by Alex Cosper (4/19/12)
Folk music has remained strong throughout Egypt's recorded music history. Another element of traditional Egyptian music is belly dance music, which has been embraced throughout the Middle East for many centuries. Public belly dancers in Egypt were traditionally called Ghawazi dancers. Modern belly dancing was partly inspired by both Latin dancing and European classical ballet. The music and the dancing were popularized at the Cairo exhibit of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.
The recording industry in Egypt began to take shape in the 1910s, three decades after it was introduced in America. Sayed Darwish, Yusef Greisss and Abu Bakr Khairat were songwriter of this era. Religious celebrations such as Muslim mulids are the root of much of the traditional music of Egypt. A flute instrument called the ney is frequently heard at these events. The ney originally came from Iran and ultimately became used in other Middle Eastern countries as well as Egypt. It has been around for over 4,000 years, as it is one of the earliest instruments still used in music today. The oud is another popular music used in Egypt. It is a pear-shaped string instrument that predates the guitar, going back thousands of years.
By the 1980s electronic music had become part of Egyptian pop culture. One of the stars of this era was Diab, who was born in Egypt, began recording in the 1980s and was selling internationally by the mid-nineties. His 2001 song "Aktr Wahed" was sung in Arabic while the music mixed electronic beats with traditional Arab, Spanish and Portuguese influences. Mixing electronic instruments with Egyptian sounds was popularized in the 80s through records such as "Egypt, Egypt" by Los Angeles-based artist Egyptian Lover and "The Gap" by the UK-based Thompson Twins, who visited Egypt before recording their 1984 album Into The Gap.
Egypt, along with Lebanon, has become a leading center of recording for Arab countries. While the upper class enjoys influences from western cultures, most Egyptians have a more personal attachment with traditional sounds. Some of the most popular Egyptian artists of the 20the century were Abdul Halim Hafez in the 1960s and Umm Kulthum (1904-1975) from the thirties through the seventies, who first became known as a film star and as the first singer for Radio Cairo in 1934. Among her fans were the royal family and President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Her epic opera-like songs told long stories, lasting as much as two hours.
In the 21st century one of the top artists from Egypt is Tamer Hosny from Cairo. He is a singer/songer/producer who has recorded commercials for Pepsi in Arab countries. His debut album Hob became a big seller in 2004 and he has since had a string of hits. His music is a mix of western studio electronics with Arab arrangements with a pop orientation. Hosny has collaborated with western artists such as Shaggy with the hit "Smile" and Snoop Dogg on the song "Si El Sayed." His goal has been to deliver Egpytian music to other cultures. In 2012 he released a song called "Habibi Ya Rasoul Allah," which is a tribute to Mohammed.
Another popular artist of the 2000s has been Hakim, who became popular in 2002 with the hit "El Salam." Hakim has also been an advocate of mixing eastern and western musical styles. He has worked with James Brown, reggaeton singer Don Omar and Dominican Republic r&b artist Karina Pasian. Issaf also emerged as a young talent after winning the "Star Maker" competition in 2004. His music, such as the song "Maah Albi," combines Egyptian pop with classical music. One of the nation's most famous stadium singers who rarely recorded was Abdel Halim Hafez, who wrote and sang patriotic songs that became anthems during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.