Umm Kulthoom Ebrahim Elbeltagi ( ?? 1904-February 3, 1975) was an Egyptian singer, actress and song writer, known lovingly as the Star of the East (Kawkab Al Sharq).
More than three decades after her death, she has ataained a near-mythical status among the young Arab fans . She is she is l recognized as one of the Arab world’s most famous and distinguished singers of the 20th century. Umm Kulthoom is widely regarded as the greatest female singer in Arab music history, that has ever lived.
Coming from a humble peasant family, in her own words about her village: ”
“It was a humble village. The highest building in it did not exceed two stories. The greatest display of wealth was the umdah’s carriage pulled by one horse! . . And there was only one street in the whole village wide enough for the umdah’s carriage . . . I sang in the neighboring villages, all of which were small. I thought that the city of al-Sinbillawayn was the biggest city in the world and I used to listen to news about it the same way one would listen now to news about New York or London or Paris.”
Gamal Abdel Nasser was an ardent fan of Umm Kulthoom . Some claim that her popularity helped Nasser’s political agenda. For example, Nasser’s speeches and other government messages were frequently broadcast immediately after Umm Kulthoom’s monthly radio concerts.
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 Kulthoom concert consisted of the performance of two or three songs over a period of three to four hours.
Her voice is known to be of the contralto variety, i.e. a deep voice which had the versatility to sing in almost every octave.
“Her ability to produce approximately 14,000 vibrations per second with her vocal cords, 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.” writes Wikepedia.
She sang standing amidst an interactive audience. She sang with a handkerchief in her hand waving with her hand. He moods would reflected in her versatile voice and the waving handkerchief was infectious enough to spread among the audience listening her live. Within minutes the audience were transcended to the heights of ecstasy by her thrilling renditions.
You would notice the intervals between her singing interrupted by the enthralled audiences, going euphoric, applauding her and at times asking her to repeat.
Finally my labor has paid off, and my search for the rendition which I was hunting for years, is finally rediscovered. Please do envy me knowing that, thanks to my father’s love for it, this was the music I grew up listening to.
ERnta Omri is one her best known compositions.
Happy listening Umm Kulthoom…