Boomkat Product Review:
Indispensable issue of this hypnotising album showcasing the work of Umm Kulthum, the almost mythical “fourth pyramid” of Egypt, an artist so well known and revered throughout the middle east since the 1940’s that despite having died almost 50 years ago, she continues to resonate. With her distinctive contralto - the lowest register of the female voice - and aided by a virtuoso orchestra operating at the very fringes of classical, avant garde and popular music, Kulthum’s still sounds utterly unique and modern. If you’re new to her work - we urge you to dive in.
With the help of maverick composer and oud player Mohammad El Qasabgi, Umm Kulthum’s orchestra was formed in the mid 1920’s and by the late 1930’s had become so popular that millions watched her appear in movies and broadcasts of concerts every week. Singing songs of love, loss and patriotism with words by poet Ahmad Rami, and fuelled by El Qasabgi’s modern and often highly unusual orchestration, Kulthum stitched Western influence to a tapestry of often fiercely traditional words and music, and a singing style that is often acknowledged as unparalleled.
For a singer born at the very end of the 19th century, it’s remarkable that Kulthum’s legacy is still so dominant well into the 21st, with an iconic presence perhaps best illustrated by her appearance as a hologram in shows earlier this year. Although she's perhaps become less known outside the middle east in recent years, we've no doubt that even a short listen to these clips will pull you into the soundworld of one of the most unique, mesmerising voices of the 20th century - and not let go for a while.