Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Annahar reviews Oum Kalthoum: It's the economy, stupid!

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The saying goes, "you can't compare apples to oranges" but apparently you can compare apples to great art, as is the case of this article in Annahar dating back to 17-7-1966 which reviews the concert of the late Egyptian diva Oum Kalthoum which took place two days prior.
The headline states "The Baalbaki Oum Kalthoum recoups in two nights whatever Egypt imported of Lebanese apples this season" - remember, this is one of the most incomparable voices in the world, one which at full capacity would reach 14,000 vibrations per second, this is one of most respected artists to have come from the region, but to Annahar at the time - it all goes back to "it's the economy, stupid!"
A friend of mine had a positive outlook on things putting a shiny spin on the matter saying that the two concerts were such a roaring full-house success so much they netted as much money as whatever Egypt imported of the Lebanese apples in 1966, which he assumed to be a sizeable figure.
But the tone of the title of the article leaves little to the condescending attitude - if an entertainer can get back financially whatever its country paid to Lebanon for its apples, then the operation was by no means of any significant volume, and worst, the article implies that the presence of such an outstanding singer actually hurt the economy by robbing it back of the few pennies which tricked to the land from the sale of the apples.
Maybe what really made me write about this find is that, in the collective imagination, the words Oum Kalthoum inspire awe, magic, power, and prestige and perhaps if I am to ask any journalist working at Annahar, past or present, they probably would repeat those words of variants thereof. But that is the romanticized version of our past, this is what we think the "good old days" were about - but when Oum Kalthoum actually performed in Baalbeck for the first time (she was to return in 1968 and 1970) the newspaper which was (past tense) the beacon of culture in Lebanon chose to compare her "incredible" (as Maria Kallas who knows a thing or two about oustanding voices said about the Egyptian diva's voice after listening to her for a few seconds) voice to apples. How's that for an orange... or a lemon?

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