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For: Professor Alexandre Enkerli Written By: Mustansar Chaudhry Student ID: 6177611 Course: ANTH 326 Due Date: December 10, 2010

Umm kulthum

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Umm Kulthu

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Umm Kulthum

For: Professor Alexandre EnkerliWritten By: Mustansar ChaudhryStudent ID: 6177611Course: ANTH 326Due Date: December 10, 2010Brief IntroductionUmm Kulthum is a woman who really requires no introduction. She is one of the most famous if not, the most famous singer in the Arab world of the 20th century. Her career spanned over 50 years and her music not only touched the people of Egypt where she was born, but also the Arab world as a whole. She has approximately three hundred songs to her name (Danielson, 1997) and held concerts on a monthly basis for the people of Egypt.

Brief Introduction Condt Her influence not only touched her homeland of Egypt, but also touched on many other aspects of Arab society, even the political scene as will be discussed later. Umm Kulthums music had a distinct Arab sound to it. This was refreshing at a time when foreign musicians tended to follow western ideals of music.

Early Life To add even more to her allure and general interest, her upbringing was very humble and down to earth. Her parents did not hold any high positions in society, her father was a religious cleric or Imam who emphasized the importance of learning the Quran. It was also her father that supported her singing. He would also dress her up as a boy because women did not really hold any positions of entertainers at that time in the early 1900s. Influences?According to the Danielson biography, she discusses the idea of Egypt being westernized not only socially but musically as well. Many people believe that foreign places try to imitate the western world. However Danielson says otherwise as she quotes Anthropologist Cynthia Nelson. Strategies of relatively western women were not so much imported as they were the result of an actual historical encounter between Egypt and the west (Danielson, 1997).Women in Egypt Women in Egypt and perhaps even in the Arab world in general did not have the same freedoms that men experienced. Formal education was not required of women. It was the mans job to earn money and support the family while the wife stayed at home and raised the children. So in terms of the status of women, Umm Kulthum essentially goes against the grain of traditional Egyptian society in the sense that she had and still has this grand image. The fact that she was a hugely influential woman who lived in a time when women did not hold positions of power in society says something about the image she held.Fame and PopularityThis ultimately raises the question of how did Umm Kulthum gain such popularity in a time and place where women were not revered as being in the spotlight in society. According to the Danielson text, Umm Kulthums music and specifically her lyrics were the kind of lyrics that people can hear their own stories in her songs. She made the kind of music which people could relate to. 7Status of WomenUmm Kulthums rise came at a time when Egyptian women were more of less not seen in the popular media. Apart from the media, the education of women was very limited to household duties so she can be a good mother and wife. In the book titled The Liberation of Women & The New Woman written by Qasim Amin. He mentions the importance of womens education not only in Egyptian society, but in general as well, Who do you understand a woman to be? Like a man, she too is a human being. Her body and its functions, her feelings, and her ability to think are the same as a man (Amin, pp.11). By him saying that indeed men and women are equal. If men are allowed a higher education, then women by that logic should also be allowed to attain the same level of education that men can have. Status of Women CondtLater on in the chapter, he goes on to mention the status of women. In my opinion, a woman cannot run her household well unless she attains a certain amount of intellectual and cultural knowledge (Amin, pp. 12). Amin is essentially stating that womens education is very important and should be emphasized. With this information, it is interesting that Umm Kulthums upbringing always emphasized music and singing rather than formal education. This idea of womens education being unimportant is not exclusive to Egypt but exists in other parts of the world including the Arab countries. African or Arabic?The ideas of what constitutes African music and what constitutes Arabic music is varying. In the course, we discussed the story about the Lion King and how the people who were responsible for the musical aspect of the film tried to find music that was authentically African. They went to a University in the United States which had an archive of authentic African music. However they did not think that this music was African enough.

What is African and what is Arabic?These notions of what is African and what is Arabic I find too minimal. The moment you say African music is... you are placing an entire peoples musical history and culture under one category. The same can be said for Arabic music or music from any other place. My personal opinion on the discussion of is Egyptian music Arabic or African, I would have to say that is a fusion of both. Umm Kulthums music was slightly more Arabic than African simply because she wanted to portray Egypt and not Africa. If one were to view more contemporary music from the late 1970s until now. We can notice a shift from even traditional Arabic music to a more pop music oriented scene. In the end I believe that it is impossible for a country like Egypt that rests on the continent of Africa, not to be influenced by Africa in some way. To place the terms of African music or Arabic music into these small boxes does not make sense because music in the end of all influenced from other kinds of music. I remember reading a book about classical and contemporary music and the author mentioned something along the lines of you cannot appreciate modern music without first appreciating classical music. In this sense, music is influenced by other kinds of music. One very important aspect that lead to Umm Kulthums fame was her lyrics. She was able to create beautiful lyrics that dealt with issues such as love, loss, and life in general. The reason for this was because the Egyptian public heard their own stories in her songs. The public could relate to what she was saying in her songs and this made her and her songs that much more popular and realistic. She even had an affect on the military. In Danielsons text, she writes Such and such a military leader postponed a manoeuvre because Umm Kulthum was singing (Danielson, 1997). Very similar to what people find in folklore music. They tend to see their own stories in that kind of music and because of that, they feel a greater connection to not only the artist, but also the song as well. From that last excerpt alone, we can see that Umm Kulthum has an appeal and allure that affected not only the general public, but also people in high positions such as politicians and military leaders. If we are to relate to the state of musicians in the contemporary music industry. We see that there are hardly any that can compete with what Umm Kulthum had done with her music. ConclusionIn the end, you cannot meet someone who comes from an Arabic speaking country and have them not know who Umm Kulthum is. If we want to put it into our own terms, we could say that she is like the John Lennon, or Bruce Springsteen of the Arab world and perhaps even in the African world. Her influence when she was alive all the way to her death in Cairo in 1973 was immense. Even after her death, she continues to hold an important position in Egypt and Arab society. It is somewhat ironic that the most popular Arab singer of the 20th century originated not in the Middle East but in Africa. The fact that she was also a woman who conquered the usual norms of Egyptian society at the time.