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World Music

Oum par elles, a Tribute to Oum Kalthoum

Théâtre Maisonneuve November 17, 2019

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In a Festival devoted this year to the celebration of womanhood, and with the men chased from the temple on the opening night, the FMA is closing its 20th season with the poetic-visual musical odyssey of a woman who led an astonishing life.

We see here a musical legend embodied by an emancipated woman, liberated and liberating, who took charge of the stage and kept the audience hanging on every sound. An extraordinary singer, who led the top musicians of her era with a simple wave of her handkerchief. Who could be a more obvious choice to be honoured at the closing of this 20th edition than the woman who, in a quest for music, love and fraternity, was among the few figures in the Arab world who still resonates today in the unflinching intoxication of tarab? Through her courage, determination and deep originality, Oum Kalthoum clearly personifies an unparalleled upheaval in Arabic music.

A strong woman, mysterious and bold, she sang of the love of God and of men, women and the homeland. Everyone listened to her. She sent mystics into a trance. Cloistered women dreamed of gallant love, illiterate people recited refined verses, nationalists glorified language and westerners discovered an imperial diva who, from Maria Callas to Bob Dylan to Mick Jagger, would change their view of the world.

This momentous evening promises a remarkable immersion in the hypnotic worlds of the eternal diva. Borne by three magnificent voices, those of Farida Mohammad Ali, a great lady of the maqam tradition that undulates to the rhythmic flow of the Euphrates, Yasmine Ali, a rising star in the country of the Nile, and Meherzia Touil, a jewel of the Jasmine country, this FMA production becomes a story that revisits key moments in the frenzied life of the woman being honoured, who witnessed a century of dreams, ideals and revolutions, along with uproar and disappointment. Oum par Elles is a modern and intimate reinterpretation of a myth not likely to be forgotten. Music, song, words, projected images and movement will blend in a poetic-visual narrative to give new life to the enormous heritage left by this star who knew how to change orbit! 

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