Alf Leila Wa Leila
Oum Kalthoum: A Musical Diety to Familiarize Yourself With
Whether you are interested in world music or you are a belly dancer galore, you should know about Oum Kalthoum. Oum Kalthoum (also spelled Umm Kalthum, Om Kalsoum and more – as obviously the translation from Arabic to English does not contain the same letters), is one of the most famous Arabic singer of all times. Of Egyptian heritage, her music has cried and rejoiced past Egypt’s boundaries, through all of the Middle East and now her legend expands around the world. If you are not familiar with her, now is the time to get acquainted.
Oum Kalthoum got her start as a child, when her father dressed her as a boy and she sang religious songs from the Quran in his small performing troupe. This is where she was “discovered.” Her popularity quickly spread because of her beautiful voice and perfect diction. As the years progressed she became a patriotic symbol and an emblem of Arab culture. I recommend the documentary “Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt” to learn more about her. In this documentary, it says, Oum Kalthoum is not seen as a heroine, but rather, her popularity is due to the fact that everyone can see themselves and their own stories through her songs. Her spirit behind the music resonates with people’s souls. This is what has made her fame echo around the world. Even though she died in the 1960’s, to this day she is still broadcasted on Egyptian Radio at 5pm every evening.
The typical length of an Oum Kalthoum song is about an hour long! Condensed versions or simply the instrumental intro is played for belly dancers when they perform. Here are a few of the most famous songs: Alf Leyla Wa Leyla, Enta Omri, Lissa Faker, Sert el Hob, Ansak, Fakarouni and Ana fi Intizarak. There are hundreds of other amazing songs as well and I suggest you check them out. Above is an example of one of her greatest hits: Alf Leila Wa Leila. I invite you to listen to segments of the song and hear her sentiment in the tone of her voice.
The song is talking about the sensational sweetness of infatuation and love - how life has been so hard and painful until this night and how she wishes this night would last forever (or at least "1001 nights" - as that is the name of the song).
Translation of one of the verses:
"The sweet nights and the desire and the love
For so long my heart carried them for you
Taste love with me
Taste love with love
From the feeling of my heart whose desire extended to your feeling
Give me your eyes they reflect my eyes in their world
Give me your hands their touch calms my hands
Oh my darling come on forget about that which has passed us"