CAIRO – 21 June 2022: June 21 marks the birth anniversary of iconic Egyptian singer Abdel-Halim Hafez. Hafez, dubbed the Dark-Skinned Nightingale, was one of Egypt’s greatest singers, as well as a producer, and an actor.
Hafez was born on June 21, 1929 in Halawat village. Hafez is actually not his real family name. His real name was Abdel Halim Ali Ismail Shabana, but Hafez Abdel Wahab, a radio executive, discovered him and in turn, Hafez took Abdel Wahab’s first name as his last.
Hafez along with his lifetime friends, the great Egyptian composers Mohammed Al-Mougi and Kamal-Al-Taweel, presented a new and unfamiliar style of music to the audiences. In return, the audience at the beginning neither accepted the young singer nor his style, receiving him with boos and revulsion.
After the July 23, 1952 Revolution, the Egyptian audience’s taste changed and Hafez started to gain more fans gradually. Hafez’s fame was strongly attached to the revolution; he sang plenty of patriotic songs that documented it, and some called him the “Revolution’s Voice” or the “Son of the Revolution”.
His songs after the revolution began to gain unprecedented popularity. The Egyptian cinema did not welcome Hafez at the beginning preferring to borrow only his voice. Yet, in 1955, Hafez debuted as an actor in a movie named “Lahn el-wafaa” (The Tune of Faithfulness) followed by “Ayamna el-Helwa” (Our Sweet Days) in the same year.
The booming cinematic success Hafez achieved resulted from his success as a singer in the first place. Hafez’s participation in “Our Sweet Days” along with veterans Omar el-Sherif and Ahmed Ramzy, established the idea of a younger cinema which prevailed afterwards. He stabilized his cinematic success later in a number of films such as “Ayam w Lialy” (Days and Nights), “Banat el-Youm” (Nowadays’ Girls), “El-Wisada el-Khalia” (The Abandoned Pillow), “ El-Khataya” (The Sins) among others.
The audience favored the new cinematic style presented by Hafez because of its vividness. The Egyptian audience, especially girls, started to view Hafez as a romance icon and their dream man, each of them wanting her sweetheart to visit her in a boat, exactly as he did in the “Ayam w Lialy” movie.
The name of Abdel-Halim on any film was enough to attract audiences to the box-office. His films achieved record sales. His most famous songs, which catapulted him into fame, were “Ahwak” (I Adore You), “Betloomoni Leh” (Why Do You Blame Me), “Maw’ood” (Promised), and “Qari’at Al Fingan” (Fortune Teller). It is worth mentioning that all Hafez’s songs were included in his films, except his patriotic songs and the last romantic ballads he sang in his final years.
Despite the many years that have passed since his death, Hafez was and remains the most important and successful of Egyptian and Arab musicians. He is the only Egyptian singer that has a growing fan base even after his death and most of it is from an audience who was born years after his death. Despite having no direct relation nor any form of contact with the new generation, Hafez managed to build a psychological and human relationship with the new generations through his films and songs.
All Hafez’s films witnessed the blending of his songs seamlessly into the drama. In all his films, his songs are essential parts of the drama line that cannot be removed. All singers who appeared on the silver screen after his death have failed to fill his place or achieve the same success.
If he were still alive he would likely have remained on top of the Arab singing and cinematic scene to this day. Hafez appeared on the Egyptian music scene where two of Egypt’s most famous singers, Umm Kolthoum and Mohamed Abdel Wahab were on their peak. With his melodious voice and shorter songs, he was considered a lighter and more modern voice than them, the matter that built his success path despite the presence of these two giant singers. Despite dying young at only 48, he made more than 15 movies and more than 206 songs.
Amazon carries all his albums as well as 288 MP3s by Abdel Halim Hafez.
Hafez was not just a talented singer and actor with a warm and captivating voice, he was the most intelligent among his colleagues, that’s why he maintained a hold onto success.
According to John Storm Roberts, a writer for the All Music Guide, Hafez started to sing colloquial poetry songs in the 1960s. He also founded Sout al-Phan, a recording and film production company, now EMI Arabia. His last movie was “Abi Foq al-Shagara” (My Father is on a Tree) in 1969. “Abi Foq al-Shagara” claimed at that time the longest run time in Egyptian cinema, it showed for 33 weeks. “Abi Foq al-Shagara” garnered its production company (Sawt Al-Fenn) profits that exceeded any other Egyptian film.
Hafez was unwell for much of his life, after he was diagnosed with the parasitic worm, Schistosomiasis at the age of 11. He died in 1977; his funeral is said to have been attended by over 100,000 mourners.
Since his death, millions of his lovers visited his home and his grave, writing on its walls words of love and admiration and complaints about the problems they face as if he were alive to listen to them and provide them with his advice.