Next Music Station

Egypt: Umm Kulthum, the fourth pyramid

Inheriting one of the oldest musical traditions in the world Egyptians have never lost their love for music.

Next Music Station is an odyssey through the rhythms of the Arab world.

A year in production, with nine countries visited and more than 80 musicians interviewed, this series by musician and documentary filmmaker Fermin Muguruza paints a ‘soundscape’ of the Arab music scene.

From Morocco to the Gulf, Next Music Station takes us on a journey, exploring the music of different Arab countries, en route addressing issues of tradition and modernity, the struggles of the present and the yearning for a brighter future.

On the second episode of Next Music Station we visit Egypt, a country best known for the pyramids and its ancient civilisation.

“The mother city” or “the city of the victorious”, as the Egyptians refer to their capital, Cairo, has been the city of reference for the Arab music since time immemorial.

Also in the collective memory remains the iconic singer of Umm Kulthum, metaphorically known as the fourth pyramid.

Umm Kulthum is remembered in Egypt, the Middle East, and the Arab world as one of the greatest singers and musicians to have ever lived. Even today, she has retained a near-mythical status among young Egyptians and she is a basic reference for modern Egyptian musicians.

Meet the musicians
Fathy Salama 

Fathy Salama is a conductor, composer and founder of the band Sharqiyat. He is a staunch supporter and a professed student of Umm Kulthum as well as an admirer of the psalmody tradition in the recitation of Quran, which is the authentic melodic school of the Islam.

“The experience of a singer or musician can be seen by how he improvises as he moves from one key to another, and then goes back to the first key.”

Mohamed Abdel Dayem

The dervish dance consisting on moving in circles puts the Tanoura into relation with the non-Arab Islamic traditions such as the one of the mevlevi brotherhood, founded in Turkey by a Persian mystic.

“They show traditional Egyptian music and dance with Sufi roots.”

Wust El Balad

Wust El Balad got its name from the place where the musicians that founded the band met. They mix in their music all their rhythmic passions ranging from the flamenco, cajon drum to the blues and eastern music. The outcome is very surprising and personal.

“When artists produce music, they reflect the mix in which they live, the reality they exist in.”

MC Amin, Arabian Knightz

Although rap was born in the US, poetry is an Arab invention – according to the musicians of Arabian Knightz. They sing in Arabic and sometimes in English, so their music reaches people in the West to correct wrong ideas they might have about Arabs.

“Arabs used to meet in the market and play tambourine. They used to improvise, just as Eminem does.”

Amro Salah, Eftekasat

Eftekasat‘s name is slang and means ‘something new’. And this is exactly what the musicians do when they mix music from the Balkan with Latin, Greek and Turkish music. All these styles are put together under the big influence of jazz.

“People have a wrong idea about jazz. They think it’s just meaningless noise. But actually it’s not like that. Jazz is full of art.”

Omar Khairat

Omar Khairat was born into a bourgeoise family with a long musical tradition which was strongly influenced by European music. In his work Khairat tries to combine his knowledge of Chopin and Beethoven with his love for Umm Kulthum or Abdelwahab.

“I believe that music is one of the most important forms of art. Actually it is the most important art in our life. I can’t imagine life without music.”