In 1904, a girl was born in a small village in the Nile Delta. This girl would become one of the greatest Arab musicians of all times. 43 years after her dead, she is still remembered and treasured as an icon in the Arab world. Her name was Umm Kulthum.
Umm Kulthum was born in 1904 in a small village in the Nile Delta. She was the last child of three children of a village imam and a housewife. At a young age, Umm Kulthum learned singing from her father. She started to join her father’s religious singing performances during weddings and other celebrations in the village. Since girls were not allowed to recite and sing Quranic verses in public, she had to dress like a boy in order to pass her off as a boy. It did not take long until Umm Kulthum made a name for herself and became the star of the family. She performed for wealthy local leaders as well as during birthdays, religious holidays, and public festivals.
From the 1930s on she would expand her involvement in the entertainment industry. She started singing for the radio, produce and act in films and star on television. Meanwhile, her popularity started to grow immensely around the Arab world. Her monthly Thursday performances on the radio had listeners from across the Arab world. Through her songs, the audience became familiar with poetry that was not accessible to them. She brought fine literature to the normal people.
Umm Kulthum made songs about everything: from religious topics to sentimental, and nationalistic topics. For seven years she served as the president of the Musicians’ Union. Her very first performance outside of the Arab world was in Paris, 1967.
However, for many years she had been plagued by health problems. She travelled all the way to Europe and the United States for treatment. But her weak health condition caused the delay of different concerts. It was in 1975 when Umm Kulthum passed away after a heart failure. Millions all over the Arab world mourned over the loss of the icon. The streets of Cairo were filled with over four million people at the day of her funeral.
Until now, she remains one of the best-selling Arab singers. Her songs are still played in cafés and homes all over the Arab world and beyond. Umm Kulthum, for sure, will be remembered for a very long time.