interlude for ‘The Voice and Face of Egypt’

Another precious egyptian find which I brought with me from the recent travelling experience is the music of Oum Kalthoum (or Umm Kulthum) who has been described as to be more than a musician, she became ‘the voice and face of Egypt’.

… one of the main goals of her performances was to bring her audience into a state of tarab, a state of musical ecstasy. Habib Hassan Touma explains: “The intensity of tarab depends primarily on the voice and performance style of the singer, as exemplified by Umm Kulthum. Her performances often only approximately followed the fixed rhythmic-temporal organization of the melody.
She would strip some melodic passages of their strict rhythmic form in order to repeat, vary, and paraphrase individual sections in an improvisatory way or transform the musical material more dramatically within the framework of traditional modal principles. Her presentation thus hovered between that which she performed and that which she created herself. The musical contrast between the familiar and fixed on the one side and the new, freely structured though related on the other creates, in general, a tension whose up and down evokes tarab in the listener. The emphasis of this contrast represents the most striking stylistic element of Umm Kulthum’s artistry.”
(excerpted from Oum Kalthoum for Non-Arab Ears: An Incomplete Guide

watch Umm Kulthoum on YouTube


watch Umm Kalthoum sings “El Atlal”, 1966 on YouTube

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