The following is a post by Alexandra, visual artistperformer and instructor at Belly Motions.

Oum Kalthoum was Egypt’s legendary symbol of strength and unification. She was a singer whose powerful voice has been compared to the pyramids of Egypt. None could measure up to the awesomeness of her influence. Her music continues to influence all over the world, especially to us Belly Dancers. We dance to her music all time!

Oum Kalthoum was born in Egypt’s countryside in a small village. At the age of five her father put her in a local religion school where she had formal training in reciting the Qur’an. This became the perfect foundation for her musical career as reciting the religious texts takes great skill of pronunciation and tone. When Oum Kalthoum’s father, the Sheik of the village (an honorable elder well versed in the Qur’an), brought her along with him to sing religious songs and recite the Qur’an, she became noticed for her incredible talent.

In the early 1920’s her family moved to Cairo where she was then noticed by the upper class who wanted to hire her for their events. Kalthoum’s reputation continued to grow tremendously and reach all social classes.

While in Cairo, poet Ahmed Rami became her lifelong teacher and collaborator. He wrote incredibly romantic lyrics and Oum Kalthoum would take them another level with her voice. During the height of her career Oum Kathloum held so much influence to the point that when she gave live monthly concerts the streets of Cairo would empty while everyone was indoors listening. She was a private soul and not much is known about her life “behind-the-scenes” so to speak.  However, we do know that she was a strong business woman who took possession of her career by becoming her own producer and manager.

In 1967 when the Arab-Israeli war forced Egypt to increase their defenses, Kalthoum went on to tour the Middle East in order to raise money for the Egyptian Army. With great success her talent and immense popularity raised over $2 million, proving that art and music can indeed unite people of all social and political classes.

For Belly Dancers her music is a “must know!” Here are the top-three songs you should check out. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

*P.S. These songs were full concerts, each lasting almost a whole hour! So grab some tea, take a seat and get ready to be blown away!*

1. Inta Omri “You are my Life”

2. Alf Leyla Wa Leyla “A thousand and one nights”

3. Leylet Hob “A night of Love” *Suheir Zaki, the first to perform to Oum Kalthoum WATCH HERE

References: Um Kalthoum: A Voice like Egypt (1996)