It was a breath of fresh air for the Cairenes who were lucky to be there. The balmy evening of Sunday 18 May saw Lebanese soprano Majida el-Roumi perform in the perfect setting of a Cairo outdoors. As her legendary voice wafted through the starry evening air, an enchanted audience couldn’t help but give her a standing ovation for a breathtaking experience of song and music.
It was Roumi’s second performance in Egypt in some two months—the first was at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on 20 March—after several years of absence from the Egyptian scene. In an evening of chic and glamour sponsored by a number of major businesses in Egypt, the diva more than made it up for her Egyptian fans with a two-hour performance which she dedicated to Egypt.
Roumi, born in 1956, started singing in Lebanon, but her career really took off when she starred in three of the films by the Egyptian luminary cinema maker Youssef Chahine.
Hundreds who had gathered in an open air venue in a modern residential compound on Muqattam Hill east of Cairo, were treated to a heart warming opening when the Egyptian national anthem was played, arranged as a medley in which parts of the Lebanese anthem were interwoven. The result, an original creative twist to a precious Egyptian melody, paid tribute to the two countries the diva holds dearest. She always said how much Egypt meant to her; her father, the musician and composer Halim el-Roumi had come to Egypt in 1937 to study at the Higher Institute for Arabic Music and started his musical career in the Egyptian radio in 1938. Egypt was also where he met and married his wife in 1949 before moving to Lebanon a year later.
In her hallmark simple elegance Roumi stood on stage in an elegant black dress, her long hair unpretentiously pushed back. She gave a short, emotional speech in which she hailed Egypt and its people who, she said, have achieved greatness and superiority since the dawn of history. “The people who destroyed the Bar-Lev line [in October 1973] and took to the streets on 30 June 2013 in revolution [against the oppressive Muslim Brotherhood rule] will go on achieving one victory after another until Egypt again rises from the ashes. Egyptians are miracle workers.” Her words were met by a storm of applause.
Roumi saluted the Egyptians—whether in the army, police or civilians—who lost their lives in the battle against Islamist terrorism. She also paid tribute to those who died for the same cause in Syria, Iraq and the entire Arab world. To their souls she sang her moving Nasheed al-Shuhadaa’ (Hymn of the Martyrs).
Flowers and fireworks
Roumi went on to sing a number of her well-known and elesser-known songs from her latest album Ghazal (Flirtation). She sang Massa’ el Foll ya Baheya (Good Evening, Radiant One), a song written especially for the Cairo concert, in which Egypt is described as a beautiful woman, a fragrant flower and a proud cry of freedom. The crowd was ecstatic. The audience then joined Roumi in several of her best-loved hits songs including Muftaraq al-Turuq (Crossrtoads), Matrahaq bi Alby (You Belong in My Heart), Waadtuka (I Promised You) and Eetazalt el-Gharam (I Gave Up Love). But her best moment on stage was her performance of Kalimaat (Words) which she did with such charm and and elegance that the audience gave her a standing ovation.
The concert concluded on a note of patriotism as Roumi sang Ahlef bi-Samaha we bi-Turabha (I Swear by Her Sky and Her Soil), on a backdrop of fireworks that lit up the sky. Unfortunately, she tried to utter one last message but the sound of the fireworks was so loud that she could not be heard. Majida el-Roumi finally left the stage carrying a huge bouquet flowers which best expressed the immense love and admiration Egyptians carry for that legend of a star.
24 May 2014
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