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Arabic: 'umm kulthūm
Other spellings: Oum, Omm; Kalsoum, Kalthum, Kalthoum, Kolthoum
Incorrect spellings: Khalthoum
Umm Kulthum is the most popular and treasured musician in the Middle East of this century. She was immensely popular for 50 years, and still her songs are heard frequently all over the entire Arab world.
Umm Kulthum was born into a poor family. The father was the village imam who made some extra money by singing at weddings and at other special occasions. He taught Umm Kulthum religious songs and let her take part in the performances, but they had to dress her up as a boy.
Until 1923 Umm Kulthum toured the local Delta area, but then the family went to Cairo in the search of a commercial career. Within some years she had established herself as one of the top performers in Egypt, and she had a lucrative recording deal and gave both public and private concerts.
She worked with composers like Zakariyya Ahmad, Muhammadu l-Qasabji and Riyadu s-Sunbati, she recited classical poetry and she made a handful of musical films.
After the revolution in 1952, she used her art to support the new rulers, but she also gave speeches. From the 1960s her style became more popular and she sang about love between man and womna, Even if this resulted in more po popularity, this part of her production is not counted among the best. In her last years she visited many other Arab countries and this took the shape of state visits. Her funeral in 1975 is described as bigger than the one of president Nasser five years earlier.
The style of Umm Kulthum was influenced by Western popular music of her time, but is firmly and dominantly based upon traditional classical Arab music. She always used large orchestras, but the main force in her performances were always her own powerful voice. She recorded over 300 songs, most famous are al-Atlal, Raqqu l-Habib, Inta umri, and Fakarouni.