Umm Kulthum

The Star of the East
The Diva of Arabic Song

"During the 1950s and 1960s Umm Kulthum expanded her role in Egyptian public life. She granted more interviews during which she spoke about her life, repeatedly identifying herself as a villager, a fallahah or peasant, who shared a cultural background and essential values with the majority of the Egyptian populace. Her interviews were full of stories of her family, her neighbors, and the familial qualities of village life.

She cultivated the position of spokeswoman for various causes. She advocated governmental support of Arabic music and musicians, she endowed a charitable foundation and, most importantly, after the Egyptian defeat in the 1967 war, she began a series of domestic and international concerts for Egypt. She travelled throughout Egypt and the Arab world, collecting contributions and donating the proceeds of her performances to the government of Egypt. These concerts were much publicized and took on the character of state visits. Umm Kulthum was entertained by heads of state, she toured cultural monuments, and, in interviews, repeated her views concerning the importance of support for indigenous Arab culture. More than a musician, she became 'the voice and face of Egypt'."

(Excerpt from Virginia Louise Danielson's Shaping tradition in Arabic song: The career and repertory of Umm Kulthum.)