Mohamed Abdel Wahab
Composer and oud-player Mohammed Abdel Wahab composed more than 1820 tunes. Amomg them "Ya Beladi", the National anthem of the Kingdom of Libya. Many of his songs were sung by Egyptian diva Umm Kolthoum. He personally sang hundreds. Born in 1907 in Cairo Abdel Wahab made his first recording at the age of 13.
Mohamed Abdel Waheb is one of the most innovative musicians of his time. His distinctive baritone vocals, refined oud playing and use of non-Arabic rhythms in arabic music lay the foundation for a new era of Egyptian song.
He started to write traditional melodies but later on Western influences affected his music. In 1926 Abdel Wahab had the chance to complete a stage musical based on "Antony and Cleopatra" left unfinished by the late Saïd Darwish. Sayyed Darwish was one of the most prominent musicians in the 20th century, despite his short lifetime.
After visiting Paris, Mohammed Abd el-Wahaab created his own style Arabic film musical. Abdel Wahab introduced a romantic hero of light-hearted wit and urbane sophistication. His films portrayed a Westernized social elite and featured music that broke from tradition. Fellow composers noted that the music was simplistic compared with Abdel Wahab's previous work, and Abdel Wahab used lip-synching rather than the improvisation on which Arabic music had traditionally relied; but audiences loved it. The film "The White Flower" was a phenomenon, breaking attendance records.
Some of his masterpieces are Aziza and Enta Omribest known in the interpretation of Umm Kolsoum and the instrumental version of Hossam Ramzy.
Mohammed Abdel Wahab was ahead of his time with the use of copper arrangements and electric guitar like on Ana Ouelazab.
Abdel Wahab introduced female singers like Leïla Mourad in his movies. Reaching a wider audience than ever before, many became stars. Musically he began to feature large orchestras with admixtures of Western instruments like guitar, bass, accordion and later organ and synthesizer like in the famous belly dance classic "Leylet hob" (Night of love). Mohamed wasn't afraid to use new rhythmic formulas like tango, mambo, samba and rhumba besides maqsoum and baladi into his compositions as the already mentioned "Leilet hob". The long guitar solo done on a maksoum beat in this timeless composition still hasn't lost any of it's charm and mystic beauty. It soon became a standard in the repertoire of each self-respecting oriental dancer.
Abdel Wahab left film in the 1950's to concentrate more serious as a singer. In 1960 he stopped singing but continued composing for other singers. It was in 1964 that after years of rivalry at the top of their profession Om Kalthoum released a composition of Abdel Wahab on a text of Ahmad Rami "Enta Omri" written specially for her. The song instantly became a hit with it's taunting intro melody on qanoun and the orchestration spiced up with an electric guitar.
While Abdel Wahab appeared very little in public, his popularity never faded. His fame wasn't limited to the Arab world but his music also appealed to a western public. In 1988 - he was already 81 - he surprised the arab world with a new composition on which he sang himself again. The record sold two million copies...
Part of the bio of Abdel Wahab came from a TV program by Simone Bitton for Arcadia Films.
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