Women of Egypt, 1924-1931: Pioneers of Stardom and Fame

By Castelo-Branco, Salwa El-Shawan | Yearbook for Traditional Music, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Women of Egypt, 1924-1931: Pioneers of Stardom and Fame


Castelo-Branco, Salwa El-Shawan, Yearbook for Traditional Music


Women of Egypt, 1924-1931: Pioneers of Stardom and Fame. 2006. World and Traditional Music Section of the British Library Sound Archive. Topic Records TSCD931. Compiled and annotated by Amira Mitchell. 19 pp. of notes in English. 1 colour, 10 b/w photographs, 4 illustrations, 2 maps. 5-item bibliography, 1-item discography. 1 compact disc, 16 tracks (59:45).

This CD provides a glimpse into the artistry of fourteen women singers and a woman pianist within the Arab music tradition in 1920s Cairo. The recordings reflect a variety of musical styles, from the traditional maghna accompanied by a takht, to a mixture of Arab and Western styles performed by a Western orchestra, or on the piano adapted to the aesthetics of Arab music. The booklet provides an excellent introduction contextualizing women entertainers within the feminist movement of early twentieth-century Egypt, and the music they perform in light of the debates on the "old" and the "new" that permeated discourse on Arab music in the 1920s and 1930s. Brief mention is also made of the impact of the recording industry on music style and on the professional life of women artists.

The sound quality of the recordings is generally excellent, with the exception of one track in which the editor notes the surface damage in the original. …

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