Abdel Halim Hafez – Mawood {1971}

Everything I say can’t even come close to describe this masterpiece. I haven’t been so touched by music for a long time. It is really strange how secluded the popularity of certain music sometimes is, how come I’ve never heard of Abdel Halim Hafez before? Just imagine: when he died too early in 1977, millions of people marched through Cairo and four women even killed themselves out of grief. He is considered to belong to the “Great Four of Egyptian and Arabic music” along with Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and Farid Al Attrach.

There’s so much that is striking about this music and the video, the sheer amount of people on stage, the length of the track, the complexity of the composition, the cheerfulness and passion of musicians and audience and the modern instrumentation and of course the presence and the voice of Abdel Halim Hafez himself. I think all this must have been considered very unusual and modern in 1971, especially for more traditionally thinking people.

The emotional message in this music feels so universal: “Why can’t we people on earth connect, understand and love each other?”. Looking at the world today, an utopia where people from different cultures and religions get along seems to be not in sight and the prejudices continue to rule the world, perpetuated especially by the mainstream media often orchestrated by the leaders in politics and religion. The image of the exchangeable aggressive Islamist seems to have nothing in common with the multi-faceted emotional expression of Abdel Halim Hafez in this or other videos. I for one am really intrigued by him as role model of masculinity: smart, creative, good-looking and at last but not least emotionally deep. But I know, how complicated all that is and this discussion is always a slippery slope, especially if you don’t really have a clue about it as I do.

“Oh my heart. The pain and wounds never heal.”
from the lyrics of Mawood

He was described as the “Egyptian Elvis” which doesn’t quite fit the bill because he didn’t annex another musical culture but freed and expanded his own and modernized traditional Egyptian music. He included several other celebrated musicians and with them, he introduced new instruments and modern composition to traditional music: Omar Khorshid‘s electric, multi-tonal Surf-guitar, Magdi al-Husseini‘s use of early electronic instruments including the Moog and the modern composition of Baligh Hamdi. “Despite Hafez’s love of native Egyptian music, he felt that the Moog synthesizer (akin to an electronic organ) and other Western instruments could enrich the music that he sang.” says the biography on Britannica. With Omar Khorshid he shared a similar eventful and tragic life and an early death.

Find a playlist with a few other amazing tracks here, also you can just skip the video above. I could easily write a story about each of those musicians as they were all by themselves superstars at that time. As Abdel Halim Hafez was equally or even more known as a actor, he was more focussed on acting and didn’t find the time to record studio albums and that’s why most of his proper releases were live performances. You can still get the original vinyl too but prices are high. Fun fact: I broke iTunes by trying to order a playlist of his most known work. When it didn’t work, I contacted Apple and they responded: “We’ve escalated your case to our Engineering team. When this happens, the process can take longer than a standard tech support exchange. Engineers work at a high level, looking for root causes and solutions that will improve everyone’s iTunes experience.”

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Buy it at discogs

1 Response

  1. September 18, 2016

    […] is an extra to the article I posted today about Abdel Halim Hafez. Magdy El Hossainy was the keyboard player in Hafez’s Al Massiyah Orchestra, see him on […]

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