In celebration of what would have been his 122nd birthday, Ahram Online reviews the other artistic talents of Zakaria Ahmed (1896-1961)
, the "Sheikh of all composers" and a pillar of authentic oriental music.
Ahmed was one of the pioneers of music, whose songs seem to inspire younger generations by the day. He composed 1,070 melodies, 56 operettas and 191 soundtracks for Egyptian films.
Ahmed was a close friend of the legendary singer Sayed Darwish (1892-1923), and was among those who convinced him to come to Cairo and showcase his amazing talents.
After Darwish died so young, Ahmed would remind people of his brilliance by playing his songs, often in praise and gratitude of the brilliant star.
Zakaria ahmed writes about art icons and their role in Egyptian revolutions in Al-Ahram in 1956.
Ahmed was also the one who discovered Om Kalthoum, (1898-1975) the star of the orient, when she was a young munshida (sufi chanter). Together with the great poet Beiram El-Tounsi (1893-1961) and Om Kalthoum, they created the golden triangle that enriched the Egyptian and Arab music scene with enchanting songs that live on to this day.
Legendary singer Om Kalthoum (C)
Report in Al-Ahram in the 1950s: Zakaria Ahmed will finally compose for Om Kalthoum
In 1932, Ahmed tried out his acting talents alongside singing diva Nadra in Egypt's first musical film Onshoudat El-Fouad (Chants of the heart), where he played the villain.
Needless to say, Ahmed was the music composer for this rare cinematic gem, which received very good reviews upon its debut, with critics lauding its enchanting music.
"The music was enchanting to the hearts… Zakaria Ahmed composed songs [that are] one-of-a-kind in their grandeur," wrote Fekri Abaza about the film in Al-Ahram 1932.
Review on the film Onshoudet El Fouad by fekri Abaza in Al Ahram 1923.
On a parallel note, Zakaria Ahmed wrote a few lyrics that he composed himself. According to the book ‘Zakaria Ahmed’ by Isis Fathalla, Ahmed wrote lyrics to children’s lullabies and a few other short songs.
He also tried his hands at writing, not as a columnist, but more of a feature writer who documented the role of authentic Egyptian artists in various revolutions.
“It was only natural that artists are the first to fight against the foreign invasion of their country, because they are the most sensitive and the first to react to such invasion by default,” explained Ahmed in an article published in Al-Ahram newspaper in 1953 titled ‘The songs of the revolution sung by the people.’
Ahmed goes on to explain the impact artists have on the masses, highlighting the fact that pictures, chants and patriotic songs that documented and praised the Ahmed Orabi revolution were present in every Egyptian house at the time.
Lyrics of revolution by poets flourished everywhere and were sung by peasants and in schools; "oh Orabi, may God help you win, oh Orabi may you prevail with a pious army."
Even when Orabi's revolution failed, poets remembered the revolution and revived it in lyrics by Abdalla El-Nadim, El-Baroudy, and many more renowned poets that kept the zest of the revolution in their poetry to keep it alive in people’s minds.
*Data Courtesy of Al-Ahram Archive for information