Gilded Serpent presents...

Ramzy’s Take on Egyptian Classics for Dancers

“Best of Om Kolthoum and Mohammed Abdul Wahab”
“Best of Abdul Halim Hafiz, Hossam Ramzy and his Egyptian Ensemble”

Best of Classics

CD Reviews by Alima
posted December 19, 2011

If you are adding to your music library or one of your New Years Resolution is to learn more about Egyptian Dance, either or both of these music selections are an excellent place to start. Our zills are ringing out for Hossam Ramzy once again as he exhibits his versatile knowledge of Classical Egyptian Music. Lets Dance!

Cd cover“Best of Om Kolthoum and Mohammed Abdul Wahab”

The two-CD set, EUCD 2259 produced by ARC Music, and arranged by Hossam Ramzy is a splendid offering of two of Egypt’s great singers. The compositions were arranged by Hossam and performed by his Egyptian Ensemble. The music is beautiful and lyrical, suitable for the dancer and the lover of classical Arab music.  

A small booklet written in English, Dutch, French, and Spanish is an added bonus. It contains historical information and lyrics of each song.

Om Kolthoum, from the village of Tammay Al-Zahayra, rose to stardom in the 1930s and died in 1975. Over four million mourners filled the streets in Cairo to honor her passing. Her greatest rival was Mohammad Adul Wahab, born in 1897 and died in 1990. His long career was not only as a singer, actor, and composer; he wrote music for other artists, such as Om Kolthoum and Abdul Halim Hafiz. In 1967 Om Kolthoum and Mohammed Abdul Wahab received an honor from Egypt’s President Nasser; so, it is fitting that the two of them share this melodic and vivid CD set.

Each CD is comprised of seven esteemed selections and range from shortest, “Ghannili Sheway Sheway”, (4:13) to ”Yamsahharny”, (13:05).

I find this to be the best of all possible worlds, if you have a short workshop performance or an Arab event there is a selection suitable for you.

“Enta Omri” (You are My Life), originally sung by Kolthoum, with music written by Wahab, generally was performed for 40 min. We often find this difficult to cut to shorter, more appropriate performance times. Hossam has solved our dilemma; on CD 1, “Enta Omri” has been masterfully divided into three strong sections! Each track can be performed as one selection or used together for a masterful comment on the true expression of the piece.  

On CD 2, the familiar “Zeina” (Delightfully Pleasant Lady), brings back melancholy memories of Samia Gamal. An excellent baladi, with a zaar selection (featuring the ayyoub rhythm) is still buzzing in my head. Track 2, “Set Elhabayib Ya Habiba” ( Lady of all the Beloved) is a tribute to mothers, for Mothers Day. It very touching that Hossam dedicates it to his mother.

One of my personal favorites is Track 6 “Aziza”, composed by Wahab for Naaima Aakif, from the film of the same name.  This selection is an upbeat, good paced dance with an accordion solo at the end.

I heartily recommend this CD to the seasoned performer and the new student of Egyptian dance.  

I am hopeful that more historical pieces will be presented in the future; it is important for us to learn and experience the classical format of our dance form.

Rating: 4 zils
Zil Rating- 4


CD cover“Best of Abdul Halim Hafiz, Hossam Ramzy and his Egyptian Ensemble”

Abdul Halim Hafiz, one of the four most famous Egyptian Singers in the 20th century, was born in 1929 El-Halawat in Ash Sharqiyah, north of Cairo, Egypt.  He died at age 48, due to parasitic liver failure on March 30, 1977.  He was the fourth child of Sheikh Ali Ismail Shagan and was orphaned as a young boy and sent to a poor orphanage for a short time.  Later he was raised by his aunt and uncle in Cairo.

Often in life, due to hardship, many of us seek an avenue in art or music to escape or express our innermost feelings.  

Hafiz’ musical abilites were the vehicle that allowed him to abandon his life of sadness and poverty. His brother, Ismail Shaban, first assisted him in music during primary school, and at age 11, he joined the Arabic Music Institute in Cairo, becoming known for singing the songs of Mohammed Abdel Wahab.  He graduated from the Higher Theatrical Music Institute as an oboe player. He worked as a singer in Cairo nightclubs and sang on the radio. At that time, Mohammed Abdel Wahab was the supervisor of musical programming for Egyptian National Radio.  Trivia buffs will be delighted to learn that in recognition of Wahab, Abdul  Halim changed his name to add the first name of “Wahab” to his name (Hafiz).    

During his career, he played many different instruments and was known as the “King of Arabic Music”, “The Voice Of The People”, “The Son Of The Revolution”, and “King of Emotions”.  In viewing his pictures, it is apparent that he was a pale, handsome man and was noted for his good looks.  He was never married, even though rumor was he was secretly married to actress Soad Hosny.  

Due to the death of the woman he wished to wed in his youth, he was left with great sadness, and it is reported she was his only love.  Many of his songs are dedicated to her memory.

This CD has 6 tracks, all over 6.50 minutes in length.  If your time is limited in a workshop performance, you will have to edit a track to use it for your performance.

I have a few criticisms about this CD:  One involves Track 2, “Oqbalal Yom Miladak” (May You Attain the Same Happiness) (13.08). Overall, it is energetic dance music, with a jazzy opening and full percussion of drums and zills.  I find the taxim section a little long for my taste.  Track 3, “Olulu” (Please Tell Her the Truth), (7:53) is from the film, “Sharre El Hob” (The Street of Love”). This film holds a special footnote–Nagwa Fouad made her debut in the film. This track opens with hand clapping which is lagging and awkward, but otherwise, it is stable rhythmically and danceable–with beautiful phrasing.

On the favorable side, I particularly enjoyed these two tracks: Track 5 and 6.  Track 5, “Khusara Khusara” (What a Loss) (6:47) has good clarity of changes of tempo and opportunities for dripping undulations and flowing movements.  It is my favorite track of this album.  Track 6, “Asmar Yasmarani” (My Beloved Dark One.) (11:12) has a dramatic opening and outstanding use of the Quanoon.

In conclusion, Hossam Ramzy truly understands the voice of the violin. It is the closest to the human voice, and even though no human sings, I hear the joyous and soulful voice of the heart on this CD. I do regret that the memorable song “Ahwak” (I love you) is not on this CD! Perhaps, we can look forward to this and other songs of Hafiz in the future from Hossam Ramzy.

3 zil rating
Rating:  3 zils

Over the years Hossam Ramzy’s talents and passion for music have presented mufti-faceted offerings for the novice and professional dancer. It is exhilarating to experience the heartfelt and inspiring evolution of Bedouin, Baladi, Classical and Contemporary music carpet ride. As we proceed to the future, let us also pay homage to our past shining stars of Classical Egyptian Music. Thank you, Hossam for bringing our history to us in music and translations of the love songs of Egyptian and Arabic music.


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  1. TourbeauNo Gravatar

    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:12:58

    Isn’t “Best of Om Kolthoum and Mohammed Abdul Wahab” a repackaging/reissue of his two older CDs, “Best of Om Kolthoum” and “Zeina – Best of Mohammed Abdul Wahab”? The track listings appear to be identical.


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