Ramzi Salti Lectures on "Women's Voices in Arabic Music" for WHM at Santa Rosa Junior College (CC)

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Please click on CC while watching the video so you can read along with this audio-visual talk by Stanford Lecturer and Arabology radio host Dr. Ramzi Salti at Santa Rosa Junior College on March 7, 2024. Precise CC captions have been created for this video that will make viewing much more enjoyable.

This lecture marks Women's Histpory Month by highlighting songs of freedom, courage and resilience by Arab female singers through the decades–from legends Umm Kulthum and Fairuz to a new generation of groundbreaking women including Tania Kassis, Yasmine Hamdan, Tania Saleh (Lebanon), Hana Malhas (Jordan) and Lina Chamamyan (Syria), Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia), Dina El Wedidi (Egypt), Alsarah (Sudan), Souad Massi (Algeria) and Maysa Daw, Elyanna (Palestine). 

Video Table of Contents: 

00:00 Intro by Professor Solen Sanli Vasquez 
02:12 Introduction by Dr. Ramzi Salti @RamziSalti 
05:36 Umm Kulthum (Egypt) أم كلثوم 
24:14 Fairuz (Lebanon) فيروز 
35:17 Tania Kassis (Lebanon) تانيا قسيس 
39:44 Yasmine Hamdan (Lebanon) ياسمين حمدان 
43:23 Tania Saleh (Lebanon) تانيا صالح 
46:49 Hana Malhas (Jordan) and Lena Chamamyan (Syria) 
49:48 Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia) آمال مثلوثي 
54:20 Dina El Wedidi (Egypt) دينا الوديدي 
57:25 Alsarah (Sudan) السارة 
59:04 Souad Massi (Algeria) سعاد ماسي 
1:01:27 Oum and Manal (Morocco)
1:02:01 Palestinian Women: Yusor Hamed, Noel Kharman, Nancy Hawa
1:04:55 Maysa Daw (Palestine) ft DAM 
1:07:09 Elyanna (Palestine) اليانا 
1:11:57 Q & A 

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"Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories," highlights the significance of Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County as a beacon for Women's History Month celebrations. Rooted in the legacy of advocating for women's rights since 1978, this region has been at the forefront of national recognition for this movement. Join us in honoring the remarkable journey of women across generations, celebrating their achievements, and reflecting on the progress we've made.


The event took place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Girvin Student Activities Center at the SRJC.  More info at this link.  

Artwork by ZAD Studio

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Please subscribe to Dr. Ramzi Salti's Arabology YouTube Channel at this link.


TRANSCRIPT FROM ENTIRE TALK:

[Solen} I'm Solen Sanli Vasquez and I teach Sociology here at the college we're in for a treat today.  We're really so grateful and so honored to have Dr. Salti with us today. My colleague Heidi Saleh and I had heard him during our fellowship that we did at Stanford University and since then this has been a dream to bring him to campus and talk to us here at SRJC so I'm one of the coordinators of Women's History Month and I'm also one of the co-founders of the Middle Eastern and North African Association here at the college. We're like a new, fledgling group and we're putting on a lot of events so this event comes to you in collaboration with both Women's History Month and the Middle Eastern and North African Association.  I think one of our goals and one of our dreams today was to talk about Middle Eastern Joy. As you know  we hear um I mean there's so much tragedy going on in the region at the moment and especially when we see representations of women (come on in please have a seat). The representations of women tend to be also around repression and violence and you know just negative, maybe, representation So today we're in for a treat because we get to hear again about Middle Eastern women, Arab women in the context of the wonderful music that they put together and perform. So Dr. Ramzi Salti as I said comes to us from Stanford University he's a seasoned Stanford lecturer with a PhD in Comparative Literature and  a strong background in Arabic language, literature, music and culture. He's also the host of Arabology, a radio program podcast that highlights music and other cultural productions from the Arab world. You   hould definitely check out his  podcast it's awesome so uh without further ado I present to you Dr. Salti.

[Applause] 

[Ramzi] I'm so happy to be with you today uh she's calling me Dr. Salti yes I am Dr. Salti by day, but  I'm DJ Ramzi by night and so that's the only way I've been able to survive 27 years at Stanford University. I teach these courses for the Arabic program there and I love them but really it's been the night, you  know, that you take off the tie or the jacket and you go into a different vibe in a different zone at KZSU  Stanford . 90.1 FM, commercial free uncensored radio, it still exists, and so I go in and I spin music from the Arab world and I've been doing it for 13 years. The show started with the advent of the Arab Spring back in 2011 and I think it's one of the few shows that attempts to bring the music in Arabic in the original language to American listeners because everybody always ask me like what are they talking about? Why is this lady crying on stage as she sings? and there aren't too many translations that work; you've got to convey the feeling of the song you know, often, as I'm going to do today and that's how Arabology was born in 2011 It is still around and with everything going on in the region right now it's gaining another. new momentum and I think we're going to end today with a very special tribute to Palestinian. women in song. Hopefully this will be a very healing talk for everybody and you might like some of these samples, you might not, but there's something for everyone and I can't wait to get through the talk and then look at you and say okay which one rocked your world? Which one didn't? Why? You know we'll have a discussion, there's obviously no right answers everybody has different tastes and I'm not going to go chronologically or geographically I'm just going by my feeling today so welcome to my talk and thank you so much to Professor Heidi Saleh and Solen Sanli Vasquez, my two
new daughters or sisters, who brought me here uh they have been fantastic and just another example of how when women in general, and Middle Eastern women in particular, get together they get things done and I think that if we had more women in power in the Middle East, in the Arab world, we would be in a much better zone as you will see today yeah um and so the talk today will include a lot of what we call indie or alternative Arab women singers, you can see their pictures there and I'm proud that I met most of them I could be like the grandpa or I can be like the DJ but I have always been so proud to feature their music and then they reach out to Uncle Ramzi or DJ Ramzi and uh you know so you will be seeing some of these women through the video clips today and we're only playing little segments.

Umm Kulthum

The first [woman]  I unfortunately didn't get to meet because she passed away in 1975 so I was a child then but her name is Umm Kulthum that's not her real name that's her nickname but it's so popular that nobody knows her real name it is Fatima something and Umm Kulthum is a Powerhouse. This woman was iconic, is still Iconic but in 1950s Egypt, before even Egypt became a republic she was friends with the king, King Faruk, then you know when the Nasser regime took over and Egypt became a republic she became Nasser's best friend. In other words this woman was not just a singer, she was a political voice and she used it to talk about women too. She came from the countryside so there's no nepotism here she was born very poor and people would hear this voice she had uh she was trained quranically so she could also recite the Quran and she came from a village in Upper Egypt and when her father heard her, they started bringing her to Cairo where she became more and more famous and rose to fame and eventually passed away in 1975. The other interesting thing about her is she never married and she never had children and yet was always invited to be part of the table and I love that about Umm Kulthum, that she was beyond these you know and she addressed issues of gender in the 1950s, you know, like what's wrong with a woman not getting married? That was shocking in Egypt what do you mean isn't it a function for everybody to get married and such And she stuck to her guns and now
later we're finding all these interviews that can be considered so um subversive, a 1950s Egyptian woman in that era in that circumstance speaking about her freedom and I'm going to play a song about Freedom today that she actually sang about that can be applied I think to everybody who is oppressed today. All oppressed groups can relate to this song that I'm going to play in a moment but let me just first of all let me show you Umm Kulthum in concert in one of the very few color clips which is not colorized it's not AI it's actual color footage of her one year before she passed. You're going to hear her say two words 'Ya Habibi.' Do you know what that means? My love, my sweetie, my buddy, my friend. Habibi is everybody, it's how you say it. Well she says it from the heart, from the soul of her soul when she says Ya Habibi and you know how long her songs were on average? 40 minutes per track! Can you imagine a song going for 40 minutes? How can it be 40 minutes? The lyrics are yay long because of the repetition so when she says ya habibi once you're supposed to feel like okay, then she says it again you're like oh I'm starting to get it by the third time you're like hyperventilating by the fourth time you're rushing the stage This is Umm Kulthum, like the repetition is supposed to bring you to a state of euphoria which. we call in Arabic 'Tarab' and if you can reach ecstasy through song you're going to feel this connection with the Divine um so here I'm just going to play a little clip and you're also going to see in the clip her funeral when she died in 1975 in Egypt; the streets, the schools, everything shut down and everybody was in the street to say goodbye to this great lady. So Umm Kulthum has a few  documentaries in English if you don't speak Arabic or some have been translated. One of the best ones
is narrated by Omar Sharif if you know who he is He narrates the Umm Kulthum biography that is  available I think on Amazon now and things like that but it's great to have an Egyptian icon narrate the story of another Egyptian icon. But I see a lot of young people here. What do young people think about Umm Kulthum today? because when I was your age, kids, my dad would play Umm Kulthum you heard her it's not exactly techno music so I would be like dad please take this off she's just going on and on and on and on God forgive me for saying this wherever you are Dad I'm sorry because now at my age and for the past maybe 10 years she has been my salvation. I feel what he was saying so you know here's what young people have to say about her today.

 [Music] 

So as you can see, even though she's been gone for a very long time her songs still live on and a lot of them have been remixed. Wait till you hear like you know a hip-hop remix with Umm Kulthum's voice, it kind of works. I'm going to show you that quickly in a moment but here is a typical moment captured on film where one word that Umm Kulthum says  manages to bring the audience to ecstasy, to Tarab. The word is Nazra, I think you might know it Solen, nazara is to see so the word Nazra means 'a glance' it's just one word Nazra spell it N A Z R A she just plays with the word Nazra where she stays on the 'N' like Nnnnn I mean I can't do it, it would be insulting for her but you know and then when she says NAZRA it's as if she sang an opera People go crazy and she laughs and it shows how there was this interplay, you connect with the audience where I don't think too many artists in the history of Music could do that I'm going to show you what I mean So what did you think of that moment? All it is is one word and you heard the audience interaction so she  was you know this was before TV but she was on radio, from Radio Egypt.   Everybody on Thursday nights knew it was Umm Kulthum night and they would gather and listen to her live concerts, all of which have been on vinyl thank God and are now on iTunes and everywhere else on Spotify But here are her three biggest hits now I'm not going to stay on Umm Kulthum too much because there's a lot of women coming your way but one of her most famous songs is called Al Atlal The second most famous song is called Inta Omri which means 'You Are My Life' and then we'll do a little remix for you to move with Umm Kulthum's groovy beats today In terms of Al-Atlal, you know she's going to speak in Arabic Naila I don't know if you want to translate. Maybe I'll just read the... because okay... Would you translate into English, Naila? It's that one. All right so I will try to, okay, pretend that I am Umm Kulthum chained in a relationship that's toxic deciding to break free Now that's pretty you know dramatic but I think if you contextualize it within what was going on in Egypt Then 'give me my freedom' becomes the citizen rising against the monarchy and it becomes the oppressed rising against the rulers so it's veiled in like, you know, she's in a relationship where she's being controlled and she's going to break free which right there is big enough but when you're add all those dimensions...so  اعطني حريتي أطلق يدي Yalla Naila [Naila] Give me my freedom, unleash my hands انني أعطيت ما استبقيت شيئا [Naila] I have given everything and left nothing for myself. For too long... No, no, hold on i need to do the 'ouch' that Umm Kulthum does آه من قيدك أدمى معصمي

[Naila] For too long your chains have made my wrists bleed.

[Ramzi] So when she goes Ohhhh I mean I can't do it justice I hope you feel like the pain but also this joy of breaking free. Okay so if you leave today with  one song you learned it's Al-Atlal and you can use it as a reference like 'Oh my gosh it's like Umm Kulthum when she cried out in pain in Al-Atlal' Here it is Did you hear that ouch? آخ من قيدك ادمى معصمي The second song I'm going to play is called Inta Omri 'You Are My Life' and that has been remixed and re-recorded by hundreds of singers so I can't cheat you out of a little part from Inta Omri where she says, if you can read in the middle, Everything I saw before my eyes first saw you was just wasted time how can they count it against me? so I don't know if any of you have felt that way but this is supposed to be the ultimate romantic gesture is to find someone and say You know what? All the years before I knew you they don't count. Now I started living. But there's also a lamentation: 'Why didn't you come sooner?' So anyway here is Inta Omri So you learned how to say 'you are my life' in Arabic? Do you want to try, Professor Solen? 

[Solan] Not sing it!


[Ramzi] No, but feel it! Inta Omri It's beyond 'you're my love' it's like 'you are the years of my life' Inta Omri..Arabic has that tendency. All right you want to jam a little bit to a remix of Inta Omri? She's going to say the same thing about "When my first my eyes first saw you, nothing counted before" but with a little bit of a modern twist. Here we go!

[Music]

[Ramzi] Nobody got up and like jammed!

[Audience] I was about to!


You know you're an amazing
person I felt you got the ecstasy


Obviously please research Umm Kulthum
and find more things about her


Because I'm going to go from the Queen of Egypt
The Fourth Pyramid they called her, Theo, right?


Like people think there's


only 3 pyramids in Egypt,
and Umm Kulthum is the fourth!


But like I'm from Lebanon
I was born and raised in Lebanon


and so we've always had a
friendly rivalry with Egypt that


like you know okay


so Umm Kulthum is Egyptian and she's the greatest


Well we've got our answer to Umm
Kulthum in the form of Fairuz


There is no Lebanese person...


You say Fairuz in front of a
Lebanese person, they faint


She represents everything that
was beautiful about Lebanon


and still is


She represents hope


she is you know an icon from
the 50s 60s 70s 80s 90s 2000


she's still around she's still alive


she's still in Lebanon she never left
although she could have easily with her money


left the country with all the wars and
and uh you know situations we've been in


she's still there in Lebanon today


she's speaking out still for the
oppressed she sings beyond religions


now she herself is Christian but it doesn't matter
because she has sung for Al-Aqsa she's sung...


She does church hymns she's
got a Christmas Carols album


but she also has also has a Ramadan album


so she is amazing and the main thing about Fairuz
is not just her iconic status musically


Umm Kulthum and her generation
had 40 minute songs.


You want to listen to one song? It's 40 minutes!


Fairuz came onto the scene
and decided we're going to


release a song in 3 minutes


and everyone went crazy! What is that?
It's unheard of three minutes


we we won't even have time to just you know
it's not even an appetizer right


but now all of Arabic music


is just like western music
it has to be 3-5 minutes long


and that's all because of Fairuz
she was the first to do that.


But let me begin by the way she loves Lebanon


Bahebak Ya Lebnan means I love you Lebanon


When Fairuz sings for Lebanon
and says I love you Lebanon


the audience goes wild


You're not going to be able to see the audience
but you're going to be able to see her face


when she says I love you Lebanon
she gets such a standing ovation


that she literally has to
stop, wait, and start again


and this is not the beginning
of a concert or something


and so just three words 'Bhebbak
Ya Lebnan' have created frenzy


and you can see her face like when she says it
she almost expects to take a little break.


Here it is


All right, may she live on forever.


People sometimes ask me kids
like they go how old is Fairuz


and I have this answer, you go very serious:
'How old are the stars?'


How old is the moon? the sun? love?
and then you walk away. That's how you answer.


Don't go on Wikipedia trying
to find her age; she's ageless.


So here is a little tribute to Fairuz from NPR


[Music]


You don't have to be Lebanese to know this voice


but if you are, chances are this is a
voice you've heard ever since childhood


even if you were born and raised
on the other side of the world,


this voice probably sang to
you from LPs and tape decks


in kitchens and living rooms
without ever needing to ask


when you hear the words 'I
loved you in the summer,


I loved you in the winter'
you just know: This is Fairuz


[Music]


Her real name is Nihad Haddad and she was born


in 1935 in a Lebanon that was still
finding its place in the Arab world.


The name Fairuz means turquoise in Arabic.


The man who discovered her said
her voice was like a rare gem


that it worked with both Arabic and western music.


Listen here to the way she sings the word 'Habibi'
which means my darling


[Music]


So the whole show is available on NPR.


Here's Fairuz in a very, very rare interview


because she does not give
interviews; she's very reclusive


talking about how she and her husband
who wrote all her music Assi Rahbani


managed to change the landscape of Arabic music


bringing it from 60 minute songs
to three minute classics






So basically the Rahbani
School of Music still lives on today.


So some of you were looking at me kind


of like he's exaggerating nobody can be that
great he must be a Fairuz fanatic you know


I'm nothing compared to some of the Lebanese who
have dedicated their lives to like going to


Fairuz concerts and taking pictures.


This Armenian photographer in
Lebanon, he didn't eat for days,


he would go to photograph
Fairuz to get the, you know,


film for the camera and he was at Baalbek


which is an old Roman site in Lebanon with an
outside amphitheater and it was gonna rain


and it's night time and so what do you think, sir,


happened when Fairuz came
out and sang to the Moon?


Would you be able to guess? There you go!
Suddenly it stopped raining, the clouds dispersed


and Baalbek became bathed in moonlight


okay I know you're thinking coincidence
but what if it happened every time Fairuz sings?


Listen to this guys he's very...
He's me if I were an Armenian photographer






Scene from "We Loved Each Other So Much" Documentary


So you see I am not the only Lebanese fanatic but honestly
this shows you what an icon she is.


If you're interested in learning more about Fairuz, there's this DVD that's available


and the short segment we just saw with the guy speaking
that was from a documentary called "We Loved Each Other So Much"


It's available I think on Prime other places and it's


people talking about Fairuz for 2 hours then playing
a Fairuz song but it shows you how no matter where


you are in the Arab world you love her.
Arabs fight each other all the time it breaks my heart but


when it comes to Fairuz they'll agree. It doesn't
matter where you are there but just say 'Fairuz' and


suddenly the doors open so she managed to
do that. Okay these are more hits by Fairuz


that I'm going to skip today because I want
to go to the next person but please keep...


I'm going to be sharing
a link to the PowerPoint


and also there's a YouTube playlist if you
want to explore these three huge hits by Fairuz.


And when Macron decided to visit Lebanon during the pandemic


Did he go to the president's home? No! Did he
go from the airport to some fancy affair? No!


From the airport he goes to tribute to Fairuz
in her modest house in Beirut.


So people were like "okay you can't get more
iconic than that" I don't think he even saw


the president I think he just saw Fairuz and went
back to France so it's the Macron-Fairuz connection


Who's the follow-up to Fairuz? Who's the new Fairuz? A younger Fairuz?


I know that gentleman there gave me that look
like how dare you say Fairuz could ever have a runner up


I agree with you sir it is unthinkable
but you know these kids somebody's got to


take over and if we need to pick somebody
let's pick Tania Kassis who is Lebanese she's also


very much into um peace music, music that
brings Christianity and Islam together


which is nice and she has an operatic voice
she has a lot of tributes to Beirut like this one


but THIS I hope is going to move you. Tania Kassis did something unheard of, she took the Muslim call to prayer


what's called the azan or the Shahada you know the
Allahu Akbar that you hear all the time um and


then she brought in the Ave Maria and mixed
them together on stage and you can imagine


in an sectarian world, especially Lebanon, people
didn't not know how to take it. They're like wait


how dare you but then wow it worked so beautifully
that maybe we can apply it to our everyday life


you know Lebanon has 14 official religions all of
which attempt to coexist no wonder to get civil war


but when they coexist it's a beautiful place. Do you
want to hear the Muslim call to prayer


with the Ave Maria together and you don't
have to like it, but just appreciate what a


gutsy move this was cause she could have gotten into
a lot of trouble.


[Music]


Allahu Akbar [Chant]


[Music]


Ave Maria [Music]






[Islamic Call to Prayer]
[Ave Maria]


So what did you think? Did anyone one feel
it was disrespectful or blasphemous? and you're


free to think so of course. Did you? There is
a certain element that says you shouldn't


mess with the call to prayer you know what's
next you're going to make a pop version or something


but the message for Lebanon despite
the fact that I see both sides of the argument


is the fact that we desperately need
Islam and Christianity


The Sunni Shiite Muslims, the Maronites, the Orthodox Christians
so I prefer to look at the message like that


and hopefully this can serve for
in real life for discussions and conversations.


Moving on to Yasmine Haman the queen of underground
Arabic music she is a phenomenon she released


her first album which was called Arabology
yes like my radio show now you know where


I stole my title from and it was a moment
to actually meet Yasmine Hamdan at Stanford and


tell her thank you and tell her
thank you for giving me the title


There's a picture of me with her there
that's one of the happiest moments of my life
She came to Stanford


she sat in the radio with me she sang Arabology to
the Arabology host and she didn't sue me for stealing that


So she's pretty amazing you're
going to love her, her vibe, here she is singing


about Lebanon it's called 'Balad.' Balad means
country and as we know Lebanon is a very chaotic


country and what's the answer? what do you
young man what do you think the answer is


to solving all of Lebanon's problems?


It's it's sad but it's also very
easy: Put a woman in charge! Do you want to


see what you what happens when you put a woman
in charge of Lebanon? So in this video


Yasmine Haman is being put in charge


and takes over the airwaves


[Music]


















[Music]






Don't you love how she like put real footage
of the Lebanese Parliament


discussing forever and then she takes
over with her Lebanese flag and the words


"I am the citizen deposed." It's quite powerful
okay so that was Yasmine Hamdan


We'll move to Tania Saleh, another person I got to meet in Lebanon
I love her music but she had one song that I think is


worth your time. It is called 'Omar and Ali'
Omar and Ali. What's the significance of the


name Omar and what's the significance of the
name Ali? Does anyone know? So in Islam Omar


is a typical name for a Sunni Muslim and Ali
is a typical name for a Shia or Shiite Muslim


in Lebanon, the fight the Civil War wasn't
just Christians and Muslims or you know Syrians


or Palestinians it was it was within the factions you


had Shiites against Sunnis and
that is really heartbreaking


and like I'm a Lebanese Christian it breaks
my heart when I see maronites in Lebanon fighting


with the Orthodox Christians instead of saying
it's the same Bible. Same thing for Muslims


in terms of Shiite and Sunni they both read the
same Quran they have Ramadan you know but


then there's like this little difference and
suddenly they're fighting each other?


So Tania Saleh says 'Yo Omar get up and kiss Ali, hey Ali get
up kiss Omar.' Kiss him where?


Kiss him between the eyes.
This is considered the most precious spot


so pretty gutsy of her to talk about Shia Sunni relations.

All right that is Tania Saleh from Lebanon. The song is Omar and Ali.
I'm going to move to the next singer


Now we are in Jordan. Anyone been to
Jordan? Oh so you must know Hana Malhas.


Hana Malhas is as close to
the queen of underground


music in Jordan today I'm bringing you


not the very commercial singers who have
million dollar contracts. You can find Nancy Ajram and


Amr Diab amazing, fun, but not very, not
very politically conscious. Hana Malhas is.


Hana Malhas from Jordan takes very old songs like songs
from the 50s and she's known for changing


the landscape. She sings original
material, she sings old material.


I'm going to show you a duet of her singing in English
with a Syrian singer.


The Syrian singer is called Lena Chamamyan.


You can tell from her last name she's Armenian
but then a lot of Armenians live in Aleppo.


Lena Chamamyan came from Aleppo to Jordan, met Hana Malhas,
they recorded their version of John Lennon's 'Imagine' together


for Syria and for the Arab world and it's kind of in English.
Theo, you're going to love the English part


but when Lena Chamamyan chimes in,
she brings an Arabic 'Imagine' version with an amazing voice


Let me just show you what happens when two great women get together.


[English lyrics with music]






What did you think of that mix?
I could see it on your face you know so yeah


some things, when mixed together, work quite well
especially John Lennon's Imagine because of


'Imagine all the people' so I love that there's so many
versions of it. Do check out Hana Malhas's work.


I want to go to Tunisia, the voice of the Arab
Spring. Were you around then? Were you babies? No.


It was 2011. The Arab world got shook by this
Arab Spring, they all thought oh wow good things


are going to come, people have woken up and
they did wake up, they did wake up for a while


In Tunisia, you know, it was a very important time
and they did manage to change the Constitution


and they did a lot of things. But what about the music?
You know every revolution has a soundtrack.


If you were going to ask anybody
'What's the soundtrack to the Arab Spring?'


It started with Emel Mathlouthi, this amazing woman
who would sing in the streets of...not Egypt sorry...Tunisia


with her guitar and she would sing
about Freedom so she had a song called


'My word Is Free and Unencumbered'
The government at the time would, you know, they would


arrest her, she was even tortured I think, but
she would come out of jail and go back to


the street and sing for freedom and that is Emel Mathlouthi.
So you can imagine when I met her


I think she thought I was just an idiot I
don't know uh because I mean she was the voice


of an entire generation and for her to come
to Stanford and sing was amazing. Let me show


you how she was like at 19 when in the middle
of the Revolution she would sing this song


called 'My Word Is Free' and you're going to
see the crowds and if you look closely at


the video, the police approaches at one point
with batons and she gets scared like


Should I sit down? Should I run away? And the people
in the street go 'Emel keep going we're with you'


and that's sort of a moment captured um
and it's her own song.

[Go on, Emel!]


So it's a very raw moment. Did you
hear the song? and like her voice? Okay


Like every Revolution, I hope, when one day people
wake up and they start, you know,


whoever you demonized, whoever you imprisoned becomes your hero, you know


I mean Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, at the time and now.
This is our version.


So eventually she was invited to the Nobel ceremony, little Emel out from the street, to sing the same song


Only juxtapose the setting now: a 36 band Orchestra, streaming from Sweden live, no expense spared,


wearing designer clothes by a Tunisian designer.


Same song, same woman, but a few years later.










Same song, same words, but completely different
setting. Emel Mathlouthi, I can't play just one song.


She has albums, she has concerts all over the world.
she was just in Türkiye, they love her there.


OK, so you remember the Arab Spring then spilled into Egypt
and in Egypt we had the answer to Emel Mathlouthi.


What was her name? Yes, Hala.
[Hala] Dina.


Simply Dina. Hala knows her so well, she just says Dina.


Which Dina? Dina El Wedidi. You're going to love Dina El Wedidi
she is just such a defiant singer in Egypt


She came to fame with the Midan, the Square,
the Tahrir Square protests, she sang with them


but then eventually she started getting into
alternative mixing with Boasa Nova from Brazil


and things like that um let me see
what I can...well maybe I'll show you that.


Let me show you her collaboration with a Brazilian
singer; does anybody know this guy? Tell me.


Tell me something about him because I'm the Arabic part.
What is his name? [Gilberto Gil]


Do you speak Portuguese? [I used to]
Wow thank you for coming today


because he's iconic, right? I mean he's iconic and for him to take little little Dina El Wedidi from Egypt


and say 'Come under my wing, I'm going to mentor you'
and then release a duet with her that becomes like Arabic Bossa Nova


What? Arabic Bossa Nova? And she was so grateful
to him for that, but then he ended up saying


'I learned from her more than I ended up teaching her'
and she's very very modest


So here is a part of the concert they did


[Gilberto Gill] Welcome to the stage a new colleague, Dina!


[Dina] To share the stage with Gil, it was the biggest
thing that happened in my life


[Dina] To sing with him an Arab song with Bossa Nova style
was really deep moment


My heart was tic tic tic.


[Gil] Egyptian music is very different from the Brazilian
it's so full of small details and specific dynamics


where I can get ideas from. I learn also from that, you know.


Dina El Wedidi, who I did meet too.
Did you see my face in that picture over here?


I'm just like such a, you know, fan.
Okay, moving on to Sudan


and who is the most powerful woman's voice coming out of Sudan today?
Her name is Alsarah, it's like a made-up name


but if you like Nubian music...She still sings an Arabic
but there's like a lot of African rhythms


Do you want to see a little part to see the African-Arab connection?


Here she is singing this song called 'Farasha' which means Butterfly.


[Music]


Oh butterfly in the morning dew
Come dance and frolic with me


Leave your worries in a distant valley
Amidst roses and the breeze


Come closer so I can taste your honey
Come on, dance with me


Your are the dream, the vision,
The happiness that fills my eyes


So Alsarah and the Nubatones.
If you liked this, you will love all her songs


If you didn't like this, you're not gonna like any of her albums.
I love it.


I love the way North Sudan and South Sudan who are
in a war situation get united in Alsarah's music.


Moving on to Algeria, do you want to mellow
out for a minute? I think you're going to enjoy this.


Yes. Souad Massi.


Oh my gosh I just saw one of my favorite people walk in!
Ehab!


You know that I'm about to play Souad Massi and you were
the one who would tell me about Souad Massi, right?


I mean this was not rehearsed, right Ehab?
It wasn't rehearsed!


Well basically Souad Massi is from Algeria and she just needs a guitar,
she does not need a fancy band


and she just broke onto the scene
and now they love her in France, so she moved there


but Algeria is still in her heart.
She mostly sings in Arabic.


The song is called 'Rawi' which means 'Narrator'
and the morale of the story is this:


"In your heart, there is a story that needs to be told"
and that's what the song's about.


Look at your heart and tell your story.
It's called 'Rawi'


Very mellow, guitar, hope you will let her take you away.
Don't resist her.


[Music]


So if you liked her, she's great if you want to
mellow out after a bad day. She's amazing.


Souad Massi, don't forget the name.


I'll check with you in 6 months you'll be a transformed person
and say thanks to Souad Massi.


Okay, I'm going to go to Morocco just because
they need to be represented today


even though I'm not going to play the videos, they are amazing.


Two women, sir, please try to remember
at least one of them.


One of them is called 'Oum' like "Oum Kulthum" but just 'Oum'
and she does the Saharan kind of Moroccan singing


but then you've got a new one named Manal
and she's kind of poppy but she's interesting


because she uses Moroccan imagery.


I want to reach this point in my presentation
and that's what I promised you in the beginning


that I'm going to end with the voice of Palestinian women.


Almost every woman we heard today
was singing about a struggle:


Political, social, and also in terms of gender.


Palestinian women have been surprisingly vocal for many years
talking not just about politics but speaking out against patriarchy


They are powerful and maybe because so many of
them live under occupation


the stories they tell through their songs gain a new perspective.


In the video, it's a short clip I'm going to play, it's a great video
because it combines so many women


Palestinian women who, if I had the time,
each of these women would deserve her own presentation


definitely her own slide.


But for time's sake, for them to come together,
let me read their names


because they are all still singing for a better tomorrow.


They are Maisa Daw, Lina Makoul, Nancy Hawa,
Noel Kharman, Yusor Hamed


The song is called Asli Barri, 'I Am of the Earth'
and all these women got together in the desert


and sang about women's agency
but also politically and in terms of socially


So all of them together.
Please watch the video to see the interaction.


I'm just going to play a short clip right now.


Please watch the whole video if you have time,
just the interaction of these women


and just the fact that they were singing
against a certain system gains a new dimension.


I'm going to move to two more. We're going
to end with Elyanna if you know who she is.


But before I go to Elyanna, my last song,
which is going to be a gift from me


and from everybody that worked with me on this presentation,
to you guys, to thank you for coming


It's going to be called 'Olive Branch.'
I'm going to end with 'Olive Branch'


Before I do, let's have some feminist anger in the room.


How many women especially in the Arab world,
especially in Palestine,


have been objectified to a degree
where the body becomes measurements,


becomes not your own, the way the female body
is narrated and told, and never by the women.


This Palestinian young woman, I think she's only 24 or something,
just released this song that unleashes centuries of anger.


She's reclaiming her body but she's reclaiming her body
not only as a woman but as a Palestinian Woman


and how patriarchy and certain traditions have tried
to put her down. It's very powerful but it's raw.


Clip: Maysa Daw & DAM - JASADIK-HOM (Your Body of Theirs)






Can you feel it? And this is her writing
and her song. She's also part of a Palestinian


group called DAM, they used to be three guys
and became known as DAM.


One of the guys left and instead of replacing him
with another guy they brought in Maysa Daw


And the group now changed suddenly, it's like reborn
and Maysa of course became at the forefront


That's the group over there, DAM.
Okay so I'm going to end today with Elyanna


Has anyone heard of Elyanna?
[Audience] Yes I watched her Coachella concert


[Ramzi] What's the big deal about Coachella and Elyanna?
Like why is that a big deal?


[Audience] It's just groundbreaking to have a female singer in Arabic.
[Ramzi] Not just female, but the first time someone sings in Arabic at Coachella


You know, from Umm Kulthum to Coachella with Elyanna.
She sang live at Coachella and people loved her


She is Palestinian and very proud of it
and she became known before um October 7


So basically now she's sending messages
of peace to Gaza but this is before this.


You want to hear a little more about her?
She is half Chilean, half Palestinian


She was born in Nazareth and of course Arabic is her native language.


[TV Report] Elyanna's story starts in Nazareth
where she was born


[Elyanna] First of all I grew up in Palestine, Nazareth
I'm also part Chilean so I grew up in in these two worlds


and of course they influenced me and of course they had
a huge impact on me as a person and as an artist.


[TV Report] Palestinian and Chilean, but singing in
Arabic or Spanish was not part of the original plan.


[Ramzi] So you can watch the whole report on Dateline.
I love her, I still haven't met her


but stay tuned I'm dying to meet her.
And basically, like you saw in the report,


it was before the 7th of October and
what I want to talk about is what she did after.


So let me go here to the last slide today


and leave you with a song called Olive Branch


it's an Arabic but there are subtitles and
she's sending peace and she's always reminding us


how Jewish, Muslim, and Christian folks are
all brothers and sisters, always lived in peace


I know what's going on now, it's not about that.
It's about something else.


And she's sending a message of peace,
an Olive Branch to Gaza.


So I'm going to end with Elyanna, sending a message.
There's a hard sentence you might find it painful


Hopefully it will change but she says
"In the land of peace, peace has died"


and that's how she ends it.
[Music]


Words aren't enough, what else can I say?


My tears have dried up, and my heart is broken


I'm far away, but I'm praying for you


And I'm sending peace, on an olive branch


I'm far away, but I'm praying for you


And I'm sending peace, on an olive branch


In the land of peace, peace has died


And the world is sleeping on a hurt child.


[Ramzi] Not an easy time for any Palestinian singer to sing
because if you release stuff


people are like what are you singing, you know,
releasing joyous music as if nothing's going on


but then if you do nothing you also feel useless.


I love Elyanna and I'm going to end with her
and turn it over to you


because I have saturated you,
oversaturated you, today.


with name after name after name
and you stayed till the end!


At some point people need a breather
and I gave you no breather


Thank you for staying with me and I welcome any reactions,
any questions about any of the amazing women


that we featured today, even if you just want to give me your fave.


so I'm not going to call on anyone who doesn't raise their hand but...thank you!


[audience] I didn't know what this was going to be like,
I work here, I just wanted to say this was so moving to me


My mother's Egyptian, I grew up with Egyptian music,
I've been there, but I just didn't realize, I had no idea...


Can you share your name with our audience? [Yasmina]
You must have enjoyed it, it's genetic, right?


By the way the artwork was done by a Sudanese refugee


for me and it was just a gift when he heard


I'm doing a talk about Arab women he sent
me this graphic and drew me and drew every


woman that I spoke about today and I said
I want to pay you or whatever


and he just got offended, it's a gift!
So his name is Zad Hussain


his name is down there, follow him on Insta
if you like this kind of art.


So somebody almost got fired because of me
they stayed late
[Audience] that is compliment


Tell them I thought this was more important.
We need to talk, go to work, but I need


to see you later and Professor Solen
you guys are so lucky to have her and Heidi Saleh


who just walked in oh my God. Seeing
Heidi Saleh is like seeing a part of me because


we've been in touch for so long and Heidi is
of course from Egypt and she knew Umm Kulthum before


I even spoke, immediately, and we're related.
You know this is my cousin Naila


who came in from San Diego today she
was saying that the Saleh family and the Salti


family and the Sfeir family we're related


[Heidi] that's why I knew we have a connection
[Ramzi] and we're gonna hang out after this okay


I love that Theo who did the audio visual today
has a comment


[Theo] Umm Kulthum, was she a composer as well,
or primarily a singer?


I know in the United States we have a long history
of great female performers but traditionally the music composed by males.


[Ramzi] That's a great question. Many of the indie Arab women
I played were writing their own material and singing it


but Umm Kulthum definitely not.
Poets and composers in the 50s and 60s in Egypt


would fiercely compete to send poems hoping
she'll take a glance at it because you know


so she had the best poets the best composers
at her disposal and she chose, she knew how


to choose, so she never wrote her own things
but boy did they become hers in the way she delivered.


You heard her moaning when her lover
wouldn't set her free; that's nothing. Tarab!


We recorded it, Heidi. There was a moment these kids
were feeling Umm Kulthum's pain!


this guy went like


"Unchain Me"






Any other comments? Please.
[audience] I just want to say my grandma's from Iraq


she's an Iraqi Jew actually so she grew up
speaking Arabic and Hebrew so I really liked


like I actually really enjoyed the mix, the Ave Maria and
the call to prayer that kind of reminds of my family


[Ramzi] I've done a presentation on Judeo Arabic music


In Arabic and Jewish music you're also gonna find
some amazing collaborations


there is a version of Imagine by John Lennon


by an Israeli singer whose name is Noa with
a Palestinian singer and they sing it half


Hebrew half Arabic and then they joined it in English
What was her name I forgot


the Palestinian singer's name [Mira Awad]
but I think they represented peace at the Eurovision song contest


but that was many many years ago.
I think right now these voices are being silenced.


Thank you, habibti.
And you loved Elyanna already, I didn't


have to convert you but but the young man next
to you I saw him like he was getting converted


and then when Elyanna started to sing...


[Ramzi] Did you like any of the music today?
[Audience] I felt touched by it, every single one.


[Ramzi] Thank you so much. So will you look
them up and try to encourage them,


disseminate information about them, these are
not women who have huge recording contracts


but they so deserve it. Those million dollar deals,
the Coca Cola and the Pepsi deals, go to Arab women


and men in the Arab world who sing about nothing.
I mean it's fine, it's nice for a party, right?


Who doesn't want to belly dance?
But at some point, we need music to wake us up


and these women wake us up
much more than men, maybe.


Anyone else want to react?


[Naila] If you have the opportunity to interview Fairuz on your Arabology
podcast, what is one question you would ask her?


[Ramzi] Wow like you're asking me this in front of...
I'm just a human, I'd break down


I don't know I guess I would ask her if she
ever understood the depth of the love


that the Arab world has for her, if this was ever
in her consciousness


but something tells me it's not. She's very simple,
lives in a simple home, does not go out,


her whole life was singing when her husband was alive
24-hours at home, recording.


No wonder they have thousands of songs released
but honestly she's still alive so there's still a chance Naila


Maybe we can have a picture with Fairuz who...
How old is Fairuz? Wait Heidi 1 second the guy knows


the kid knows, how old is Fairuz?


[Audience] How old are the stars?
[Laughter]


A star is born today, my kids are blooming, right?
Heidi, before you walked in, I said she's ageless


so when people say how old is Fairuz you're like
"How old is the universe?"


[Heidi] I was just going to say as an Egyptian girl
Fairuz was such an icon I grew up listening to her


She was the only voice other than the Egyptian voices
I was hearing back home in Egypt


Everybody respected her and loved her music
and she connected me to this magical place called Lebanon


I had never heard of even though I was living in Egypt
and she's just an icon, she's incredible


[Ramzi] Some people say there are 2 camps,
the Umm Kulthum camp and the Fairuz camp


Absolutely, but Umm Kulthum came first and influenced Fairuz.
I think Fairuz always had this admiration for Umm Kulthum


but Fairuz dared to release 3 minute songs
where Umm Kulthum's were minimum 30 minutes


and so Umm Kulthum handed the baton to Fairuz
she did not resist her.


The answer by the way to 'Fairuz or Umm Kulthum' is,
because Fairuz songs are more chill in the morning...


So Fairuz is in the morning and Umm Kulthum is at night.
You get home from hard day's work, put your feet up,


you're going to listen to a 40 minute song.
In the morning, who has time?


The Arab world says Fairuz in the morning, Umm Kulthum at night
فيروزيات الصباح وأم كلثوم في الليل


[Solen] I may have asked you the same exact question


when we listened to you back at Stanford but
I'll do it anyway. Talking about interesting


artists who sang the call to prayer you haven't
sampled any Turkish music I'm not offended


Another artist comes to mind. There is a trans woman...


she sounds like Umm Kulthum, she's in that category
of amazing singers, classically trained in Arabesque,


Turkish classical music, and
she sings the call to prayer on television


[Ramzi] We need to incorporate that in the Tania Kassis section
where you heard her do the Ave Maria. We're not there yet.


[Solen] The Turkish public loves her.
[Ramzi] Shukran, kids! You three are such sweet people


you've been there every time I stutter.
Thank you guys for coming today and stay in touch


with me and if you have any Arabic songs for
the Arabology show I am willing to do like an on air DJ thing


Thank you so much guys.
Anybody else want to say anything before we adjourn?


[Audience] You have a Spotify playlist?
[Ramzi] I have many Spotify playlists and more importantly


my Arabology show is available
on Spotify, Apple podcasts, SoundCloud


There's over 300 episodes, each episode's 2 to 3 hours long
so it's good for long car rides, you can forward a lot of it


but in each show, I've tried to focus on something
so you look at the show tile, it could be like


'Arab Women in Music' but it could also be just
shaabi Egyptian music, 3 hours of that.


The nice thing about it is because people are
very open in America to different music


but with Arabic music in particular, nobody ever translates,
nobody tells them what it's about


so listeners kind of go hmmm
but once you understand...That's what I do,


I speak in English to an American audience, to
a global audience, about these women


and the input I get is wow we never realized!
Even Arab Americans go "My Dad used to listen to Umm Kulthum"


it's no big deal, but now...


Please do listen to Arabology if you like and send requests
and let me know


I put my email it's author30@gmail.com
but look me up on Google you'll find either DJ Ramzi


with my headphone or Dr Ramzi Salti at Stanford
so either one, okay?


So what do you think, Solen?
Shukran habibiti inti, and I love the kufiya, shukran.


And my cousins of course Naila and Hala who came
all the way from San Diego to be here today


and my surprise guest
my brother-in-law Ehab who walked in out of the blue


Did you see him walk in like that?


That was not expected and the timing,
he waited for Souad Massi


whose work he loves, that and Pink Martini.


Shukran everybody, thank you, thank you.




Arabology Podcasts by Ramzi Salti: Scroll ⬇

Arabology Interviews by Ramzi Salti

Ramzi Salti: Talks, Lectures, Events

Arabology YouTube Channel Videos

Some of Ramzi Salti's Arabology guests