Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – LXXVII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (3 of 30)

The performers

Throughout the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, Egypt enjoyed a golden era in the performing arts. Some of the most talented performers one could hope to assemble in any one era, in any one country, were there. Perhaps I am narrowing the field if I talk of Egypt only. The whole Arab world, and beyond, shared our bounty. To take the most typical example, the voice of Om Kalsoum rang throughout the Middle-East (including Israel), bewitched North Africa and Turkey, and reached the shores of France where none other than Charles de Gaulle referred to her as “The Lady.” The world of opera considered her as one of the great voices of the 20th century; Maria Callas expressed her admiration when she proclaimed that she had an “Incomparable Voice.”

It would be futile to look for superlatives one can attribute to the likes of Farid El Atrash, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Youssef Wahbi, Samia Gamal, and Tahia Carioca. “Giants,” “Superstars,” “Icons,” and “Matchless” do not do them justice. Then again, the Egyptian people never subscribed to the star system; their Walk of Stars is kept in their hearts; and it is passed on from generation to generation.

As much as space permits, I will talk of some of these fananim (artists). As you read what will follow, keep the following in mind.

Nothing is totally reliable in Egypt; and that is one of its many charms; I would not want it to be any other way. For instance, dates of birth, even dates of death, sometimes fall within a certain period! Even if you’re given an actual date, don’t consider it as definitive; almost nothing is in Egypt; and again, therein lies its magic.

Along the same lines, number of songs composed and/or sang, number of movies acted in or directed, and so on, is an approximation. This is not Mozart who had musicologists figure out the total number of his works. The likes of Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and Farid El Atrash would be shocked if anybody subjected them to the opus system.

To provide tarab (good time) comes at a price for the performer. The pressure and fame exact its toll. It’s true for the U.S., French, and Italian film and music industries; and it’s true for the Egyptian world of the performing arts. As you will see, many of these performers married and divorced many time; followed an unhealthy lifestyle; and spend money like water, thus finding themselves in difficult financial circumstances despite their considerable earnings. Remember that, ultimately, they are human beings; and members of our species, under similar circumstances, react more or less the same regardless of time and place.

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