Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 12/25/10

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #766:

Oum Kalthoum – Rak El Habib

On Christmas we give you a Muslim – so a year from now, when we hit #401, you should expect a Jew, or maybe a Hindu or an atheist or something. 35 years after her death, Oum Kalthoum remains more popular than Jesus and the Beatles combined. Publicly, she played up her roots as an Egyptian country mullah’s daughter; professionally, she was a member of the avant garde, a committed socialist and someone who would have been a millionaire many times over had she not given virtually of her money to charity – she was an advocate for Palestinian rights decades before it was cool. Oum Kalthoum (in Arabic, spelled أم كلثوم‎ – there are innumerable transliterations which bedevil English-language searches) is the iconic mother of all Arabic singers, arguably the most popular singer of all time, although in the English-speaking world she remains virtually ignored. Trying to choose among the literally thousands of her recordings is a thankless task. As a rivetingly beautiful example of one we have heard, we give you this haunting, hypnotic 1941 recording whose title track translates roughly as “Be Gentle, Sweetheart.” Arabic vocal music, like jazz, incorporates long improvisational passages, which she would work gradually so as not to blow out her voice after 45 minutes or so onstage. In additional to the title track, this lushly orchestrated album includes the optimistic El Ward Gamil (“When Roses Bloom”), the wary Gamal El Donia and two other tracks whose haunting microtonalities stretch out against the haunting, understated sweep of a Middle Eastern orchestra for over fifteen minutes at a clip. If she was alive today, she’d be on a terrorist watch list. Here’s a random torrent.

December 25, 2010 Posted by | lists, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment