Tag Archives: Egypt

Artist Profiles: Um Kulthum

Um Kulthum

Um Kulthum [also written Umm Kulthum, Oum Kolthoum, Oum Kalsoum, Omme Kolsoum, and Oum Kulthoom] was one of the greatest vocalists in Arabic music during the 20th century. She was born in 1904, in a small village in the south of Egypt.

In her singing, the highly influential Um Kulthum offered an authentic art, relevant and rooted in the life of her people. She created a new genre of Arabic singing, which was adopted by many artists. She emphasized the sacredness of the sung lyrics, as though the words were from the Koran or from Arab classic poetry.

In 1975 she died, endowing the world a rich repertoire and one of the greatest human voices.

Partial discography:

Ya Karawan – O plover (1926)
Othkorene – Remember me (1939)
Kull al-ahabbah – All the friends (1941)
Raq il Habeeb – My beloved tendered back (1941)
Ana Fi Entezarak – I am waiting for you (1943)
Ghulubt asalih – Tired of forgiving (1946)
Yali Kan Yashqiq Anini – You who enjoyed my cries (1949)
Rubaiyat Al-Khayyam – Quatrains of Omar Khayyám maqam rast (1950)
Ya Zalemny – You who were unjust to me (1954)
Dalili Ehtar – I am lost (1955)
Dhikrayatun Qessat Hobbi or the story of my love – memories (1955)
Gharib’ Ala Bab erraja – Stranger at the door of hope (1955)
‘Awwidt ‘ayni – I accustomed my eyes (1957)
Arouh li Meen or Arook Lemeen – Whom should I go to (1958)
Hagartek or Hajartak – I left you EMI (1959)
Hobb Eih – Which love maqam bayyati (1960)
Howwa Sahih El-Hawa Ghallab – Is love really stronger? (1960)
Lessa Faker – You still remember (1960)
Ansak Ya Salam – Forget you? Come on! (1961)
Hayart Albi Ma’ak – You confused my heart maqam nahwand (1961)
Hasibak lil-zaman – I will leave you to time (1962)
Zalamna El Hob – We have sinned against love (1962)
Betfaker fi Meen – Who are you thinking of? (1963)
Toof we Shoof – Wander and wonder (1963)
Araka asiya al-dam – I see you refusing to cry (1964)
Enta Omri – Sono – You are the love of my life (1964)
Lel Sabr Hedod – Patience has limits (1964)
Sirat el Houb – Tale of love (1964)
Amal Hayati”; Sono – Hope of my life (1965)
Baeed Anak – Away From You maqam bayyati (1965)
Enta El Hobb – You are the love (1965)
Al Atlal – The Ruins (1966)
Fakarouni – They reminded me (1966)
Fit al-ma’ ad – It is too late” or “The rendez-vous is over (1967)
Hadeeth el Rouh – The talk of the soul (1967)
Hathehe Laylati – This is my night maqam bayyati (1968)
Alf Leila wa Leila – One thousand and one nights (1969)
Aqbal al-layl – Night has arrived (1969)
Es’al Rouhak – Ask yourself (1970)
Wi-darit il-ayyam – And time passed by (1970)
Aghadan alqak – Shall I see you tomorrow? (1971)
El Hobb Kolloh – All the love (1971)
Men Agl Aynayk – For your eyes (1972)
Rihab al-huda al-Thulathiyah al-Muqaddisah – The paths to repentance or the holy trinity (1972)
Ya Msaharny – You that keeps me awake at night (1972)
Hakam ‘alayna al-haw’a – Love has ordered me (1973)
Leilet Hobb – A night of love (1973)
La Diva (EMI Arabia, 1998)
La Diva II (EMI Arabia, 1998)
La Diva III (EMI Arabia, 1998)
La Diva IV (EMI Arabia, 1998)
La Diva V (EMI Arabia, 1998)
The Classics (EMI Arabia, 2001)


Artist Profiles: Riad Abdel-Gawad

Riad Abdel-Gawad

Riad Abdel-Gawad was born May 9, 1965 in Cairo, Egypt. He composes music and performs on the violin, which, although does not fit easily into any “box” or genre, points towards likely frontiers that music has taken and will take in the 21st-century. Having composed in three very distinct styles of composition: “contemporary and avant-garde”, “polystylistic postmodern”, and “international authentic world”, his music crosses and fuses a variety of Western and Eastern genres and canons.

Having immersed himself for over a decade in a unique guru-based artistic school in Cairo, Riad Abdel-Gawad is considered among his peers to be one of the finest artists of his generation whose linage to a remarkably distinct school of Arab music and a mastery of its improvisatory practice is undisputed.

This unique Arab music school was developed by Abdo Dagher, legendary violin accompanist to Egyptian singer Um Kulthum, the “Incomparable Voice” so-named by Maria Callas. Riad Abdel-Gawad links and preserves a tradition whose roots reach to the Medieval Arabic writers’ and practitioners’ old sources. This school, is the only such teacher-disciple school to develop in recent (c. 100 years) documented Cairo history. Baghdad experienced the development of a similar unique stylistic school, (of Mouneer Basheer) c. 30-40 years ago that focused on ud “lute” performance. This Iraqi school now has a small number of renowned second-generation performing artists (e.g. Naseer Shamma, Adel Salameh).

Riad Abdel-Gawad is a graduate of Harvard University. Mr. Abdel-Gawad also spent one year of study with Frederic Rzewski at the Conservatoire Royal de Liege in Belgium.

Thus, Mr. Abdel-Gawad’s current “postmodern” and “authentic” compositional styles cross-fertilize – mutually from the “East” and the “West” – musical techniques and forms. Presently his music is currently being programmed and listened to on US, Canadian and European radio programs that spin such so-called musical genres as “new age meditative/world beat” and tarab—“enchantment”. In fact, his CD titled, “El Tarab El Aseel” literally translates as autochthonic enchantment. Autochthonic means “formed or originating in the place where found; native or indigenous”.

On this album, which debuted in April 2007 at No. 7 on the NAR Top 100 New Age/Ambient/World Beat Chart, you will hear the classical Middle Eastern ensemble, known as takht, a Persian word, which literally means: platform on which (fin de siecle 19th century) Cairene musicians performed. Mr. Abdel-Gawad’s band members, some of the best musicians today in Cairo, are masters of their respective instruments: qanun (trapezoidal zither), nay (Arab flute), ud (Arab lute) and riqq (Arab tambourine).

Riad describes that this platform or dikka (as it was also known in Arabic) was a raised stage area for musicians to entertain listeners in cafes during the era of Mohamed Ali. He said, “the tekht musicians at the turn of the 20th-century usually consisted of singer, qanun, as well as the indigenous two-stringed instrument called the kamangah.” But this instrument soon fell out of use in favor for the Western violin. Subsequently, the violin appropriated the term kamangah as its own cognomen in Arabic perhaps in deference to its predecessor.” In this particular CD, the takht features instrumentalists.

Riad Abdel-Gawad

After graduating from Harvard with a Ph.D. in music composition, Riad Abdel-Gawad principally resided in Belgium, Egypt and Germany and traveled to France and Italy all the while gaining professional music experience. He even worked, iconoclastically, as a street musician in Brussels, Liege and Paris. Having championed the idea that trans-national composition and performance would be one of the frontiers of music in the twenty-first century, Riad Abdel-Gawad strived to authenticate and work towards this idea in his own musical art. From that viewpoint, as Riad elucidated to me, as a young man he sought professional musical experience that would have been difficult to know had he entered the world of academia upon graduating from Harvard.

Shuttling “nomadically”, between Europe and Egypt Riad Abdel-Gawad assisted Abdo Dagher in masterclasses, and performed with him in festivals, on CD recordings, and in tours, and appeared in television and in a documentary film and in performances in Belgium, Egypt, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, and Switzerland. Having a wonderful camaraderie with Abdo, Riad and he once took a train from Marseilles to Munich all of the while practicing their violins in a semi-enclosed train compartment “enchanting” the other passengers and the train staff. They were on there way to tour in Germany with Roman Bunka.

Riad Abdel-Gawad has also performed his own compositions as a violinist in festivals, workshops, tours in Belgium, Cameroon, Congo (Democratic Republic), Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Spain, and the United States. Riad Abdel-Gawad’s compositions have been broadcast worldwide on radio, as well, have been commissioned, featured, and played at international music festivals, competitions, and venues including: the Mediterranean Composition Competition in Greece, the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music, and the Palais des Beaux Arts for the Ars Musical Festival in Brussels.

Commissions, performances, commercial recordings and publications of Riad Abdel-Gawad’s compositions have come from: Future Classics Label, Meet the Composer, Oxford University Press, and the Princeton Composer’s Ensemble Series. Honors, awards, fellowships and grants have come from including: ASCAP, the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany, BMI, Harvard University, and the MacDowell Colony.

Riad Abdel-Gawad traveled to Cairo to record Words of Peace (2019). In Egypt he worked with local musicians and singers, combining western traditions with Egyptian and Nubian elements.

Profile by Mohamed A. Mostafa, journalist for El-Gumhuriyya and el-Nagm. Edited by Angel Romero.


El Tarab El Aseel – “Autochthonic Enchantment” (Incognito Records, 2006)
Egypt – Mother Of The World (City Hall Records, 2010)
Words of Peace (Medan Elmusica, 2019)


Artist Profiles: Hosam Shaker

Qanun virtuoso Hosam Shaker studied music at the age of fourteen at the Egyptian Academy of Arts in Cairo, obtaining his Master’s Degree in 1989. He led the Arabic Sextet of the Cairo Opera, performing in Japan, Korea and Europe. Formerly a member of the world music Group Sharkiat, Hosam played with Roman Bunka’s “Color me Cairo” at the 1994 Berlin Jazz Festival. He was honored as one of the finest musicians in the Middle East.

Today, Hosam runs the Egyptian Institute for Folk Instruments and Heritage in Cairo and, since the beginning of 1998, he has been performing with the Trio and Quartet Rahala.


Enshaallah, with Rahala (United One, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Hossam Ramzy

Hossam Ramzy

Born in Cairo, on December 15, 1953, Hossam Ramzy’s musical career began at the age of three when he was given his first drum, an Egyptian tabla. Hossam’s passion and talent for percussion was noted by his family, and he was encouraged to study under leading Cairo music teachers. A move to Saudi Arabia, where he met people from many Bedouin tribes, gave the young Hossam a rich insight into the cultural origins of Middle Eastern music.

In the mid 1970s Hossam arrived to England, and enjoyed great success as a jazz drummer working with respected musicians such as Andy Sheppard and Geoff Williams. Hossam soon found himself turning full circle back to his first love, the Egyptian drums, and the thrilling dance rhythms of the Middle East. He then incorporated his rhythmic experience into creating a new sound since heard on hundreds of well known albums.

The distinctive sound of Hossam’s Arabic and North African string arrangements, and his exciting percussion, soon caught the imagination of Peter Gabriel. Hossam was invited to perform on Passion, and later on Us and Up.

Hossam then developed his skills in both string arrangements and production, and has played on, arranged and produced many songs for some of the world’s leading artists such as: Yesim Salkim, Celick Erici, Cheb Khaled, Tarkan, Rachid Taha, Faudel, the Gypsy Kings, etc.

In 1994 Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) invited Hossam to bring together a band of Arab musicians and work on their reunion album No Quarter – Unledded. The album was a worldwide bestseller. This led to Hossam joining Page and Plant on their historic reunion 1995/96 world tour.

A subsequent highlight was his involvement as orchestra director and lead percussionist for the historic 1-2-3 Soleil concert and album, which brought together the talents of Khaled, Taha, Faudel, and many of North Africa’s leading musicians.

Hossam released numerous albums of Egyptian dance music for ARC Music, and in November 2001, at the label’s 25th Anniversary party, he was awarded a special Platinum disc for being their top selling artist, with over 200,000 sales.

His extensive discography includes: Afro-Celt Sound System, Marc Almond, Joan Armatrading, Ash, Claudio Baglioni, Big Country, Bond, Chick Corea, Pino Daniele, Anne Dudley, E.L.O., Celick Erici, Faudel, Peter Gabriel, Boy George, Gypsy Kings, Deborah Harry, Greg Hunter, Jay-Z, Kamal Ka?et, Alexandros Karozas, Cheb Khaled, Donal Lunny, Mathilda May, Loreena McKenitt, Maryam Mursal, Luciano Pavarotti, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Procol Harum, Rolling Stones, Rachid Taha, Tarkan, Barbara Thompson, Mari Wilson and Paul Young.

Film Soundtracks: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Saint, Stargate, Stealing Beauty, Wings of a Dove.

Hossam was honored in 2014 with the significant Taichi Traditional Music Awards (Chinese Institute of Music) for his project Bedouin Tribal Dance, portraying the traditional wedding rituals of nomadic Bedouins.

More recently, Hossam toured with blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, including two special nights in New York recorded live for the “Joe Bonamassa Live at Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening” special, which went to No.1 on the Billboard US Blues Album chart.

In 2019, he gave a special performance alongside Loreena McKennitt at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall.

Hossam Ramzy died on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019


Best of Farid Al Atrash (ARC Music, 1994)
Best of Abdul Halim Hafiz (ARC Music, 1994)
Best of Oum Kalthoum (ARC Music, 1994)
Best of Mohammed Abdul Wahab (ARC Music, 1994)
Baladi Plus (ARC Music, 1994)
Sultaan (ARC Music, 1994)
Egyptian Rai (ARC Music, 1995)
Source of Fire (ARC Music, 1995)
Gamaal Rawhany – Soulful Beauty (ARC Music, 1996)
Eternal Egypt (1996)
Ahlamy, with saxophonist Rafat Misso (ARC Music, 1996)
Eclectic with Big Country (Castle Music, 1996)
Best of Hossam Ramzy (1997)
Messiah Meets Progenitor (1998)
Ro-He with Essam Rashad (ARC Music, 1998)
Rhythms of the Nile (ARC Music, 1998)
Immortal Egypt (1998)
Amar (2000)
Sabla Tolo — Journeys into Pure Egyptian Percussion (ARC Music, 2000)
Faddah (ARC Music, 2002)
Qanun El Tarab (ARC Music, 2002)
Flamenco Arabe (ARC Music, 2003)
Hossam Ramzy Presents Egyptian Sufi Sheikh Mohamed Al Helbawy (ARC Music, 2003)
Enchanted Egypt (New World, 2004)
Bedouin Tribal Dance (ARC Music, 2007)
Secrets of the Eye (ARC Music, 2007)
Sabla Tolo II (ARC Music, 2007)
Sabla Tolo III (ARC Music, 2008)
Ruby (ARC Music, 2009)
Rock the Tabla (ARC Music, 2011)


Artist Profiles: Fathy Salama

Fathy Salama

Fathy Salama is a well known Egyptian composer, arranger and musician. Fathy is the former creator of jeel music. He composed hits during the 1980s in Cairo. He is also involved in the revival of the Egyptian traditional music.

Fathy Salama was born by the Nile. When he was a child he swam there with his friends. He grew up listening to the family radio, which played the music of Um Kulthum, Abdelwahab and Farid el Attrash. Later, when he could tune the radio, he reached beyond the banks of the Nile to Jazz and to a huge variety of traditional world music.

Learning the piano from the age of six was a good beginning and was followed by gigging in Cairo clubs from the age of thirteen. Soon the kid of Shobra, made it to Europe and to New York to learn jazz with such great artists as Sun Ra and Ossman Kareem.

Salama created many hits in Cairo during the 1980s. He toured the world and won two prizes for his film soundtracks. With Sharkiat (his own group) Salama made his dreams come true of merging modern and traditional music together, thus expressing both a message from his home country and his love of music. His music reflects his experience from the Middle East and Europe. His “success” in the music world plays a secondary role. First and foremost he wants to be understood, and so he works tirelessly to bridge traditional and modern music from the Orient.

In 2000, Salama settled down in Paris and started an artistic collaboration with Youssou N’Dour.

In 2001 Salama worked with the collective of Parisian VJs Ya-K and the photographer Guillaume de Remusat. He created the first multimedia show around electronic music and traditional Egyptian rhythms.

Fathy Salama

The following year, while still researching electronic music, Salama worked on the preservation of traditional music with the creation of a new group The Rango Tanbura Group with which he gives a series of workshops for professionals and the public.

In 2004, Salama composed and arranged Egypt (Warner, 2004) by Youssou N’Dour. In 2009, he arranged three songs on the Cesaria Evora album Nha Sentimento (Lusafrica).


Camel Dance (Face Music, 1991)
Ibn Battuta, with Embryo (Schneeball, 1994)
Color Me Cairo, with Roman Bunka (Enja, 1995)
Camel Road (Face Music, 1996)
Don’t Climb The Pyramids (Barraka, 1998)
Maqsoom & Mashy El Hal (Les Disques Sérieux, 2003)
Sultany (Incognito Records, 2006)


Artist Profiles: El Tanbura

El Tanbura

El Tanbura are a collective of veteran master musicians, singers, fishermen and Sufi philosophers. For the past years they have been keepers to some of Egypt’s oldest folk traditions at their home in Port Said, at the gate to the Suez Canal. Their music is driven by the seductive call of the Simsimiyya – an ancient lyre dating back to the times of the Pharaohs.

The origins of the Simsimiyyia are lost in the mist of time and legend. Its modern history comes to life in the 1930s, when Cafe owners in Port Said often employed a player to entertain their customers in the old-time smoking dens. Adopting influences from other styles of local folk music and local Sufi beliefs, the instrument quickly gained in popularity, eventually drawing large audiences and a new repertoire known simply as Simsimiyya was created. This popular success was followed by a downturn after the war: economic difficulties and widespread commercialization led to a decline of the tradition in the late 1970s, and many of the old masters simply withdrew from performing, disillusioned and tired.

El Tanbura?s founder, Zakaria Ibrahim first heard the Simsimiyyia in Port Said as a young boy in the 1950s. The sound of the instrument stayed in his memory ever since, and in 1980, he decided to dedicate himself to seeking out the old masters and convince them to perform once again. In 1989 a small nucleus of veteran performers came together to form the El Tanbura group. They were ignored initially, but the infectious atmosphere of the performances soon convinced others to join, and the band grew to include not only folk musicians and percussionists but dancers and singers drawn from local fishermen, market traders and builders, alongside with some older master instrumentalists.

Performances today feature seductive simsimiyya melodies, Sufi inspired vocal chants, increasingly intense drumming and bouts of frenzied dancing. Band members dress in an eclectic mix of jellabas, jeans, fez and baseball caps, and enjoy involving their audiences as their rhythms and chants gains in heat and passion.

With a musical legacy nearly spanning two decades, and concerts at home and abroad consistently winning them new fans, wider success had been elusive for El Tanbura. The group showcased at World Music Expo (WOMEX) in the fall of 2007 and won the Roskilde Festival World Music Award for Zakaria’s El Mastaba Centre for Egyptian Popular Music at WOMEX 2011 in Copenhagen.


La Simsimiyya de Port Said (1999)
Ahwa Qamar (2003)
Between the Desert and the Sea (World Village, 2006)
Friends of Bamboute: 20th Anniversary Edition (2009


Artist Profiles: Amr Diab

Amr Diab

Amr Abd El-Basset Abd El-Azeez Diab, better known as Amr Diab, was born in Port Said, Egypt on October 11, 1961. He grew up in an artistic family headed by his father who possessed a fine singing voice. Amr was encouraged to sing and showed remarkable promise at an early age. One evening, when Amr was just 6 years old, his father took him to the July 23rd Festival at Port Said where he made his first singing appearance on Egyptian Radio performing the National Anthem Biladi, Biladi. The governor took note, and awarded him with a guitar as a prize.

Amr continued to pursue his dream and began his musical studies at the music faculty of the Cairo Academy of Art, from which he graduated in 1986. His first album Ya Tareeq followed shortly after graduation and was an instant success. He followed this early success with 16 other hit albums, making him the most famous Arabic singing star of his generation.

He was the first Arab artist to make a video clip and in a parallel career, has acted in several films including Dhahk We Laiab (Laughter & Fun), in which he plays opposite the world famous Egyptian actor Omar Sharif and Ice Cream, in which he played the lead.

Due to his unprecedented style and aplomb that quickly singled him out from his contemporaries, Amr Diab was given the nickname Rebellious. But this uniqueness was not just limited to his clothes but translated into his developing an entirely new genre of music called Mediterranean Music referring to its blend of Western and Arabic rhythms. His success and individuality led to his being named, by most satellite and TV stations, as the Best Singer in the Arab World throughout the nineties.

1996 was a breakthrough year for Amr Diab with the release of Nour El Ain. This album became a best selling album by an Arabic artist, selling well not only in the Middle East but throughout the entire world. The title track, and its English version Habibe, was an international phenomenon, becoming a massive crossover hit in countries as far a field as India, Argentina, Chile, France and South Africa. The song was remixed by several top European deejays, becoming a big hit on the dance floors of Europe. The video clip set a new standard with its lavish production values.

In 1997 Amr Diab won three Awards at the Annual Arabic Festival (for Best Video, Best Song and Artist of the Year). In the following year, he received a Triple Platinum Award for the sales of Nour El Ain, and received the Worldwide Music Award in Monaco on 6 May 1998. This award was the first of its kind for an Arabic artist, illustrating the international nature of his appeal, unlike the majority of his contemporaries.

He continues to follow up this meteoric rise to stardom with even bigger hit albums, including Awedony, Amarain, Tamaly Maek and Aktar Wahed Biyahibak, with each album surpassing the next in terms of both sales and artistic achievement. He continues to enjoy mixing styles and performing with other artists.

On Amarain he performed two duets with with the France based international Rai superstar, Khaled of Didi fame, and with the Greek diva, Angela Dimitrou, whose crossover smash Marguerites was a huge hit across the Middle East in 1998.


“Ya Tareeq” (Sout Al Madina, 1983)
“Ghanny Mn Albak” (Delta Sound, 1985)
“Hala Hala” (Delta Sound, 1986)
“Khalseen” (Delta Sound, 1987)
“Mayyal” (Delta Sound, 1988)
“Shawwa’na” (Delta Sound, 1989)
“Matkhafeesh” (Delta Sound, 1990)
“Africa” (Delta Sound, 1991)
“Habiby” (Delta Sound, 1991)
“Ice Creem Fi Gleem” (Delta Sound, 1991)
“Ayyamna” (Delta Sound, 1992)
“Zekrayat” (Delta Sound, 1993)
“Ya Omrina” (Delta Sound, 1993)
“Weylomony” (Delta Sound, 1994)
“Rag’een” (Delta Sound, 1995)
“Nour El Ain” (Alam El Phan, 1996)
“Awedony” (Delta Sound, 1998)
Amarain” (Alam El Phan, 1999)
“Tamally Ma’ak” (Alam El Phan, 2000)
“Aktar Wahed” (Alam El Phan, 2001)
“Allem Alby” (Alam El Phan, 2003)
Leily Nahary” (Rotana, 2004)
Kammel Kalamak” (Rotana, 2005)
El Lilady” (Rotana, 2007)
“Wayah” (Rotana, 2009)
“Aslaha Betefre'” (Rotana, 2010)
“Banadeek Ta’ala” (Rotana, 2011)
El Leila” (Rotana, 2013)
“Shoft El Ayam” (Rotana, 2014)
Ahla W Ahla” (Nay, 2016)
“Meaddy El Nas” (Nay, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Hakim


Recognized worldwide as a leader of the movement to popularize jeel, Hakim is an innovator who has revolutionized the genre of sha’bi. His music adds modern rhythms to a foundation of traditional sha’bi melodies, resulting in entirely new sounds. It is the music of the masses, evident by his ever-growing fan base throughout Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

Lauded as a musical “trail blazer,” Hakim has sold an estimated six and a half million units throughout his career. Just as sha’bi is defined as the music of the people, Hakim is someone his audience can relate to, through songs that fuse traditional melodies with urban dance beats, and lyrics .that chronicle daily life through the rhythm of street slang.

A major figure in the international music scene, Hakim has played to sell-out crows in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, North America, and Africa. He has received numerous accolades including the award for Best North African Singer 2000 at Africa’s prestigious Kora Awards, and he was chosen to represent Egypt at 1994’s Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France.

In 1999, his rising popularity prompted France’s Blue Silver label to release “The Best of the Big Egyptian Star,” an album of hits that was met with acclaim from crowds of new European fans.

Hakim was born in Maghagha, in the province of Minya, Egypt. A devotee of sha’bi from the very beginning, he began singing at the age of eight. At fourteen he formed a band and started performing at local parties and school functions with the accompaniment of a tabla, a daf, and an accordion. The band played covers of classic sha’bi hits by Ahmed Adaweya, Mohamed El Ezabi, and Abdel Ghani Al Sayed. Soon they expanded, bringing in keyboards and drums and performing all over the Minya province.

Under academic pressure from his father, who, as the mayor of Maghagha, wanted his son to secure a professional future rather than follow his artistic proclivities, Hakim moved to Cairo to attend the prestigious University of El Azhar. Meanwhile he was meeting with other musicians at the cafes on Mohammed Ali Street (a centuries-old gathering spot for artists of all sorts) and his interest in renewing the sha’bi genre was cemented.

It was there on the bustling streets of Cairo that he received his musical training for the music of the streets. One of Hakim’s teachers was the famed street accordionist Ibrahim El Fayoumi, who helped him convey in his music the unadulterated spirit of the street.

Having completed his B.A. in Communications in 1983, Hakim returned to Maghagha with the intent to pursue music. He formed his own orchestra consisting of a blend of oriental instruments (tabla, daf, dohola, accordion, kawala, quarter-tone trumpets) and western instruments (drum set, bass guitar, keyboards). They set about performing all over Minya, and Hakim soon became the province’s most popular singer. Yet he still longed for the artistic atmosphere of the metropolis of Arabic music. So, following his passion and defying his father, Hakim moved to Cairo to devote himself fully to his music.

In 1989 Hakim met the highly-acclaimed producer Hamid El Shaeri and a great partnership was formed. Soon after, Hakim signed a contract with the record company Sonar Ltd / Slam Records and began recording his first album, with El Shaeri as his producer.

Response to the electronic-sha’bi mix of Nazra, released in 1991, was phenomenal, as the album hit the charts immediately and the first pressing of the cassette was sold out within a month. Hundreds of phone calls came in requesting Hakim to perform. Determined to get the word out about the album, he went to DJs and gave them copies of his tape – the first time any Egyptian artist handled his own publicity in this way.

In 1994, after the release of his second album, Nar, Hakim was chosen to represent Egypt at the Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France. Hakim, shrewdly viewing this as an opportunity to bring jeel music to a wider audience, popularized sha’bi as no other musician had, and became known as the “king of jeel”.

1996 saw Hakim receive a nomination for the esteemed Kora Award in the category of Best North African Singer. In the same year he released the album Efred, the first of many collaborative efforts between himself, lyricist Amal El Taer, and composer Essam Tawfik.

Although Hakim stopped doing covers in favor of performing original songs, he has only written a small portion of his songs. In the collaborative process, he offers general concepts, which are then developed further by El Taer and Tawfik.

With 1998’s Hakim Remix, he turned eight of his previously-released hits over to Britain’s Transglobal Underground, who then put their own spin on things. It was a daring move, as Hakim had to maintain the right balance between tradition and innovation. ”I don’t mind pushing towards the evolution but I do not want to lose the identity in the process,” he noted. Also released in 1998 was the album Hayel, a selection of traditional sha’bi and return to his musical roots.

Hakim’s experimental search for the perfect fusion of tradition with innovation is presented in his album, Yaho, which was released by Mondo Melodia / Ark 21 Records on December 5, 2000. Its original version is already a huge success in the Middle East, having sold over 1 million copies.

The U.S. version features four remixes by the acclaimed British group Transglobal Underground and two brand new songs including Yemin We Shemal by French producer Sodi and El Bi Hebeni El. It is a testament to Hakim’s sha’bi roots as well as a musical journey on an international level. In traditional sha’bi style, classical Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud and nay mingle with Hakim’s rich tenor vocals during the mawwal. Also keeping with sha’bi custom, Hakim’s lyrics, which are mostly about everyday life, are never syrupy or heavy, rather they are coy, light-hearted, and witty.

His most significant live album was recorded in the heart of Brooklyn New York, The Lion Roars, Live in America (Mondo Melodia/Ark 21, 2001), produced by Dawn Elder. Singing to audiences who typically didn’t understand a word of Arabic, he captivated them with his voice, and the traditional roots of his sha’bi music.
This release was also followed by the most significant tour in Hakim’s International career. Originally scheduled to start his first major American tour in September of 2001, along with fellow Algerian Artist Khaled, Hakim was shocked as the entire world watched on TV the devastation of the 911 events in the United States. He stood at the airport watching the news with his Egyptian orchestra all set to board a plane to New York on the eve of 911.

The tour was of canceled, but remarkably rescheduled a few months later. Hakim along with his entire Egyptian Orchestra believed it was vital to the healing of communities of all ethnic backgrounds in the United States to proceed with his tour of North America.

In 2004 and 2005 Hakim released two more albums Talakik (Ark21) and Kolo Yorkoss. Talakik featured two hit singles and won several Latin music awards. The first, Ajielbi, a duet with Olga Tañón, that topped the Latin and Arab music charts, followed by a second hit “ Salam” featured in the movie Vanity Fair , starring Reece Witherspoon.

Lela (2006) featured collaborations with James Brown and Stevie Wonder. In 2007 Hakim released “Tigi Tigi.” This was followed by “Ya Mazago” in 2011 that included the song “Kolena Wahed” which called for a unity of the peoples of the Arab world.

In 2014, Hakim was invited to write the lead song for the movie Halawet Rooh, starring the Middle East’s most popular actress Haifa Webhe. The movie was a success and the music video of the song reached millions of viewers:


Nazra (Sonar Ltd / Slam Records, 1991)
Nar (1994)
Efred (1997)
remix (1998)
Hayel (1998)
Yaho (Mondo Melodia / Ark 21 Records, 2000)
The Lion Roars – Live in America (Mondo Melodia 850 043, 2001)
Talakik (Mondo Melodia, 2002)
Taminy Alek (2004)
El Youm Dol (2004)
Kolo Yoross (2005)
Lela (I.R.S. World, 2006)
Tigy Tigy (2007)
Ya Mazago (2011)


Artist Profiles: Fatma Zidan

Fatma Zidan
Fatma Zidan

Denmark-based Egyptian singer Fatma Zidan was the winner of the Danish World Awards in 2008 and 2010. Although she trained as a classical harp player, she changed her career to become a vocalist.

Fatma Zidan was educated at the Giza Conservatory and the Zamalek school of Music. She has released two albums under her own name produced by some of the most famous musicians and composers from Egypt and the Gulf area. Her most recent album is Hawel – Try.


Aya haeman (Passionate Love)
Ella Elzaal (Accept Sadness)
Hawel – Try (2010)

website: www.fatmazidan.com