Helmy Bakr (1937-2024): A man apart

Soha Hesham , Tuesday 5 Mar 2024

Veteran composer Helmy Bakr died last Friday at the age 87 following a struggle with illness.



Bakr was born in 1937 in Hadayek Al-Qobba. He graduated from the High Institute of Arab Music and worked as a music teacher before serving his military term.

During his time in the army,  the armed forces organised a concert by the Algerian singer Warda who listened to some of his melodies and was impressed enough to introduce him to the director of the Egyptian radio at the time, Mohamed Hassan Al-Shajai.

Hilmi Bakr then composed the song Kol Aam Wa Antom Bikhair (Wishing You the Best Every Year) for the radio, and it was performed by Abdel Latif El-Talbani, becoming a great success. He later also composed the song La Ya Eyouni (No, My Eyes) for the singer Maher Al-Attar, and from that time on, his career took off.

Bakr composed more than 1500 pieces of music for famous singers like Laila Murad, Warda, Nagat Al-Saghira, Mohamed Al-Hilw, Ali Al-Haggar and Medhat Saleh. He composed the music for nearly 48 plays including the famous Sayedaty Al-Gamila (My Fair Lady, 1969), Hawadit (Stories, 1967), and Mosiqa fil Hai Al-Sharqi (Music at the Eastern District, 1971).

He also composed music for many of Ramadan Fawazir (Ramadan riddle programs) like Fatouta, Oum Al-Oref and Eima wi Sima, and he composed the music for many films like Adawya (1968), Shei Min Al-Azab (A Bit of Torment, 1969), Hob wi Kebryaa (Love and Pride, 1972), Viva Zalatta (1976), Leman Toshreq Al-Shams (For Whom the Sun Shines, 1976), Shouq (1976), 13 Kedba wi Kebda (13 Lies and Lies, 1977), Ahlan Ya Captin (Hello Captain, 1978) and also many TV series like; Abrag Al-Akaber (High-Class Towers, 1987) and Sabah Al-Ward (Morning Full of Roses, 1995). He also was the composer of the famous national song Al-Hilm Al-Arabi (The Arab Dream).    

At various times Bakr was married to actress Soheir Ramzi, Tunisian singer Aliya, and Shahinaz the sister of the late veteran actress Shiwikar.

He received several awards and honors including the Excellence Award from the former Minister of Information.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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