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AUK Hosts "Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt"

The Department of Music and Drama at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) held an open talk and documentary screening of "Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt" led by Dr. Virginia Danielson, an ethnomusicologist, and Director of Libraries at New York University, Abu Dhabi Campus. As a specialist in Middle Eastern music, Danielson served as principal advisor to the film, which was one of two documentary films premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1996.

Danielson noted that "A Voice Like Egypt" is the first documentary filmed about Umm Kulthum with the aim of introducing the chanteuse to an American audience. The documentary does not only show glimpses of Umm Kulthum's life as a peasant child who became a legendary singer of wealth and fame, but also connects her life and music to the history and politics of Egypt during a period of great change. When Umm Kulthum died in 1975, 4 million mourners flooded the streets of Cairo to pay tribute. During her illustrious career, she visited and performed in Kuwait twice. According to the documentary producers, the recordings of Umm Kulthum outsell every other Arab female vocalist to date.

Dr. Lisa Urkevich, Chair of the Department of Music and Drama noted the significance of the event to both students and outside guests. "The discussion and film viewing were a real revelation to so many students, some of whom had never heard of Umm Kulthum. She wasn't just a singer from Egypt; she was an icon that represented the entire Arab world during a period of cultural change and political revolution. Following the viewing, students wanted to know more and engaged Dr. Danielson in a lively discussion. Parents and outside guests, who knew of Umm Kulthum and her powerful songs, were moved in a different fashion as the evening brought back a flood of memories. Many left warm-hearted, but teary-eyed following the scenes of Umm Kulthum's funeral," explained Dr. Urkevich.

Dr. Virginia Danielson is the former Richard F. French Librarian of the Loeb Music Library at Harvard University and the Curator of the University's Archive of World Music. Danielson is the author of the award-winning monograph 'The Voice of Egypt: Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song and Egyptian Society in the 20th Century' (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997) and co-editor of The Middle East, volume 6 of 'The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music' (New York: Routledge, 2002). She has authored numerous articles on music of the Middle East, women in Middle Eastern music, and Muslim devotional music.

The Department of Music and Drama explores music and drama in the context of a liberal arts education through both academic study and active participation in performances. By educating students in theory and history and providing training in applied skills, the department fosters artistic proficiency, cultural appreciation, a sense of community, and a lifelong commitment to the arts.

Dr. Virginia Danielson

From left Dr. Lisa Urkevich and Dr. Virginia Danielson


Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 10th November 2014

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2014

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