Hisham Kharma's new composition Kholkhal: Traditional Egyptian vibe in modern coat

Ati Metwaly , Friday 7 Jul 2023

Titled Kholkhal (Anklet), the newly released composition by Egyptian composer Hisham Kharma is a marriage between traditional and modern sounds.

Hisham Kharma


Kholkhal was released on streaming platforms Thursday.

"Working on the Kholkhal score was a lot of fun," Kharma commented in an official press release adding that "in it, I wanted to showcase an Egyptian vibe alongside modern music with orchestral arrangement."

He stresses that the "Egyptian vibe" is particularly obvious in the maqsoum, a popular Egyptian 4/4 rhythmic pattern that stresses first and third beat. While used in many folk compositions and one of the most common rhythms played on darabouka accompanying belly dancers, maqsoum is equally prominent in many works by Egyptian and Arab composers. 

Maqsoum provides a clear rhythmic carpet for Kholkhal with the composition following a binary form (two melodic sections are repeated throughout the piece). Kharma breaks up each section into two phrases, creating a light-hearted musical chitchat between them that echoes highly popular folkloric compositions.

Kholkhal is born from the marriage between traditional and modern sounds, especially the collocation of saz and the electric guitar. The respective protagonists of melodic sections, both instruments blend with strings, while percussive delicacies adorn the whole dish. 

Kholkhal's melody carries a lot of innocent brightness, but also a dosage of pensive hope. It is the happy rhythm, a fast-moving tempo, and the high range that give this composition an uplifting vibe and camouflage the feeling of longing. Even the title directs the listener’s minds to the joy of dance, since the anklet is among the pieces of jewelry worn by Oriental dancers.

Kharma revealed that he will include Kholkhal in his concert at the Cairo Opera House set to take place "very soon." It is interesting to discover what will be the audience’s reception of Kholkhal. Since the structural and melodic components can easily turn this composition into an earworm, it is possible that the audience will be humming the tune while leaving the hall. 

Born and raised in Cairo, Kharma started playing piano at the age of nine. Although interested in music, he studied computer science at the American University in Cairo followed by his postgraduate studies in art direction at Miami Ad School. He has also lived in Hamburg and Dubai.

He began performing live music concerts in 2016. Accompanied by a grand orchestra, Kharma performed in major events in notable locations such as at the feet of the pyramids, the Cairo Citadel and the London Mansion House.

Kharma created the theme music for the Egyptian Youth Forum in 2018. The same year he opened the 10th edition of the Cairo Jazz Festival (CJF).

The 2022 was particularly busy for the musician as he was commissioned to compose theme music for numerous local and international events taking place in Egypt. Kharma's music was featured at the World Fencing Championship in July, the Cairo Drama Festival's inaugural edition in September and during the opening and numerous activities of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) which took place in November in Sharm El-Sheikh. 

The same year, his music was featured in an anti-drug video advertisement featuring Egypt and Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah.

Kharma has released multiple top charting albums and singles. His first album First Voyage (2010) consisting of nine tracks, was released with Virgin Megastore and Hybrid records. His second album The Arabesque (2012) was a joint project with the Grammy-award winner Yanni and Can Atilla through Sony Music. They were followed by AlyaQeen (2016) that included highly successful Sahla we Basita (Simple and Easy), Shouf be Albak (See With Your Heart) and Fel Malakout (In the Kingdom) as part of the 13-track album. 

He worked three years on his latest album Kun, released in 2019 and featuring 10 tracks, many of which he performed during the 28th Citadel Festival for Music and Singing (2019) among other events.

Kharma often works with renowned local and international musicians. In his first album, he collaborated with a Turkish composer Can Atilla and Greek Grammy-winner Yanni; with Hany Adel, a front man of a popular Egyptian band Wust El-Balad, on several occasions; and with Tavni Shah, the first Indian woman to win a Grammy.

He composed scores for TV series include El-Nehaya (The End, 2019), the first Egyptian sci-fi television drama series; Suits (the Arabic adaptation of the US TV series, 2021) and films including Mako (2021) and Youm 13 (Day 13, 2023), the first-ever Arab 3D film.

Kharma often holds music therapy sessions, including meditative music, addressing fans in Egypt's tourist spots. 

Most recently, in February 2023, accompanied by other musicians, he performed Music Therapy Session at the 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital.

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