“I was intrigued by the scales, initially, and obviously the vocal work. The way she sang, the way she could hold a note, you could feel the tension, you could tell that everybody, the whole orchestra, would hold a note until she wanted to change.”
Robert Plant in The Independent
It is the 40th anniversary of the death of the Middle East’s most revered singer, Umm Kulthum. Yousif Nur provides a brief introduction to the Nightingale Of The Nile and selects his favourite ten tracks by her.
Umm Kulthum was a one-off. She was a diva in the truest sense, but at the same time she was an original working-class hero who repeatedly identified herself as a villager, a fallahah or peasant, who shared a cultural background and essential values with the majority of the Egyptian populace. To say Kulthum was an iconic figure in Egypt would be to do the term iconic too gross an injustice. Commonly known as Kawkab al-Sharq (The Star Of The East), Umm Kulthum was so much more. She is almost regarded as royalty in Egypt and the wider Middle East; and she also held the sort of power normally reserved for presidents and heads of state. For example, she died in 1975 but to this day at 10pm on the first Thursday of every month, all Egyptian radio stations play nothing but her music.
Read the rest of this excellent article by Yousif Nur and view videos of Umm Kulthum in performance The Quietus | Features | Electro Chaabi | Umm Kulthum: Queen Of The Nile