Egyptian singers reflect the history of music in Egypt. Music is an important aspect of life in Egypt. The history of music goes back to the time of Ancient Egypt. The goddess Bat owed the invention of music. Then, music has been through a lot of changes and different types of music came into existence including pop music and classical music.
Many Egyptian singers gained popularity not only in Egypt but in the Arab region. They also inspired the following generations of singers and influenced the development of music. Although some singers died many years ago, they still have popularity among the recent ones. This article is an inclusive guide about Egyptian singers from past to present, males and females.
Top Egyptian Singers of All Time
Om Kulthūm (1904 – 1975):
She is an Egyptian singer who enthralled Arab audiences in the 20th century. She was one of the most well-known public personalities and Arab singers at that time. Her father worked as Imam in the village where they lived. He sang traditional religious songs during ceremonies and weddings.
Om Kulthūm went with her father to sing in the ceremonies while getting dressed as a boy as it was a shame for a girl to be on stage at that time in the village. Being a female singer was not an admirable job in the Egyptian community. Then, she became popular in the region of the Egyptian Delta. Soon, she became the star of the family.
Famous composer Sheikh Zakaria Ahmed heard her unique voice and advised her to move to Cairo to start a professional singing career. So, the whole family moved to Cairo which was the centre of popularity and mass media production in the Middle East during that time. Om Kulthūm had to study music and poetry to cope with the modern lifestyle of the city which was completely different from the village where she was raised. She got trained with experienced performers and intellectuals. She succeeded in learning the manners of the ladies of wealthy homes. Sooner she became popular in the homes and salons of wealthy people and public venues including theatres. She accomplished her first recording by the mid-1920s. She also achieved a more shiny and cultured musical and personal style.
By the end of the 1920s, she became a sought-after singer and was one of the best-paid performers in Cairo. Finally, her extremely successful commercial recordings spread to radio, film, and television. In the mid-thirties, she tried the world of cinema, where she played the lead and sang in musicals. In 1936 she introduced her first motion picture, Wedad, which gained success. She acted in five more motion pictures later on.
Starting in 1937, she regularly performed on the first Thursday of every month. She moved to perform popular tunes with a small traditional orchestra. She became famous for her emotional, vibrant songs by the best poets, composers, and songwriters of the day, including Aḥmad Shawqī and Bayrām al-Tūnisī and the registered composer Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Wahhāb. Om Kulthūm and Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Wahhāb collaborated on 10 songs.
The first tune of the collaboration was “Inta ʿUmrī”, which continued to be a modern classic. She was called Kawkab al-Sharq. She had a wide collection of songs, which included nationalistic, religious, and sentimental songs. She held the position of the president of the Musician’s Union for seven years. She had a national role and denoted the outcome of her concerts to the Egyptian government. She never assumed a specific political agenda.
Om Kulthūm suffered from health problems most of her life. During the late 1940s and early ’50s, she worked less and reduced the number of concerts. She travelled to Europe and the United States due to a variety of diseases. She had to wear heavy sunglasses because of problems with her eyes. Millions of admirers lined the streets upon her death news for her funeral procession. She continued to be one of the Arab world’s best-selling singers even decades after her death. In 2001 the Egyptian government established the Kawkab al-Sharq Museum in Cairo to commemorate the singer’s life and achievements.
The Om Kulthūm Museum is one of Cairo’s most stunning and romantic destinations. It is part of the Manesterly Palace and closes to the Nilometer on Roda Island. The museum opened in 2001. It contains Om Kulthūm’s belongings and a multimedia exhibition with a digital biography. There is also a song collection as well as an archive of newspaper clippings about her life and job.
Once you enter the museum, you are welcomed by her famous black sunglasses which she wore lately before her death. The hall guides you to a long glass display of her medals of honour, and handwritten letters. You can also see her famous crescent-shaped diamond broach, which she put on at her monthly concerts. Families used to gather around the radio to listen to her song which causes the streets to be empty as people were at home.
Further down the hall, there is a life-sized image of Om Kulthūm sitting, casually dressed in the latest twenties fashion. Next to her photo is her gramophone along with a collection of photos of her in films and at concerts. Next to the room, there is a short documentary film about her being played. You can also see the cabinet of her favourite dresses. Although she died almost 40 years ago, Om Kulthūm remains the ideal voice of Egypt. Let’s check some of her most famous songs:
- Enta Omry
- Seret El-Hob
- Alf Leila Wa Leila
- Hob Eih
- Aghadan Alqak
- Ghaneely Shwaya Shwaya
- Walad Al Hoda
- nta Al Hob
- Hadeeth El Rouh
- Hathihy Leilty
- W Marret Al Ayam
Abdel Halim Hafez (1929 – 1977)
Abdel Halim Hafez’s real name is Abdelhalim Shabana. He was born on the 21st of June 1929. He died on the 30th of March 1977. He is a famous Egyptian singer and actor. His hometown is Al-Hilwat which is a village in the province of Ash Sharqiyah in Egypt. His nickname was “the brown nightingale”, “Al Andalib Al Asmar”.
Abdel Halim Hafez was well-known in the Arab world from the 1950s until the 1970s. He is considered one of the most significant singers and actors in Arab musicals of the 1960s. he remains to have a strong effect on the history of the oriental song.
He was the fourth child in the family and was raised by his uncle in Cairo after his father’s death. He was prominent for his musical talents from primary school. He studied music with his brother Ismaïl who was his first singing teacher. In 1940, at the age of 11, he was received at the Arab Music Institute in Cairo, where he grasped the attention by performing the works of Mohammed Abdel Wahab remarkably. He began with an oboe diploma and a teaching certification in 1946.
He sang regularly in the clubs in Cairo. He achieved his first success on the radio which had originally hired him as a musician. He gradually became one of the most well-known and famous actors and singers of his generation. Soon, he proved himself in the characters of emotional and sentimental lovers. Due to the development of Egyptian musical comedies
Contemporary giants such as Farid El Atrache, Oum Kalthoum, and Mohammed Abdel Wahab, differentiated themselves from them by introducing a new breath to the “Tarab” – the art of song. Combining both adherence to traditional Arab theory of art as well as wonderful modernity in his singing and his outfit on stage. He was very stylish. He knew how to have a style that became a school. Today he is considered a model for many artists. Let’s check some of his most famous songs:
- Ahdan El Haybayeb
- Ahebbak (I Love You)
- Ahen Elayk
- Ala Ad El Shouq
- Alahasb Widad qalbi
- Awel Mara Taheb
- Ba’d Eih
- Bahlam beek
- Balash Itab (Do Not Blame Me)
Sayed Darwish (1892 – 1923)
He was a famous singer and composer. He was born on 17 March 1892 in Kom El-Dekka in Alexandria, on 17 March 1892. He passed away on 15 September 1923. There is no one with Sayed Darwish’s reputation in the history of Arab music. His music was a turning point between Ottoman classical music and the spirit of the modern. It led the way for both poets and listeners to approach 20th-century music.
His followers over the last hundred years, like Baligh Hamdy, Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, Mohamed Fawzi, and Ammar El-Sherei, were an extension of his work. Darwish was named “the people’s artist,”. He came of age when Egyptian society was in a rage because of the British occupation.
There was a renaissance in the theatre and music at that time.
He received his basic education at the “Kuttab”, then he joined Azhar institute. At the same time, he made friends with many foreign settlers in Alexandria and listened to their music. This influenced many of his later compositions like El-Garsonat and El-Arwam. Darwish then travelled to Lebanon and Syria in the companionship of Amin Attallah Theatrical Troupe and was trained by the biggest names in music there including Ali Al-Darwish, Saleh Al-Jaziyah, and Othman Al-Mosul.
He was also affected by the songs and rhythms of artisans and managed to adapt them into songs, such as El-Helwa Di and El-Qullel El-Qinawi.
In 1914, the British declared, deposed the khedive, and declared martial law. The declaration of the British that Egypt became a protectorate provoked Darwish’s nationalist passion, and he reached his peak in his works during the 1919 Revolution.
His masterpieces from that time include Ana Al-Masri and Ouum Ya Masri., His music for Biladi Biladi became the national anthem which provoked patriotic feelings against the British occupation and fought sectarianism. Darwish had many achievements. In theatre, he developed the operetta genre. His operettas were “El-Ashra El-Tayyeba”, “El-Barouka” and “Cleopatra wa Mark Anthony” which his follower Mohamed Abdel-Wahab completed.
He was also truly creative in his use of a combination of Arab musical genres. He paid much attention to expression rather than the typical oriental decorative performance at the time. According to specialists on Sayed Darwish’s heritage, he accomplished 31 plays, including 200 songs, besides his solos. What’s incredible is that his great musical heritage and remarkable output were made in nearly six years, starting in 1917 when he decided to move to Cairo, and until his sudden death on 10 September 1923. Here is a list of some of his famous works:
- Aho Da Elly Sar
- Ana Ashe’t
- Ana Hawet Wa Ntaheit
- El Bahr Byedhak Leh
- Bilady, Bilady, Bilady
- Al Bint Al Shalabiya
- Bint Misr
- Daya’t Mustaqbal Hayaty
- Dinguy, Dinguy, Dinguy
- Al Hashasheen
- El Helwa Di
- Khafif Al Rouh
- Oumy Ya Misr
- Salma Ya Salama
- Al Shaytan
Mohammed Abdelwahab (1902 – 1991)
He is a composer and singer. Mohamed Abdel-Wahab was born at the start of the 20th century and passed away in 1991. He enjoyed a broad artistic and life experience across the history of Arab art in the 20th century.
He is the most significant figure in the field of music and singing and whose fame exceeded all his peers, including the Dame of Arab singing, Um Kalthoum. Although she was in continuous rivalry with Abdel-Wahab, the length of Abdel-Wahab’s artistic experience, as well as the variety of his contributions, determined the competition in his favour even before his death and for several years.
Surely, he was born on 13 March, but a famous debate raged over the year of his birth. It is written in his passport that he was born in the 1930s while he was insisting that he was born in 1913. Both are not correct. There is more than one incident that refers to the fact that he was born in 1901 or 1902. For instance, Fouad El-Gazayerly, the stage and cinema director, saw Abdel-Wahab in 1909 while watching his father Fawzi El-Gazayerly’s theatrical enterprise, when he was eight years old.
The Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawqi, requested Cairo’s governor to save the childhood of a boy by preventing him from singing on stage. That boy was Abdel-Wahab who used to sing in Abdel-Rahman Rushdi’s company in 1914.
As well, Abdel-Wahab learned for a while at the hands of the People’s Artist, Sayyed Darwish, and surpassed him in composing the operetta “Cleopatra” after Darwish died in 1923. Therefore, it is not possible that Abdel-Wahab was born in 1913 but instead in or close to 1901.
When the great poet Ahmed Shawqi returned from his obligatory residence in Spain in 1917 he made up his mind to mentor Abdel-Wahab culturally, artistically and educationally. He wanted to make himself a successful figure in the musical field. He even accompanied him on his European tours.
He was called “The Princes’ Singer” in the early 1930s due to his broad culture and perception along with his mature voice. His voice started to be heard on traditional records at that time. However, Abdel-Wahab needed to broaden his popularity and go beyond the level of the singer of the elite to the level of the singer of the public.
Abdel-Wahab made seven films, they were all directed by his favourite director, Mohamed Karim. Although he didn’t have any evident acting skills, his fans didn’t want more than to watch him singing on the silver screen. Most of his roles ran around being a common employee or an aristocrat facing certain problems in life. So, his songs drew the attention of the younger generation of listeners at the time. Abdel-Wahab was then classified as one of the renovators in Arab music, along with composers Mohamed El-Qasabgi and Mohamed Fawzi.
It was important for Abdel-Wahab that his female co-stars have beautiful voices including Nagat Ali and Leila Mourad.
His cinematic contributions appeared in many production companies including “Sawt El-Fen” which kept working until a few years ago. Through these companies, Abdel-Wahab manages to produce dozens of significant films and introduce several stars including Faten Hamama, Abdel-Halim Hafez, Akef, and Souad Hosni. He composed more than 50 film songs.
Because of this wide and very rich artistic experience, Abdel-Wahab got several types of honours. He was the first composer to be given the State Merit Award at the time of President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rule. Many Arab presidents rewarded his decorations and medals, including Sultan Qaboos of Oman, the late King Hussein of Jordan, and the late Tunisian President Al-Habib Bourguiba. Here is a list of his most famous songs:
- Alf Leila
- Balash tebousni
- Ya Msafeir Wahdak
- Fein Tariakak Fein
- Ya Garat Elwadi
- Albi bi Olli kalam
- Kan Ajmal Youm
- Ya Garat Elwadi
- Ya Msafeir Wahdak
- Boulboul Hairan
Sheikh Imam (1918 – 1995)
Imam Mohammad Ahmad Eissa was born on the 2nd of July 1918 and died on the 6th of June 1995. He was a well-known Egyptian composer and singer. For most of his life, he had a duo with the well-known Egyptian colloquial poet Ahmed Fouad Negm. Together, they were famous for their political songs for the good of the working classes and the poor as well.
Imam’s family was a poor one. The family lived in the Egyptian village of Abul Numrus in Giza. When he was a child, he lost his sight. At the age of five, he was enrolled in a recitation class to memorise the Qur’an. Then, he moved to Cairo to study where he had a dervish life. In Cairo, Imam got to know Sheikh Darwish el-Hareery, a famous musical figure at that time, who guided him in the basics of music and muwashshah singing. Then, he worked with Zakariyya Ahmad, an Egyptian composer. At that time, he was interested in Egyptian folk songs specifically those by Abdou el-Hamouly and Sayed Darwish. He also sang at weddings and birthdays.
In 1962, he dealt with the Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm. For several years, they formed a duo composing and performing political songs, mostly for the good of the poor burdened classes and blaming the ruling classes. Though their songs were forbidden on Egyptian Radio and Television stations, they were common among ordinary people in the 1960s and 1970s. They were imprisoned and sent to detention several times due to their revolutionary songs. They criticized the government after the 1967 war. In the mid-80s Imam performed many concerts in Libya, France, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria and Britain. Later Imam and Negm stopped the due after several disputes. Imam died after a long illness at the age of 76. Here is a list of his famous works:
- masr yamma ya bheyya
- givāra māt
- ye‘īš ahl baladi
- “sharraft ya nekson bāba
- an mawdū‘ el-fūl wel-lahma
- baqaret hāhā
- sign el-‘al‘a
- gā’izet nōbel
- gāba klabha diaba
- ya masr ‘ūmi
- iza š-šams gir’et
- šayyed ‘usūrak ‘al mazāre‘
- ’ana š-ša‘bi māši w-‘āref tarī’i
Amr Diab (1961- Till now)
Amr Diab’s full name is Amr Abd-Albaset Abd-Alaziz Diab. He was born in Port Said on the 11th of October 1961. He is an Egyptian Singer who is called the Father of Mediterranean Music. He has his style of music blending western and Egyptian Rhythms. His songs were translated into 7 other languages and sung by various artists worldwide.
His father was the head of Marine Construction & Shipbuilding. He played a great role in encouraging Amr Diab in the early stages of his professional music career. At the age of six, he performed at the July 23rd Festival in Port Said, he was rewarded with a guitar from the governor due to his excellent performance and nice voice.
Amr Diab achieved his bachelor’s degree in Arabic Music. He graduated from the Cairo Academy of Arts in 1986. On the career level, Amr Diab joined the musical field and introduced his first album “Ya Tareea” in 1983. He managed to integrate with the audience and grasped the attention of a lot of people. He gained success. Amr continued to produce many great albums including, Ghanny Men Albak in 1984, Hala Hala in 1986, Khalseen in 1987, Mayyal in 1988, Shawa’na in 1989 and Matkhafesh in 1990.
Amr was selected to represent Egypt at the 5th Tournament of African Sports in 1990. He sang in Arabic, English, and French. Later in the same year, he made up his mind to try the cinema with a role in the film “El Afareet” along with the actress Madiha Kamel. Then, he launched his albums “Habibi” in 1991, “Ayyamna” in 1992 and “Ya Omrena” in 1993. In 1992 and 1994, Amr performed two more roles in the cinema in “Ice Cream Fe Glim” and “Dehk Wele’b Wegad Wehob”. The former was selected as the opening film at the Egyptian Film Festival.
Amr Diab’s musical career continued to grow, looking forward to musical excellence. He released the album “Weylomony” in 1994. Amr Diab officially became the superstar of the Arab world with the release of the album “Rag’een” in 1995 and the famous album “Nour El Ein” in 1996. They resulted in great success in the Middle East and the whole world. He was awarded several music awards. He then released “Awedony” in 1998.
Amr Diab made a turning point with one of his most successful albums “Amarain” album in1999. Diab had a duo with the Algerian French-based Cheb Khaled in the song of “Alby” and the Greek Angela Dimitriou in the song of “Bahebbak Aktar”. ِAmr Diab released some of his most impressive albums ever “Aktar Wahed”, “Tamally Ma’ak” and “Allem Alby”, as he used all his experience and exerted effort to introduce a new form and style to the art of music. He combined the Arabian oriental theme of music and the western style of musical rhythms.
Amr Diab received the World Music Awards twice in a row, as a best-selling singer in the Middle East in both of his albums “Nour El Ain” in 1998 and “Aktar Wahed” in 2002. He has also been rewarded a Platinum Award for the sales of “Nour El Ain”. in 2004’s summer, he released the album of “Leily Nehary” which is one of the most successful albums out in the market. Amr released his album “Ellila de” in 2007 which was the reason to win his 3rd World Music Awards.
El-Helm Biography is a series of 12 Parts that were released on TV Channels by the end of 2008. The Biography reflected Amr’s success throughout his long career and the international recognition and celebrity that Amr has through his success. The album “Wayah” won two Apple music awards in New York and four African Music Awards in London.
In 2010, Amr Diab released “Aslaha Betefrea” which achieved enormous success for the year. In addition, he performed his annual concert in Golf Porto Marina with an attendance of more than 120,000 attended. In October 2010, Amr Diab gained two African music awards. He won the Best Male Act of Africa music award and Best North African Artist. This was during the African Music Award Festival in London.
In September 2011, he released the album “Banadeek Taala”. Amr Diab composed 9 songs for this album, which was believed to be the reason for the great success of the album. In February 2011, Amr Diab released his hit single “Masr Allet” during the 2011 revolution in Egypt and was devoted to the martyrs of the revolution. Amr Diab launched the program “Amr Diab Academy” in 2012 on Youtube searching for singers worldwide. Diab launched it on Youtube to facilitate talents to register in the academy from all over the world. A lot of talents joined Amr Diab Academy and finally, two winners were announced: Wafae Chikki and Mohanad Zoheir. Wafae Chikki sang a duet with Amr in his Egypt concert in 2012.
In 2013, Diab enjoyed his Golden Tour celebrating 30 years of success including Qatar, Dubai, Egypt, Australis, Greece and Romania. In August 2013, Diab launched the “El Leila” Album, the number one selling album in the world category on iTunes and Rotana. On New Year’s eve 2013, Diab performed in Romexpo stadium, in Romania, Bucharest with thousands of Romanian fans and other fans attending the concert.
Amr Diab is the only artist in the Middle East to receive 7 World Music Awards throughout the years. Amr Diab’s ultimate aim was to make quality music and new musical techniques which he achieved through hard work and passion. He managed to prove that he is one of the best singers in the Middle East with remarkable talent, determination, charisma and enchanting appearance. Let’s check some of his most famous songs:
- Nour El Ain
- Tamally Ma3ak
- Leily Nhary
- Ana 3ayesh
- Ne2oul Eih
- Wala 3ala Baloh
- Bayen Habeit
- El Alem Allah
- Keda Einy Einak
- We Heya Amla Eih
- Alby Etmannah
- Qusad Einy
- Al Leila
- Lealy Nahary
- Ma’ak Bartaah
- El Alem Allah
- Rohy Mertahalak
- Allah la Yehremmy Minak
- We Neesh
- Omrena Ma Hanergea
- We Fehmt Einak
Mohamed Mounir (1954- Till Now)
Mohamed Mounir was born on the 10th of October 1954. He is an Egyptian singer and actor, with more than 4 decades of a musical career. He is from Nubia, Southern Aswan, Egypt. He spent most of his early age in the village of Manshyat Al Nubia. Mounir and his father were interested in both music and politics.
As a teenager, he and his family had to move to Cairo due to the floods after the construction of the Aswan Dam. He graduated in photography from the Faculty of Applied Arts at Helwan University. During that time of university, he used to sing for friends and family at social gatherings. The lyricist Abdel-Rehim Mansour noticed his voice and introduced him to the famous folk singer Ahmed Mounib.
He integrated different genres into his music, including blues, classical Egyptian Music, Nubian music, jazz and reggae. His lyrics are noted both for their intellectual content and for their passionate social and political critique. He is called by his fans “The King” concerning his album and play “El Malek Howwa El Malek” which means The King is The King.
In April 2021, Munir was present in the opening musical sequence. He functioned as a singer for the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade on an Egyptian funerary boat in front of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
He served in the military service in 1974 while continuing his professional musical career. He performed in different concerts. His first concert was in 1975. Although the public criticized Mounir th the beginning for performing in casual clothes at a time when several Egyptian singers used to wear suits. Finally, the public accepted his style.
In 1977, Mounir released his first solo album Alemony Eneeki. Then, he continued to release five more official albums. He has launched a total of 22 official albums. He also recorded six soundtrack albums. Mounir’s single “Maddad” resulted in a debate, as its lyrics could be explained as a call for intercession from the prophet Muhammad. This caused the music video to be prohibited from Egyptian television for a time.
With his album “Ahmar Shafayef”, Mounir returned to his more familiar style of lyrics away from religion. In the summer of 2003, Mounir travelled to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with the Austrian pop musician Hubert von Goisern. Later on, they sang at a concert in Asyut. In May 2004, Mounir had a big concert at the pyramids of Giza.
He kept recording albums inspired by social critique. He released his 2005 album Embareh Kan Omry Eshren and his album Ta’m El Beyout in 2008. Ta’m El Beyout was famous for its creativity, but at the beginning, the album did not achieve as expected in terms of album sales. In 2012, Mounir launched his album Ya Ahl El Arab we Tarab.
In 2008, Mounir delayed his New Year’s Eve concert at Cairo Opera House in solidarity with the Palestinians facing the consequences of the Gaza War. He released the statement: “Delaying the concert is a message sent to the whole world so that it would move forward and help the people in Gaza.”
He was mentioned in the headline of the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 2010 on July 9, at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. He is the ancestor of recent musical groups such as Black Theama. In February 2021, he declared that he would be performing at concerts in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Haifa, and Gaza City, to be the first Egyptian musician to play in Israel, as he said: “I will be a peace delegate, like Sadat”. However, he later stated that he would only travel around the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Gaza. Let’s check the list of his famous songs:
- Yaba Yaba
- Salli Ya Waheb Al Safa
- Salatun Fi Sirri Wa Gahri
- Salatun Ala Al Mustafa
- Ashraka Al Badru
- Allahoo Ya Allahoo
- Absheru Ya Shabab
- Ya Hetlar
- Sah Ya Bdah
- Law Batalna Nehlam Nemot
- Janti Tol AlBead
- Galb Al Watan Majroh
- Eniki Tahet Al Gamar
- Eftah Galbak
- El Leila Ya Samra
- Fi Eshk El Banat
- El Leila Ya Smara
- Wailli, Wailli
- Hikaaytto Hekaya
- Hader Ya Zahr
- Embareh Kan Umri E’shreen
- Eidiya Fe Geyobbi
- Amar el Hawa