The magnificent personality and outstanding voice made not

The word “diva” is originated from Latin meaning a supreme
being, a deity or a goddess. In the music world it means a very famous, eminent
and distinguished female singer with tremendous vocals and an ability to dazzle
her crowd with her charming and alluring personality and the skills to reach
out to her audience on an emotional level. The male parallel of a diva is
“divo”. Rock, jazz, pop, opera are some of the different genres of music and
Beyonce, Madonna and Mariah Carey, Shakira are the names of some of the divas
of present age. There are many positive and negative words associated with the personality
of a diva such as a starlet, prima donna, superwoman, songstress, feminist,
etc. (Elaine Moohan, 2008)

Umm kulthum is one name from the 20th century very
well deserved of the title diva. Her magnificent personality and outstanding
voice made not only her country but the whole Arab world proud. Kulthum opened
her eyes on December 18, 1898, in a village called Tammy al-Zahayrah in Egypt.
Her family wasn’t made of money. Her father, al-Shaykh Ibrahim provided for his
family by working in a nearby mosque by chanting religious and spiritual tunes
and songs. Kulthum as a young child used to imitate and leaned these tones and
songs when her father started teaching theses songs to her older brother
Khalid. When her father first heard her he was very astonished yet thoroughly
impressed at the same time, so much so, that he started adding her to his
singing performances. She alongside her father performed in many neighboring
villages for weddings and other celebrations. Her father realizing her flair,
wanted to enhance her talent and sharpen her skills, made the whole family
transfer to Cairo, which was the midpoint of the entertainment industry of
Egypt. (Harris)

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However, even before permanently
moving to Cairo, Kulthum had already gained experience performing in the city.
She had managed to pull off performances at the houses of many rich and
well-off merchants and patrons and that too separately for ladies and gents. After
many years of consideration, when the family finally moved to the city for good
in the early 1920s, kulthum did numerous of outstanding and blooming
performances. She started from the houses of rich philanthropists and patrons.
Moving on to weddings then central theaters and such was the smooth and
unbeaten entry of Umm kulthum in the entertainment industry.  She learned under many famous singers and
poets, one of them was Abdul-Aila Mohamed. He was one of her first educators
and early songsters. Layali Rast and Mawwal Rast “Fein Ya Gameel Waadak”. (Hilmi)

Fundamentally, kulthum’s image of a
village girl from an underprivileged family played a great role in the
attractiveness of her personality and charm. Her strong voice grabbed
everyone’s attention in the city. But people weren’t all welcoming. They
enjoyed her singing but behind her back they made fun of her simple attire and
her country style. In hushed voices they would discuss how she didn’t know the
eating etiquettes of the rich people. But a true diva that she was, she used
these things with smartness to her advantage and portrayed a fantasized and
sentimentalized illustration of herself. She also started adopting manners of
the well off gentlewomen that she used to perform for. Her father also provided
her with education of classical music and verses. And soon she bloomed into a
picture of elegance and grace. (Uleby, 2010)

Over more than fifty years singing
career, Kulthum mostly performed individually but she did team up with long
numbers of artists be it songsters who wrote songs for her or musicians. She
got together with bards such as Mahmud Bayram el-Tunsi and Ahmad Rami, and
composers like Riad El-Sombati, Zakariya Ahmad, and Mohamed El-Qasabgi. Kulthum
added her exclusive style and combined the latest and famous music style to classic
Egyptian music genre, and formed exotic yet extant music. (Black, 2017)

By the end of year 1925, kulthum made
major changes in her life. From her appearance to her professional ways,
everything was modified. She started wearing modern and in vogue clothes. She switched
her usual group of minstrels to highly reputed, more sharp and skillful
professionals. She also started singing more romantic songs. These new adjustments
made her even more successful. And in the early 1930s she was declared the best
in the index of female performers of Egypt.

1930s opened another chapter of her
life. She started her most celebrated ritual, which was her on air concerts
every first Thursday of a new month. She did face a little criticism from
people but this tradition made her awfully famous not just in her own country
but throughout the entire Middle East. The ethnomusicologist and author of the
book “The Voice of Egypt” described in her book that these Thursdays were
highly awaited. People would complete their work early. The whole Egypt would
be speaking about her on those days. She would sing live for hours. A solo song
would be more than an hour long. And the next few days the whole industry would
be reviewing her, from her clothes to her songs. And amazingly she continued
this outstanding ritual till 1973.Kulthum even exposed herself to acting for a
short amount of time. She acted in six movies in total. As talented as Kulthum was;
she was a nationalist and a patriot. From 1952 to 1965, she sang mass number of
national songs. She talked about the political situation of her country. (The Gale Group Inc.)

As successful and celebrated kulthum’s
career was; she suffered from health issues almost all her adult life. She had
trouble with her gallbladder, eyes and liver. It’s acclaimed that being on
stage and in front of spotlights so frequently badly altered her eyesight and
to cure it she went abroad many times but to no usefulness. And in her later
years she was seen wearing black sunglasses everywhere. But of course being a
diva she turned this complication to her advantage and made it a glamorized
part of her life.  Her personal life suffered
because of her very public life too. The singer married in 1954 after many
lonely years, to one of her doctors. Her health continued to decline and she
cancelled many concerts in 1960s and 70s. Her heart ultimately gave up on 3rd
February in 1975. Her funeral was one of the biggest that streets of Egypt have
ever seen. Around four million people came to attend her funeral. (Albustanseeds.org)

Umm Kulthum is a legend which will be
remembered forever. From her humble beginning to a successful artist, she gave
the world a star. From East to West, from stars like Fairuz to Led Zeppelin and
Bob Marley, everyone has admiring words about her. She is a diva who has been
heard for years in the past and will be heard for many more years to come.

 

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