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Umm Kulthum needs no introduction – along with the call to prayer, her magnanimous voice has reliably been one of the few daily constants across the Arab worlds’ sonic landscapes over the past century. From Aleppo to Alexandria, Baghdad to Beirut and Cairo to Casablanca, in 1934 and for the following forty years her live broadcasts on the first Thursday of each month would see streets and workplaces deserted as millions rushed home to tune in; Umm Kulthum triumphantly became the beating pulse of a new post-colonial Arab world order, and the embodiment of Egypt’s cultural renaissance. Perhaps most remarkably, she spearheaded the remoulding of gender norms across the Middle East by setting an example of what dignified, perseverant and unabashedly Arab women can go onto achieve – she was incredibly business-savvy, actively engaged in public circles at the highest levels, and firmly devoted to her career over traditional family life. Her formidable presence extended to her fervent voice - being a contralto and in all her glory, she would stand at least three feet away from a microphone when singing. Her exalted tone and mastery of Maqaamat (Arabic melodic scales) allowed her to sing intricately layered Arabic poetry while evoking in listeners, be they peasants or aristocrats, a trance-like state of Tarab or rapturous enchantment where time and space dissolved into the music. Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz aptly compares her to a “preacher who becomes inspired by his congregation.....when he sees what reaches them he gives them more of it, he works it, he refines it, he embellishes it” – perhaps this is why she was said to have never sung a line the same way twice! Though many have attempted over the years, Umm Kulthum’s voice has proven to be simply inimitable. 

Her long-awaited and blessed union with the godfather of contemporary Arabic music, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, finally came in circa 1965 under the auspices and repeated urging of the widely adored Egyptian President Gamal Abdel- Nasser. The “Clouds’ Rendevouz” as it came to be known, yielded cult-classics such as Enta Omri, Amal Hayaty and Wa Maret El Ayam: the title of this release featuring an iconic prelude with one of Abdel-Wahab’s quintessential juxtapositions, this time a catchy Libyan folk melody. Souma Records proudly present a long-awaited remastering of the original studio version on a high-quality pressing housed in delicately handmade natural paper jackets. 

Entrancing, magnetic and transcendental all at once... 

Released April 21, 2023

Wa Maret El Ayam by Umm Kulthum - أم كلثوم

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