25 October 2006

Al-Mamnou3at - by The Great Sheikh Imam

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The great Sheikh Imam - - was neither a sheikh nor an imam in the traditional sense of the word.

Although he studied Quranic recitation at an early age, he came to be known for his magnificent Classical Arabic musical composition and as a rebellious folk singer; He also rejuvinated, modernized and developed the Classical Arabic musical tradition.

Ironically, you may ask hundreds of thousands of people in the Arab World about him and they would not know him - and that is because in the Middle East, free-minded literary and artistic giants are suppressed and imprisoned instead of heralded as an example of national achievement; and that is exactly Sheikh Imam's story, along with his artistic collaborator, the great colloquial poet Ahmad Fouad Najm.

Sheikh Imam's hundreds of socially/politically critical songs stand at the apex of Arab musical evolution. These songs championed the poor, the disposessed, the peasants and the powerless, pointed the finger at the corrupt and power-hungry, and celebrated everything from the Sun's life-giving rays to birds that bring in the new morning. Imam the musician and Najm the poet are both giants, each in his own right; but instead of being recognized for their creative genius and effort, they spent years in and out of prison.

They were frowned upon by consecutive Egyptian governments to such an extent that their recordings could only take place in people's homes or in small live concerts, never having the chance to properly record their repertoire in a studio setting in the light of day, with a few exeptions, such as on visits to Beirut. From the "technical quality" of the audio recordings, you can tell the humble setting in which they are made.

[[ Photo above: Sheikh Imam in red tie; Tawfiq Zayyad (notable Palestinian poet, author of "Unadeekom") sitting at his left arm, Ahmad Fouad Najm sitting at left arm of Zayyad. ]]

Sheikh Imam would simply sit and sing with Najm and other friends, recording his work on simple portable cassettes, and these would be secretly copied from person to person throughout Egypt and smuggled out to other Arab countries. About the only Arab country where one could freely listen to them was Lebanon. This is STILL the case! But there is something beautiful about the sound of these folky "sha3bi" recordings, anyway, that the governments couldn't supress.

Sheikh Imam is the musical predecessor of such notables as Marcel Khalife, Ahmad Kaabour, and Ziad Rahbani; he is also the direct musical successor of Sayed Darwish (1920's).

Below are Ahmad Fouad Najm's words set to music by Sheikh Imam in the song posted above.
I will post more Sheikh Imam in the future.

ممنوع من السفر ..
ممنوع من الغنا ..
ممنوع من الكلام ..
ممنوع م الاشتياق ..
ممنوع م الاستياء ..
ممنوع م الابتسام ..
وكل يوم ف حبك ..
تزيد الممنوعات ..
وكل يوم باحبك ..
أكتر من اللى فات ..
حبيبتى يا سفينة ..
متشوقة وسجينة ..
مخبر ف كل عقدة ..
عسكر ف كل مينا ..
يمنعني لو أغير ..
عليكي أو أطير ..
إليكي واستجير ..
بحضنك أو أنام ..
ف حجرك الوسيع ..
وقلبك الربيع ..
أعود كما الرضيع ..
بحرقة الفطام ..
حبيبتى يا مدينة ..
متزوقة وحزينة ..
ف كل حارة حسرة ..
وف كل قصر زينة ..
ممنوع من إني أصبح ..
بعشقك أو أبات ..
ممنوع من المناقشة ..
ممنوع من السكات ..
وكل يوم فى حبك ..
تزيد الممنوعات ..
وكل يوم بحبك ..
أكتر من اللي فات ..


سامية said...

Wow! I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it feels to see how connected we Arabs, are! Only one week ago, one of my favorite Egyptian bands were singing that song in a concert!

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing - my horizon slowly expands