Umm Kulthoum

Arabs' favourite singer

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Umm Kulthoum (1904-1975) was the most gifted and popular Arab singer of the 20th century.

Her father was an imam and she began her singing career as a child, chanting the Qur'an (disguised as a boy). Later, after moving to Cairo she met the famous poet Ahmed Rami who wrote a total of 137 songs for her.

Her songs are mostly about love, longing, and loss, delivered in an almost operatic style. In her concerts, a single song might continue for several hours, depending on how the audience responded. Sometimes she would repeat the same line over and over again, with subtle variations.

An indication of her huge popularity is that an estimated crowd of more than four million attended her funeral - one of the largest public gatherings in history. She is still revered in Egypt today and her songs remain as popular as ever.

Alternative spellings of her name: Umm Kulthum, Oum Kalsoum, Oum Kalthum, Omm Kolsoum, Umm Kolthoum

  
Further reading

Umm Kulthum (Wikipedia)

Biographical notes (al-Mashriq)

Song lyrics 
In Arabic, with some sound clips

Umm Kalthoum 
by Lara Iskander (touregypt.net)

Legendary songstress of the Arabs 
by Habeeb Salloum (Aljadid magazine, November 1995)

Umm Kulthoum films

Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt  
Details of a film about Umm Kulthum, produced and directed by Michal Goldman, 1997