With the year kicking off, Rolling Stone released its “200 Greatest Singers of All Time” list. The publication has honoured the best vocalists in the music field annually since 2008. Rolling Stone’s staff and key contributors explained that they search for authentic and influential artists who carry depth in their catalogue and breadth in their musical legacy to make it to the list.
After intensive studying of the past 100 years of popular music, the late Egyptian icon Umm Kulthum ranked at number 61. She precedes prominent names in Western music, from timeless legends like Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand, Bob Marley, and Elton John to modern musical icons like Rihanna and Billie Eilish.
Being the only Arab voice on the list, Umm Kulthum was referred to as “the soul of the pan-Arab world”. Rolling Stone went on to acknowledge her powerful voice for being extraordinarily unique and having no equivalent to it among singers in the West. In addition, her contralto, the lowest female singing voice, was praised for expressing a wide range of emotions in complex songs.
Umm Kulthum’s Long-Lasting Legacy as Kawkab Al-Sharq
Born and raised in a rural village in Dakahlia Governorate under the name of Fatima, Umm Kulthum’s father was Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Sayed Al-Beltagy, who called people for prayer by day and sang at wedding ceremonies by night. She followed in her father’s steps as a singer at the age of 12 after being given singing lessons by him.
With a career spanning more than five decades and the ability to sing in a register as low as the second octave, her voice has mesmerised people worldwide. She is labelled as Kawkab Al-Sharq, or The Voice of The East, and has released a discography of over 300 songs, with songs lasting for hours and concerts spanning up to five hours. She wouldn’t use a microphone because of how powerful her vocals were.
In 1975, after suffering kidney failure, her death was mourned by millions. But her legacy continues posthumously; numerous global artists praised her, such as Bob Dylan, Bono, and Maria Callas. Additionally, one of her best-known songs, “Enta Omri”, has been covered by many locals and most memorably sampled by Beyonce in her 2016 tour.
The Backlash to Rolling Stone’s List
via Rolling Stone
With all the cheers that Rolling Stone received from Arabs for their acknowledgement, they received some backlash for snubbing powerhouses such as Pink, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Hudson, Tony Bennett, Madonna, and, most notably, Celine Dion. This comes following Celine’s latest announcement regarding her ongoing struggle with severe and persistent muscle cramps, preventing her from performing in concerts.