- Fellowship Dates 2018-2018
- Research Topic Modern Melodies: Abdel Halim Hafez and Egyptian National Culture
- Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Georgetown University
Abdel Halim Hafez is considered one of the greatest singers in modern Egyptian history, even today, four decades after his death. Despite his immense cultural impact in Egypt, scholarship focuses overwhelmingly on Halim’s film career at the expense of his musical legacy. This research addresses this critical gap, examining how the singer Abdel Halim Hafez influenced Egyptian national identity in the mid-20th century. The study argues that Halim’s music contributed to new notions of what it meant to be authentically Egyptian. Halim ascended to stardom during a period of enormous social transformation in Egypt. Under Nasser’s presidency, nationalism ran high and state support for the arts increased dramatically. Of the few Arab singers rivaling Halim in popularity, none forged careers so closely connected to the revolution as he did. Halim presented an ambiguity to the Egyptian public by blurring boundaries between tradition and innovation, classical and pop music, high and low culture. This interdisciplinary study is the first to thoroughly investigate the impact his music had on Egyptian society. It examines Halim’s impact on Egyptian cultural history, musical contributions and the process of transforming Arabic poetry into performable songs. It expands the current understanding of the Arabic poem as a dynamic literary text by illustrating how the singer, poet and composer navigate the process of collaboration. Textual analysis and interpretation of notes, letters and journals reveal how Halim and his colleagues viewed their music making process and contribute to larger discourses about music and what those discourses reveal about Egyptian culture.