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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This Is My Night

As I revere music so highly I can only enjoy it on rare occasions. Often, I consider music as an annoying background noise. I have to be not only in the right mood, but more like in a perfect and spellbinding ambiance. I also prefer to be alone. It is no surprise then that I normally listen to my favorite music while driving solo intercity.
Om Kalthoum
There are, however, a few masterpieces that entail total absorption. I need to be in a state of devout adulation, in a semi religious ecstatic mind frame. It is dangerous to listen to certain songs while driving. Company is also required to reap the full benefit of the experience, but they too, have to be in the proper disposition to accept the flow of lyrics, melody and human voice with their minds and not with their feet.
Mohamad Abdul Wahab

In 1968 three Arab giants, two Egyptians and a Lebanese met in Lebanon on the balcony of the Ambassador Hotel overlooking the Lamartine Valley (named after the French poet 1790-1869). They were, Om Kolthoum (1904-1975) the all-time Diva of Arab Music, Mohamad Abdul-Wahab (1910-1991), arguably the greatest Arab composer of the 20th century and George Gerdak (b.1931), the Lebanese poet, writer, philosopher, critic and cynic. Of these three great artists, George Gerdak is my favorite. He wrote, what in my opinion is, the supreme celebration of Love and Life “Hazihi Laylati = This Is My Night”.
George Gerdak
I never really liked Mohamad Abdul Wahab either as a singer or as an actor. But as a composer, I bow my head and pay respect where it is due. I am a fan of Om Kalthoum and Cuban cigars. I like both tremendously but I don’t actually get to enjoy either more than a few times per year.


A companion had just returned from the north of Syria, where he’d been on a two-day hunting trip, bringing back a dozen pheasants from the distant cotton fields. We set out to our hideout in the mountains for a memorable repast away from it all. The evening was pregnant with anticipation. It was cold and windy outside, but by the fireplace the soul and body were able to take refuge. We were sharing a few rounds of drinks before dinner when, out of the blue, “Hazihi Laylati” invaded my mind. We were expecting two more guys to join us and it only took a phone call to ask them to fetch a CD of the song and to bring it along.


There is no way I can do justice to the evening. Talking about the song itself, in the particular instance and space where we shared it is virtually impossible. I feel humbled by my inability to translate into English the easy flowing poetry of George Gerdak. All I can do is offer you this link to listen and enjoy the song online:
http://www.omkolthoum.com/english/e_hazehe.htm


Hazihi Laylati is familiar to many readers. However, whether you’ve heard it before and whether Arabic is your language or not, I kindly ask you to free yourself for 32 minutes, sit down somewhere you feel very comfortable, get your favorite drink to nurse slowly (you might need a couple of refills) and enjoy my modest offering and contemplate the words if you understand them, or simply let yourself drift with the sound, the voice and the melody.

To read "Hazihi Laylati" in Arabic click on this link:
http://almashriq.hiof.no/egypt/700/780/umKoulthoum/Songs/LYR/hazi.html

14 comments:

Karin said...

I knew her name for a longt time already and only now learned more about her - thanks so much!! She is very special indeed ... I did listen to the music and even though it takes a bit of getting used to for European ears at the beginning, closing the eyes and allowing the spirit to flow does the trick!

I understand the last picture shows the trio which simply belongs ... Whiskey on the rocks, something to nibble ... and a cigarette, right? You know how to enjoy ... no doubt in my mind! ;)

The evening with your friends, the roasted pheasants and the fire sounds like a LOT of fun ... it only makes me drool! Honestly - I envy you for such events!

Alltogether - GREAT post dear friend ... as always, and a REAL pleasure reading!! Thanks so much for sharing it all!! :)

abufares said...

Hi Karin
George Gerdak wrote in Hazihi Laylati:
فادن مني وخذ اليك حناني
ثم اغمض عينيك حتى تراني
"Come near and behold my compassion
Then close your eyes so that you can see me"
So your basic instinct to close your eyes to enjoy the song was correct and in agreement with what the poet wanted you to do.
I am fortunate to be able to enjoy such serene moments with dear friends. In that aspect, I am one of the richest people in the world. We all work hard to make ends meet and probably a little more than that. Our reward in the end is to be able to share simple moments of joy and even compassion.

Anonymous said...

this is nice, real nice.
i haven't heard this song since ages. first thing i did after reading was to get myself a glass of scotch, a "cigar" and some chips since i couldn't get the mawale7 over here. your post brought back so many nice memories of my aleppo, so many years ago.

abufares said...

Hi Anonymous
Thank you for being here.
Cheers! I hope you had a good one.

Yazan said...

Honestly, brilliant writing.

Makes up for the scary voice of Om Kalthom!! ;)

abufares said...

Hey Yazan

Listening to Om Kalthoum is an acquired taste. I don't think I ever enjoyed Om Kalthoum before my twenties with the exception of "Alf Leila Wa Leila". I heard this song when I was 18 while watching the tentalizing oriental dance of a beautiful girl in a party. A few years later, the songs of Om Kalthoum started to make sense to the passage of days and experiences.
One day, out of the blue, you might fall for that. Until then, stay away from Fairuz before you suffer permanent damage:-)

ArabLady said...

"Makes up for the scary voice of Om Kalthom!! ;) "

wut the hell! eno yali doesnt listen 2 Om Kolthoum ya3ni sorry bekon ma khaso bel music aslan!

abufares said...

Hello Arab Lady

Om Kalthoum WBass
Wel Ba2i Kollo Khass

The Syrian Brit said...

'Listening to Om Kalthoum is an acquired taste'
Abu Fares, you are absolutely right.. My youngest daughter is an accomplished musician, and studies World Music at University. She is doing her Final-Year's dissertation on feminine/female voices in Middle Eastern Music.. or something like that.. As part of her research, she had to listen to a lot of Om Kalthoum, and was a bit unsure about her initially.. Now she absolutely adores her, and believes that 'Inta 3umri' is simply devine..
So, yes..
Om Kalthoum WBass
Wel Ba2i Kollo Khass!!..

abufares said...

Hi Syrian Brit
I was just about six when Om Kalthoum sang Anta Omri for the first time. In my memory are images of Tartoussi men sitting attentively around a large radio in the Al-Biader Cafe just across from my house listening to this masterpiece. Later, a reel tape player was brought to the cafe and for years thereafter I would hear Anta Omri.
It didn't register until a couple of years after I was living in the US. A friend brought along a tape of the song and if I'm not mistaken I've heard it over a thousand time since.
I do love Om Kalthoum but as I've said I really wish I had more time to enjoy her immortal voice.

Ascribo said...

I agree on that listening to Om Koulthoum needs some training. I think that's because we haven't grown up so close to Poetry and this type of songs. As a teenager, I used to wonder how people can sit down for 30 minutes to listen to Om koulthoum singing something, but after I had "my deal" of what's required, I wondered how somebody can NOT sit down and listen to the complete song once it's started.
But Om Koulthoum, Arabic Poetry, Enjoying one's nights...It seems ages since I did any of them!
An alternative way of spending the eveing (or spoiling the evening) is to have a 50 pages of a text book to read, a very heavy cup of tea, and a group of nuts shouting at each other right outside your window!!

What a wonderful Arabic saying is: والضد يظهر حسنه الضد

abufares said...

Ascribo
You must like Om Kalthoum more than anybody else. You've practically grew up listening to authentic Arabis music almost 24/24. I really look forward your dad's book on music. It's about time he publishes.
Thanks for visiting.

Paul said...

My family and I have been listening to Hazihi Lylatee since our Dad bought it in the 70s. We have been in love withit since then. As 2nd gen Lebanese, we have sinfully lost the ability to read fluently. Would someone be willing to tranliterate the lyrics to Hazihi Lylatee for us, we would be grateful, and of course compensate the kind person for their efforts. Please contact me if interested: megaberl@yahoo.com. My thanks and best wishes to you.
Paul

abufares said...

Hi Paul
It's extremely difficult to translate such fluent poetry without losing it all in the process.
However your invitation is open to everyone. I would like very much to read it in English as well.
Thank you for dropping by.