Abdel Halim Hafez was a legend in the Classic Arabic music scene. He was also a fantastic actor. He was known for his roles in musical films such as Lahn El Wafa’ (The Music of Loyalty), Ayyamna al-Helwa (Our Beautiful Days), Banat El Yom (The Girls of Today), Share’ El Hob (The Street of Love).
The songs Abdel Halim sang in his movies combine classic Arabic music with Pop music. However when he performed in concerts, it was purely the Classical Arabic music. They always included an incredible group of the world’s best musicians. Abdel Halim Hafez’s concerts were spectacular from what I’ve read about him. His final song, which he performed before his passing was Qari’at Al Fingan (The coffee fortune-teller). The lyrics were from a poem written by the late Nizar Qabbani, a famous Syrian poet. Abdel Halim Hafez died so young, at the age of 47, from Bilharzia, a waterborne illness on March 30, 1977. He was the first Romantic singer in the world of Arabic music; he was a pioneer.
He was the first Arab singer whose music interested me very much. It was after seeing the movie Share’ El Hob (The Street of Love) which co-starred the late singer Sabah. When I heard the songs he sang for this movie, I fell in love with his music immediately. His music interested me before any of the contemporary Arab artists. It’s always exciting for me to watch his films or videos of his concerts, because I get to hear the most incredible music in the history of Middle Eastern music. His films always including songs, which complemented the story of the movie very well.
He knew how to play a variety of instruments, including the following: oboe, drums, piano, oud, clarinet and guitar.
It’s hard to pick favourites, because there are so many incredible songs to choose from. They include Ahwak (Loving you), Ala Ad El Sho’ (As much as the longing), Betlomooni Leih (Why do you blame me), Gana El Hawa (The mood struck us), Sawwah (Wanderer), Tobah (repentance or never again)*
On a side note:
Abdel Halim Hafez’s real name is Abdel Halim Ali Shabana. In 1953, he was heard by Hafez Abdel Wahab, a supervisor of musical programming for and Egyptian national radio. He used ‘Hafez’ for his professional last name, as a way to honour Hafez Abdel Wahab, whose patronage helped Abdel Halim achieve success.
* Translation is based on my understanding of the song.