Egyptian iconic singer Abdel-Halim Hafez continues to inspire 45 years after his death

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 30 Mar 2022

Since the death of famed Egyptian singer and actor Abdel Halim Hafez on 30 March 1977, the Arab world continues to be deeply inspired by his artistry.

Abdel Halim Hafez

Born on 21 June 1929, Hafez was among the biggest names of Egyptian and Arab music, ranked alongside the great artists of the region such as Oum Kalthoum, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Mohamed Fawzy, and Shadia.

An icon of romantic songs, his legacy as a singer as well as an actor continues to live on.

A graduate from the Academy of Arabic Music (1948), Hafez began performing in front of an audience since the early 1950s, soon becoming one of the most popular singers in the region.

Dubbed ‘The Nightingale’, his repertoire includes countless iconic songs, which have been performed countless times throughout the decades since by many singers. On top of the list, we find compositions such as ‘Ahwak’, ‘Sawwah’, ‘Gana El-Hawa’, and ‘Zai El-Hawa.’  

Hafez’s iconic voice was soon utilised in Egyptian movies, acting in a number of well-known titles, such as ‘Lahn El-Wafaa’ (1955) and ‘Abi fawq El-Shagara’ (1969). In fact, more than 300 songs by Hafez were used in a variety of films, including ‘Dalilah’ (1956), the Middle East’s first multi-coloured motion picture.

In the mid-1950s, Hafez developed schistosomiasis (bilharzia) — an infectious parasitic disease for which he was treated in London, however, it eventually claimed his life on 30 March 1977.

Hafez’s funeral was attended by over 100,000 mourners that filled Cairo’s streets in one of the biggest processions seen by the country.

As the Egyptian novelist Youssef Idris expressed: “Abdel Halim Hafez’s voice represented an era of revolution and a generation of ambitious youth that holds its beauty of the singer and the delicacy of his emotions from a difficult childhood. His voice was confined in his dry throat and overflowed into his chest to drown him. The melodies were trapped in the throat of the nightingale, and it died. When an artist dies, the value of their artwork catapults; when a writer dies, their words become sacred; and when a singer dies, their voice continues to inspire.”

Hafez’s songs have continued to inspire new generations of musicians from beyond the Arab world. Two chords from his hit ‘Khosara’ made it to Jay-Z’s recording of Big Pimpin’ (1999). 

The song’s use led to a legal battle between Jay-Z and the song’s producer and copyright holder, Magdi El-Amroussi, which ended with Jay-Z neglecting paying the royalties.

Additionally, a feature film titled ‘Halim’ presenting the life of the singer starring Ahmad Zaki in the title role was released in 2006.

In late 2010s, Hafez returned to the stage through holographic technology, with a number of concerts staged in Egypt and across other Arab countries.

In 2019, Lebanese star Carole Samaha performed together with Hafez’s hologram in a highly advertised concert at New Cairo’s Manara Hall, marking the first time an artist has performed with the hologram of another in Egypt. 

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