Om Kalthoum is nothing less than a legend. As a child I disliked her music and hated it when one of my parents tuned the radio to her music. I was simply to young to appreciate and understand her music. Mainly exposed to western music and familiar with structure of western pop songs, I could not understand why songs from Om Kalthoum’s era had so much repetition and such strange structure. However the more I got interested in music and studied it more I began to realise how amazing her work was. She had amazing vocal technique and texture. Her songs manage to captivate her audience and take them on a journey, leaving them in a state of pure bliss.
Quite recently before I returned to Egypt for the summer holiday, I was listening to some of my favourite songs by Om Kalthoum. It was then that I realised how amazing her work truly was. Each song was perfect as a whole, incomparable to songs made nowadays. The lyrics captured the listener, the melody and music mesmorised you and her voice took you to another level. Each and every element of her songs was perfect and worked together in the most complimentary way. Nowadays you find songs with either good lyrics but bad music, bad lyrics with a catchy melody, or the most popular; bad lyrics, bad melody and a bad voice.
The music industry has experienced such a decline in quality, now talent does not seem to dictate who sings and who doesn’t. as long as female singers show some flesh and wiggle about on screen and sing in a flirtatious manner, they seem to achieve some sort of fame. For male singers they simply need to be surrounded with half naked women shaking their “goodies” about to gain popularity. I refuse to call this music or art of any form. I regard it as an insult on so many levels. An insult to our society; as all these so called artists seem to ignore all our traditions and our culture and have chosen to offer us a more westernised “sexually charged” industry. An insult to our intelligence; are we that stupid that we find entertainment in something lacking so much talent and have no need for real art?
Personally I am not against being relatively westernised. I cannot claim to feel that way, since I have been labelled as “relatively westernised” myself. I sing and write English songs and follow folk rock and acoustic musical paths, however I am fully aware of what is and what is not appropriate in my society and respect it.
Anyways, I have gotten a bit side tracked, I will probably continue more on this issue later on. Let me continue more on this amazing woman; Om Kalthoum.
One of the factors that have led me to admire this woman is how much of a fighter she was. Born into a poor, rural family, Om Kalthoum struggled to defeat the confinements of her society and broke through all barriers. Being a girl, her father had initially placed her on the sidelines and concentrated on teaching her brother songs, which they performed at celebrations and religious occasions in their village. However, Om Kalthoum would over hear the lessons her father gave her brother and would learn the songs too and one day she amazed her father with her talent. From that point on Om Kalthoum accompanied her father at several performances and started her journey towards a musical career.
She moved to Cairo later and began to associate with key figures in the music industry. As she gained popularity amongst the social elite in Cairo, she also managed to become good friends with a few of them and would pick up tips on how to dress well, take care of her general appearance, behave and socialise. Slowly, she climbed up the social ladder something, which in my opinion required a great deal of strength and determination.
“In addition to her various artistic endeavours, Om Kalthoum consolidated her authority in the entertainment business during the 1940s by joining the Listening Committee, which selected the music appropriate for radio broadcasting, and by assuming presidency of the Musician's Union. At this point Om Kalthoum was at the height of her artistic accomplishment, in control of virtually all of her endeavours, and highly influential in the critical medium of radio broadcasting. She became known for the strength of her personality, which was manifest in many ways. She was determined that her views be taken seriously and that her business proceeds in a way that was satisfactory to her”. (http://www.omkolthoum.com/biog.htm)
More than a musician, Om Kalthoum is the voice and face of Egypt. She is still loved by many and her songs continue to fill the Egyptian air. She is truly an eternal legend and her soul lives on through her amazing work.
I found myself recently thinking that I'd love to experience being this woman for 24 hours. To live one day in her shoes and stand on stage and truly feel the connection between her and her audience. To be loved by so many and appreciated. To have my work heard all over the country amongst all ages and social strands...