musicians

composers, singers & musicians
These composers, musicians, singers and percussionists are members of dance companies presented on this website and/or have played in tanz raum productions and/or are outstanding artists who have contributed to Egypt’s music history. This archive will be continously updated and improved.
Abdel Aziz, Mustapha (1931-2002)

arghul player

mustafa abdel azizMustapha Adel Aziz was an undisputed virtuoso on the arghul, an ancient instrument comprising a double-piped clarinet with a mouthpiece.

Until his death in May 2002, he was supported by Pro Helvetia Switzerland to pass on his skills to young people. This musician’s brilliant playing reminds us of the noble past of this typical Egyptian instrument (see “music instruments”).

Mustapha Abdel Aziz was born on 22nd March 1931 in El Minya, Upper Egypt. In the 1970s he became famous in Cairo, together with Metqal Qenawi Metqal and Shamandi Tewfick. These musicians were discovered by Alain Weber from France, who made them famous in Europe and recorded and released wonderful CDs under their international touring name “Les Musiciens du Nil”. In the 1990s, Mustapha Abdel Aziz toured with Cie Hilal in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland. One of his rare but fascinating solo improvisations accompanied only by rhythm was recorded during this tour.

CD tip Spirit of the Heart

Abdel Wahab, Mohamed (1907-1991)

composer, oud player, singer, actor

Mohamed Abdel Wahab swBorn in 1907 in Cairo, Mohamed Abdel Wahab made his first recording at the age of 13. He died in 1991 after a musical career spanning over 70 years.

He rose from humble beginnings to become a legend in the world of Egyptian music and song. Mohamed Abdel Wahab started off writing traditional melodies.

His captivating voice brought to mind the glorious days of Egyptian-Arab culture and gave his listeners a feeling of pride in their struggle against colonialism.

His early musical career coincided with the revival of Arabic music in the Middle East. Later he searched for new ways to enrich traditional song and started to combine oriental quarter-tone melodies with western themes. Representing a generation in transition, he wrought far-reaching changes to Egyptian-Arab music: he began to feature large orchestras combining western and eastern instruments and was not afraid to use new rhythmic formulas like tango, mambo, samba and rumba along with the traditional Egyptian rhythms. He starred in a number of successful Egyptian films during the 1930s and 1940s. They portrayed a westernized social elite and featured his compositions. Abdel Wahab introduced female singers like Leila Mourad in his movies. Able to reach a wider audience than ever before, many became stars. He composed over 1,800 romantic and patriotic songs for himself and other leading Egyptian and Arab singers. His compositions for Umm Kulthum, the greatest Egyptian songstress in history, brought both artists fame.

CD tip Jewels

Abou Seoud, Hassan (died 2009)


composer & accordion player

Hassan Abou Seoud was raised in a family famous for their art – also his father was a famous clarinet player in Egypt.

As he grew up in a professional musical environment, Hassan Abou Seoud could develop his passion and became one of the leading accordeon player and composer of Egyptian Baladi music.

He gave the urban repertoire of Baladi music an edge of sophistication and complexity. He modernised the Ashra Baladi but kept to the original Shaabi elements. That means he improvised within the traditional structure of the musical sections that are traditionally accompanying the male combat art of Egypt, the Tahtib (see article).

As a result Abou Seoud´s Baladi music retained its strong earthy and majestic feel, even though new instruments like the accordion stretch the traditional elements in many directions. Hassan Abou Seoud worked with the best singers and musicians in Baladi art: Ahmed Adaweya, Samir Surour or Farouq Salamah.

Hassan Abou Seoud died in 2009.

El Atrash, Farid (1907- 1974)

composer & singer & oud player

farid al atracheThe Lebanese-born composer, musician and singer Farid El Atrache was one of the most important contributors to Egyptian film music.  Born a Druze in the village of al-Qajra in the Syrian mountains in 1910, he featured in many movies with the dancers Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca. Farid El Atrache acquired some of his oud-playing skills from his mother who was an excellent player. She entrusted her children´s musical education to two of Arabic music greatest figures: Dawud Husni and Farid Ghusn. Farid´s sister Asmahan became also a singer and nearly as popular as Umm Kulthum before she died in a car accident in mysterious circumstances. He lost not only his sister but a close artist to him, as he wrote a large number of her songs. When Farid al Atrash died, he left behind thirty films, whose directors included also Yusef Chahine. In some films he costrarred with famous dancer Samya Gamal. The success of his films, produced over a quarter of a century, was due not so much to their subject matter, as to the popularity of their songs and dances. Songs like Noura Noura and Gamil Gamal became instant hits. He not only sang his own compositions but wrote for other Egpytian and Arab singers as well.

CD tip Jewels

Adaweya, Ahmad

baladi singer

Ahmed AdaweyaIn the 1970s, Ahmad Adaweya, a simple Shaabi singer living in Cairo, became a famous Egyptian pop star. Today Ahmad Adaweya is still known for his songs, lifestyle and scandals. He was a baladi artist, true to his social background and the musical traditions of his country.

Adaweya was born the mid 1940s in a working class area on the outskirts of Maadi, Cairo. He became a plumber and experienced the hardships of life from early on. He worked as a waiter in one of the cafés in Mohamed Ali Street, the famous street in Cairo known for music and dance, where he had the opportunity to learn music, nuture his talent and gain experience. He lived with many other musicians and artists in cheap simple accommodation and also shared a room with tabla player Ibrahim El Minyawi (see Ibrahim El Minyawi).

He soon started to work at night at street weddings, moulids and parties, where he had the job of warming up the audience before the main singer took the stage. By the end of the 1960s, he was a singer at upper-class wedding celebrations. In the early 1970s, he sang along the prestigious Pyramids Road and sold audio-cassettes of his music. These recordings made him famous all over Egypt and throughout the world, although his music, like all baladi music, was not recognized by the musical establishment.

Ahmed Adaweya’s songs and mawaweel reflected the emotions of the common people. They were filled with political and social commentary against corruption and the establishment.  He used the main structure of the Baladi music of the time (see article) He worked with the best accordionists and musicians, such as Hassan Abou Seoud, Farouq Salamah, Mohammad Asfur, Sami Il Babili and Samir Surour. His idols were Mohamed Taha, who was famous in the ‘60s and was one of the first singers to use the quarter-tone accordion along with traditional instruments, and mawaal artist Anwar El ‘Askari. However, it was Adaweya’s lyricists, Hassan Abu ‘Itman and El Rais Birra, as well as composers such as Hassan Abul Seoud who worked with him to revolutionize the art of the Baladi song and take it to new heights of expression. Ahmad Adaweya dominated popular Egyptian song for more than ten years. Today, his tapes are still played in the Baladi quarters of Cairo and all over Egypt and his voice and mawaweel merge with the hustle and bustle of life in the dusty streets, in the marketplaces and workshops.

CD tip The very best of Ahmad Adaweya (Adaweiat Audio Productions)



El Fuad, Ruh

baladi singer

Ruh-El-FuadRuh El Fuad is one of the last few Baladi singers in Egypt. Her songs and voice are deeply touching, full of emotion, depth and wisdom.  As a performer, she radiates great charisma and presence.  She is a singer, conductor and showmaster all rolled into one – an entertainer who truly lives her art from its roots.

Ruh El Fuad was born in 1946. Both her parents were farmers in the Delta. As a young girl, she was invited to sing at traditional weddings and parties in the region. Later, she performed for the lower and middle classes in larger towns and cities like Tanta, Alexandria and Cairo. Ruh El Fuad’s professional life spans over 50 years. With her talent and the expertise she has gleaned over the course of her long career, she has performed with most of the great Baladi musicians. She also worked with famous nightclub performers in five-star hotels at weddings and parties for Egypt’s upper classes.

In the course of her career, Ruh El Fuad travelled to other Arab countries and later even to Europe. At the same time, Ruh has always remained true to the spirit and moral code and culture of her people: she is a proud Baladi woman who knows her art and who strictly adheres to the professional ethics of Baladi artists, even though most of these have since disappeared. She did not enjoy a formal institutional training, but one based on the oral tradition of the Egyptian country people and the entertainer families. Thanks to Ruh El Fuad’s great command of and the beauty of her voice, her country-based song evolved into the musically more sophisticated urban song. She developed her own unique qualities in her art.  Ruh El Fuad´s speciality is the Mawaal and its essential rendition Ya leili ya Eini, “Oh my night, oh my eye”, a phrase which she uses to soar to the heights of vocal expression.

Today, Ruh el Fuad still lives the simple life of an ordinary Egyptian woman in a typical Baladi quarter in Cairo.  For some years now, she has hardly worked at all.  Her art is not in demand any more in Egypt, as Baladi music and songs are considered to be old fashioned. It lives on through the CDs Spirit and Dinga Dinga.

For more information on her life (see articles).

CD tip Dinga Dinga, Spirit of the Heart




El Minyawi, Ibrahim

tabla virtuoso

Ibrahim swBorn in 1940 in El Minya in Upper Egypt, Ibrahim el Minyawi embodies the traditional earthbound rhythms of his Egyptian home and masters the complex repertoire of Arabian music like no other. His sensibility and his percussion technique have made him one of the undisputed virtuosos worldwide on his instrument, the tabla. Ibrahim el Minyawi grew up with traditional Egyptian music. He belongs to the generation of musicians of Baladi Asseel. Ibrahim el Minyawi is a musician who moves effortlessly between the rural and classical music genres of his country and creates new variations of century-old traditions without losing sight of his roots.

He started his career as a young boy in his home town of El Minya, a city well known for its musical families. The talented young musician played with the old masters in almost all the villages and towns along the Nile, until he arrived in Cairo in the 1960s, the nucleus of the Arabian music and art world. Ibrahim played in the best orchestras in the country. As the situation in Egypt grew more difficult for artists, he emigrated to London in the 1980s, and has enthralled audiences throughout Europe ever since. For over 40 years, he has worked for Arabian television and radio, made numerous recordings and performed in top venues throughout Europe and the Arabian world.

His knowledge of tradition and his sensibility as a musician have contributed greatly to the development of the dance technique we at tanz raum teach today (traditional and modern), and contributes to a better understanding of the essence of movement in Egyptian tradition. Ibrahim works closely with us in our teaching, music research, recordings and new stage productions. As one of the rare musicians of the original school of Baladi who are still alive, Ibrahim plays a key role in making the numerous tanz raum music productions possible. Despite the commercial climate in which musicians in Egypt work today, Ibrahim has succeeded in bringing to life authentic Baladi music as well as Shaabi music. His concerts, workshops and his participation in stage productions for dance help keep alive the identity of an ancient music genre which is in danger of being lost. (see CD shop)

Whether in Stockholm, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Zurich, London, Paris or Cairo, his playing enthralls audiences around the world: the rhythms, sounds and beats he entices from his drum, the speed at which his long, supple fingers move over the fishskin of the tabla. The concerts he gives accompanied by his son Ali El Minyawi are a unique experience, because Ibrahim el Minyawi is the only Darabuka player who performs purely percussion concerts and plays solo for an entire evening.

Today, Ibrahim El Minyawi lives in London and Cairo. From there he still travels extensively to perform, participate in music projects, accompany dance workshops and teach the tabla (see calendar). For more information on his life, see articles.

CD tip Daqat II, Al Masdar, Dinga Dinga, Saltana, Azraq, Daqat, Jewels, Spirit of the Heart

Baladi Live (Layali El Sharq Music)

El Kordi, Gamal

accordion player

Gamel swGamal El Kordi belongs to the best Egyptian Accordion players who are still alive and who are coming from the original school of Baladi.

Gamal El Kordi was brought up and raised in Egypt and surrounded by music from early age on. During his currier in Egypt and Europe, he performed with some of the most famous Egyptian & Middle Eastern musicians, singers and dancers.

As the situation in Egypt grew more difficult for artists, he emigrated to London in the 1980s where he is still living. He composed some great musical pieces and still performs and shows his magic improvisations. Gamal el Kordi collaborates with tanz raum in performances, teaching and recording.

El Minyawi, Ali

tabla player

Ali El Minyawi swAli El Minyawi is Ibrahim El Minyawi’s son. From his early childhood onwards, he has been surrounded by music. His father received and rehearsed with other musicians in their home. Ali was actively involved in music from an early age and has played drums ever since he was 4 years old.

He taught himself the tabla. His father gave him tips on how to perfect his touch. However, he always says that every player has a different relationship to his instrument and should therefore try to develop his own style. He has accompanied his father to concerts all over Europe.

Today Ali has become a refined and powerful tabla player. His playing can be heard on the CD Daqat, and the DVDs Schemm en Nassim and Abyad.

Ali El Minyawi tours worldwide with Natascha Atlas and recorded for the famous band Coldplay in London in 2007. This flexible percussionist is also working with Indian Bolywood music and has now begun to work on his own recordings.

CD tip Daqat I, Daqat II , Sultana

Gad Al Rab (died 2009)

tabla baladi player

Ged Al Rab 2007 copyGad Al Rab, the old master on the heavy and ancient tabla baladi, died in 2009 in Luxor where he was born and spent his life.

When we saw him last in Luxor during the CD recordings for Al Masdar, he could hardly move his hands anymore and it was difficult for him to play due to the strong pain he suffered.

His artistry will be remembered for ever on all recordings of Alain Weber for the “Musicians of the Nile” and can be admired on tanz raum CD “Al Masdar”.

CD tip Al Masdar

Kazazian, Georges

composer &  oud player

George sw

Georges Kazazian was born into an Armenian family in Cairo in the 1950s. He taught himself music, acquiring his knowledge through experimentation and research. Gradually, he was drawn into his vocation of musician and composer. Georges began his professional career composing music for the theatre and cinema. In the 1990s, he concentrated on composing for concerts. In 1991 he created Sabil, a composition for 5 musicians. It was an immediate success and assured his reputation not only in Egypt but also in Europe and the United States. Sabil was followed by other compositions such as Sajaya and the suite El Ganoub. A tireless creator, Georges Kazazian never ceases to compose and innovate. Having researched typical ancestral instruments such as the arghul and the nay, he continues to enrich his compositions with tonalities inspired by popular music and to integrate western instruments into oriental music. George Kazazian has a style of his own and at the same time his work builds on Egypt’s musical tradition. Travelling through musical expression seems to be an inner goal and a way of creating diversity and richness of colour and tone. Considered one of the most interesting innovators in Egyptian music, his work is regularly on the programme of internationally recognized festivals. He has produced two CDs on the tanz raum label. The choreographer Marie Al Fajr has created dance programmes based on George Kazazian’s compositions Nil Sangit, Monaga and Sabil.

CD tip Monaga, Azraq, Dayra Jazz (Nocturne, France), Suite El Ganoub (Al Sur, France), Nil Sangit (Al Sur, France), Sagate (Al Sur, France), Sajaya (Al Sur, France),  Sabil (Impreinte Digitale, France)

Umm Kulthum (1904-1975)

singer

Umm-Kalthum

Umm Kulthum was born in 1904 into a poor religious family in a rural village in the Delta. The family lived in a small house made of mud brick. Her father was the imam of the local mosque who earned additional money by singing religious songs at weddings and other celebrations. He discovered the unusual strength of his daughter’s voice. Dressed as a boy, the child became an attraction for the group and they gradually extended their tours.

In 1923, when Umm Kulthum began singing in Cairo, her repertoire consisted mainly of the songs sung by her father in the Delta. These were sung by a solo vocalist accompanied by a chorus of two to four men. In the 1920s, this style of performance was viewed as old-fashioned in Cairo. Nevertheless, Umm Kulthum’s voice was quickly recognized as being exceptionally strong and vibrant. She improved her skills and her command of literary Arabic and learned to dress and behave like an upper-class lady. She started to work with accomplished instrumentalists and replaced her repertoire of religious songs with modern love songs composed especially for her. In this way, she became one of Cairo’s top professional singers by 1928.

During the 1930s, Umm Kulthum began to record. Through radio broadcasting, she was able to reach hundreds of thousands of Egyptians and Arabs who had never seen her and would not dream of attending a public concert.  Her songs were masterly, as befitted her newly trained and very capable voice, and romantic and modern, as suited the musical style that was popular in Egyptian culture of the time. Umm Kulthum worked extensively with the songwriter Ahmad Rami and the composer Muhammad al-Qsabji, whose songs incorporated European instruments such as the violoncello and double bass. In the early 1940s she commissioned songs from composer Zakariya Ahmad and colloquial poet Bayram al-Tunisi. These works were considered to be indigenously Egyptian and represented a dramatic departure from the modernist romantic songs of the 1930s.  Later in the decade, Umm Kulthum engaged the young composer Riyad al-Sunbati to set to music a number of qasa’id by Ahmad Shawqi. The result was works of various styles based on historic Arab poetic and musical practices.

Umm Kulthum welcomed the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and looked for new modern love songs from the younger generation of composers. This culminated in her collaboration with composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab. After the Egyptian defeat in the 1967 war, she held a series of concerts for Egypt at home and abroad. These concerts were much publicized and took on the character of state visits. Umm Kulthum was entertained by heads of states, toured cultural monuments, and, in interviews, repeated her views concerning the importance of support for indigenous Arab culture. She became “the voice and face of Egypt”.

Metqal, Metqal Qenawi

rababa, shaabi singer & composer

As early as the 1960s, the Rumanian musicologist Tiberiu Alexandru wrote about this singer’s talent.

The legendary Metqal Qenawi Metqal was born in 1926 in Kena, Upper Egypt, into the most famous entertainer tribe of the region, the Mataqil, who are experts in the art of the rababah and the shiir. 70 years ago, the Mataqil settled close to the Karnak Temple. They were horse dealers and epic poets. They first lived in a camp, and later built houses made of mud. It was here that Metqal started his career during the 1960s. He soon went to Cairo with his cousin Shamandi Tewfick (1924 – 1996), a poet of the hilalian epic. Metqal Qenawi became famous in the 1970s in Cairo for his songs, mostly his own compositions, and for his virtuoso rababa playing. They were of an unusual modernity and at the same time rooted in the Egyptian folk song and quickly became well known in the capital and throughout the Arab World.

Songs such as Ya Farawle, El Balass, Dayart Ya Mali have become very famous. It is unusual for Shaabi musicians to make their name in Cairo, but at that time it was politically desirable to emphasise anything authentically Egyptian that came from the common people to cultivate a strong Egyptian identity. Throughout these years, Metqal was the leader of the Mataqil, who also became famous in the west through the French musicologist Alain Weber, who toured with them under their international touring name “Les Musiciens du Nil”.

CD tip Alain Weber

Meqali Mourad, Mohamed

rababa, suffara, vocals

mohamed muradMohamed Mourad Meqali belongs to an entertainer tribe in Luxor, the Mataqil. He travelled the world with the famous “Musiciens du Nil” and performed with them at some of the most prestigious festivals around the world, under the management of the French producer Alain Weber. Mohamed is a master on the rababa and leader of his own rababa group. His sons Diaa and El Hami are singers and rababa musicians as well and follow the footsteps of their father.

Mohamed Mourad Migally was born on 5th October 1955 in Luxor, Egypt. He was trained as a young boy in the oral tradition by his uncle, the legendary Metqal Qenawi Metqal (born 1926 in Kena, Egypt). The Mataqil are experts in the art of the rababah and the shiir. 70 years ago, they settled close to the Karnak Temple. They were horse dealers and epic poets. They first lived in a camp, and later built houses made of mud. It was here that Mohamed’s uncle started his career during the 1960s. He soon went to Cairo with his cousin Shamandi Tewfick (1924 – 1996), a poet of the hilalian epic. Metqal Qenawi became famous in the 1970s in Cairo for his songs, mostly his own compositions, and for his virtuoso rababa playing. It is unusual for Shaabi musicians to make their name in Cairo, but at that time it was politically desirable to emphasise anything authentically Egyptian that came from the common people to cultivate a strong Egyptian identity.

Mohamed devoted his life to the music as did his ancestors. In his beautiful traditional galabeya and with his flashing gold teeth, he is to this day a charismatic figure among Egypt’s Shaabi musicians. He still works and tours and at his home in Luxor he is surrounded by his huge family, his numerous wives and his multitude of children and grandchildren. The music supplies the rhythms of their daily life. The tanz raum production Al Masdar is an homage to one of the last professional entertainer tribes in Upper Egypt.

CD tip Al Masdar

Sax, Mustafa (died 2007)

saxophone

Mustafa-SaxMustafa Sax graduated from University in Cairo achieving a degree in music. He was one of the finest saxophone players around. Living and working in Cairo and Europe, he was internationally known.

He died much too early in 2007, but his passionate music wich was so much rooted in the Egyptian Baladi tradition (see article),  will continue to live within the souls of everybody who remembers his playing and in the soals of all who will listen to his recordings.

Mustafa Sax last recordings were made by tanz raum. He is featured in the CD Saltana and another CD which has not yet been released – also a tanz raum production.

CD tip Sultana

Shams El Din, Adel

percussionist

adel shams el dinAdel Shams El Din has become a master of his art, playing on the req. He seems to manage to make each of the ten pairs of metal cymbals set around the instrument resonate in turn. With a great sense of tempo, he excels in producing subtle discrepancies that surprise and enchant his audiences. He learned his art in the traditional way, starting at home in his family of music lovers in Alexandria. He was studying engineering at university when he met Fathi Guened, a musicologist and composer who taught him the art of the tabla. He continued his university courses while beginning to study rhythm. His scientific background helped him to analyse the formulas, but he started to learn the req from observing Samir Benyamin. Later on, Adel Shams El Din played in Alexandria’s Radio Orchestra and in various traditional music groups. He gradually became a professional musician. In 1980 he settled in Paris and worked in the famous Arab cabaret in Rue de la Huchette, where he discovered the rhythms of other Arab countries. He was member of Al Kindi Ensemble and accompanied the greatest soloists in the Arab world. Through his teaching, his concerts and recordings, he has introduced European audiences to the rhythmic richness and subtlety of Middle Eastern percussion instruments that were little known before his arrival in France. His main instruments are the req, tabla and duff.

CD tip 40 rhythms from the Middle East

Sheik Ahmad Barrayn

religious singer


Sheik Ahmad Barrayn  is from Deir in Upper Egypt. Blind since the age of eight, he was trained as a religious singer in keeping with a tradition of both the Muslim and Christian worlds. Born into a peasant family, it was his mother who decided that he should study the art of koranic verse after the onset of his illness. He became the most important madha in Upper Egypt. The madh is one of the most ancient singing styles of Arabic poetry. It is dedicated to the praise of the Prophet or saint, but may also be secular and addressed to a group of celebrating guests. In the tradition of ambivalence that inspires Sufi poetry, Sheik Barrayn is capable of singing a love poem to a woman that in the Sufi language at the same time symbolises the closeness to the divine. He is extremely cultivated and can sing in classical Arabic or with the cultural and linguistic intonations of Upper Egypt. The instruments originally linked to this type of singing are the duff, naqrazan, req and kawala. Sheik Barrayn is accompanied by musicians with melodies that are powerful and rich in rhythmical structure.

CD tip Sufi songs – Sheik Bahrain (1994 Long Distance)