In the early 1990’s I was introduced to Majida El Roumi. I call her the “Nightingale of the Middle-East” in deference to the “Nightingale of India”. I present to you her most popular and beloved song (which is, unfortunately, in two parts due to YouTube’s limitations on the length of videos):
This is the original sound recording. You will find different recordings of this popular song performed in various concerts worldwide.
In my opinion, this nightingale has done for Arabic music, what Salil Chowdhury did to Hindi Film Music – learned, absorbed, and inculcated Western Classical ideas into their own traditional music.
Preferably, you should listen to “Kalimat” at a very, very loud volume as is possible, sitting at a comfortable distance away from the speakers, such that the nuances of the entire orchestration reach you, without jarring.
Listen to the orchestration. The themes are bold, the orchestration switching between arrogance & gentleness, adamant & empathetic. The rhythm pulses like a heartbeat, that races to a level of excitement and then never looks back. And within that level of excitement, the orchestration manages to find adrenaline as well as empathy. Beautiful as well as artistically, musically, almost impossible. These are emotions sweeping both mind and heart, and the music symbolizes not only your pulsating heartbeat, but also your analytical mind.
Thanks to HyperActiveX’s comment below, I realized, I had not credited the composer Ihsan Al-Mounzer sufficiently. Here he is, rehearsing his own masterpiece (this is an invaluable video in itself – see how he performs the whole composition on just the piano!)
Finally, to the interpretation and meaning. I don’t understand Arabic, neither did I know about what the lyrics of this song actually meant, until more than a dozen years after I began to love it. For me, it evoked a multitude of emotions – a feeling of cataclysm, how man can conquer nature ultimately, and so on. But the actual lyrics mean something totally different and they are wonderful. Here is the original, intended, meaning (courtesy):
He tells me,
When he dances with me,
Words that aren’t like words
He takes me underneath my arm
And plants me in a cloud
And the black rain in my eye
Pours down… pours
He carries me with him… he carries me
To a night on a rose-filled terrace
And I am like a child in his hand
Like a feather carried on the breeze
He carries for me seven moons
In his hand a bunch of songs
He gives me a sun… he gives me
A summer and a flock of swallows
He tells me… that I am his masterpiece
And I am equal to thousands of stars
And that I am a treasure… and that I am
More beautiful than any painting he’d ever seen
He tells me things that make me giddy
That make me forget the dance hall and the steps
Words that upturn my history
That make me a woman in seconds
He’s builds me a castle of illusions
I don’t live in it except for a few moments
And I return, I return to my table
With nothing with me… except words
Isn’t it wonderful? I have a very old recording of Majidah herself performing on stage on a VHS cassette, and it is priceless. Music can say so much, and say so many different things to different people!
Hope you like this.