Umm Kulthum Is The Only Arab Artist In Rolling Stone’s List Of ‘The 200 Greatest Singers Of All Time’

The star of the East

Last week, Rolling Stone unveiled its divisive Top 200 Greatest Singers of All Time list, and included Egyptian singing icon Umm Kulthum in the roundup. The list was compiled by the publication’s staff and key contributors, and encompasses 100 years of pop music. Ranked at 61, just before soul singer George Michael and after Kate Bush, the late singer is the only Arab artist to appear in the roundup.

Of the famed singer, the publishers at Rolling Stone wrote: “Umm Kulthum has no real equivalant among singers in the West: For decades, the Egyptian singer represented, and to an extent still does, the soul of the pan-Arab world. Her potent contralto, which could blur gender in its lower register, conveyed songs that, across theme and wildly-ornamented variations, could easily last an hour, as she worked crowds like a fiery preacher.”

Active in the entertainment industry from the 1920s to the 1970s, she is widely regarded as one of the greatest Arab singers of all time and is known as the “Star of the East.” Umm Kulthum was popular throughout the Arab world and she had a huge following in Egypt and other Arab countries. Her distinct sound has been described as a fusion of classical Arabic and Western music, and she is known for her powerful and emotive voice, as well as her innovative use of poetry in her songs. Her concerts were major events that were often attended by heads of state and other dignitaries, and she was one of the few Arab artists to achieve widespread fame and success beyond the Arab world, finding fans in the likes of Bob Dylan, Rihanna, Bono, Swizz Beatz, and Beyonce, who even sampled Enta Omri, which is one of Umm Kulthum’s best-known songs, in her 2016 tour choreography.

In 2020, L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris dedicated an entire exhibition to the singer, along with five other prolific Arab divas.

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