Talking about Omar Khorshid yesterday, I promised we’d hear from Baligh Hamdi, and here he is. Hamdi (also spelled Hamdy) was among the preeminent composers in Egyptian music from the 1950s through the 1970s. A theoretical Egyptian oldies station (I’m not really familiar with Egyptian radio—maybe they have those?) would be filled with songs he had a hand in writing. He worked with all three of the people I’ve featured in Egypt Week so far—he rose to fame writing for Um Kalthoum, pushed the boundaries of Arab popular song with Abdel Halim Hafez and Omar Khorshid, and also wrote major hits for Faiza Ahmed, Sharifa Fadel, Said Bensaid, Mohammed Rushdie, Nagat Essaghira, Shadia, Algerian singer Warda (to whom he was married for a decade), Lebanese singer Sabah (to whom he was also married, briefly), his protege Mayada Al Henawy, and others.
He also has relatively few available recordings under his own name. In addition to writing for singers, he also composed soundtracks, and much of the music under his own name we have available to us (though none of it seems to be in print anywhere) seems to stem from this milieu. “Gada” is no exception—at least I don’t think. It’s from a six-track EP with fairly racy cover art that I think is from around 1972. I have heard that it was incidental music to be played in a nightclub scene in a movie called City Lights.
Of course, here we’re experiencing it divorced from its intended context. Which is fine, because it’s a really interesting piece of music on its own, mixing Western and Arabic instrumentation and compositional techniques. He has a series of themes he works his way through, throwing them to different instruments (Recognize that guitar? Almost certainly Omar Khorshid.) and subtly rearranging them each time through.
Hamdi lived a pretty full life. He was born in Cairo, dropped out of law school to focus on music full-time, and in the midst of changing the popular music of his homeland forever, managed to marry two of the Arab world’s most popular female singers. He moved to Paris in 1985 after a female fan committed suicide at his home—another motivation for the move was medical treatment. He died of liver cancer in 1993 just shy of his 61st birthday.
Even more info on the amazing Radio Diffusion blog.
I couldn’t find any source to buy it.
Buy it at discogs