the great umm kulthum is forever

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In my recent salon class on global divas, I featured a song called “Ala Baladi Elmahboub” which translates as “to my beloved country” from a 1936 Egyptian classic film called Widad.

oum-kalthoum-in front of pyramidUmm Kulthum (her name is spelled different ways, e.g. Oum Kalthoum, Om Kalsoum, etc) has been called the Voice of Egypt, Mother Egypt, among other words of praise.  Presidents of Egypt made it a point to never give a press conference or radio address during her Thursday radio concerts, during which time all of Cairo shut down and people flocked to cafe’s to listen.  Egyptians would never miss these, and woe to the uniformed politician who ill-timed a public address during these broadcasts.  Her funeral was attended by over a million people;  you can watch the procession on  During the recent events in Egypt, which have created hope for many countries in the region, her name and legacy have been cherished even more.  This is a beautiful and moving film tribute to her memory by a young artist and film director, Shirin Neshat, that recently appeared in the New York Times.

young oum kalthoum 1945
In the past months we have witnessed uprisings against oppressive regimes across the Middle East, from Tunisia to Egypt, Bahrain, Iran and Libya. In all these nations, young protesters have been central in demanding reform. As spring arrives, so too do the seeds of a new era for the Muslim world.

This video is a tribute to those youth. It features Umm Kulthum, the singer known as the Mother of Egypt. At her death in 1975, she was widely regarded as the most significant Muslim artist of the 20th century. She sang about earthly and spiritual love, as well as solidarity in the struggle for justice. Hers was a voice of hope out of crisis — as vital this season as it was in the past.

Shirin Neshat is an artist and the director of the film “Women Without Men.”

Visit the full article and watch this incredible video here: