyrics by Ahmad Rami 44.00
3. Al-Awela Fi El-Gharam (Live concert late 40s),
composition by Zakaria Ahmad,
lyrics by Beiram el-Tunsi. 39:00
4. Ya Ain Ya Ain (Live concert from the 40s)
composition by Zakaria Ahmad,
lyrics by Beiram el-Tunsi. 23:00