Thursday, August 10, 2017

Calypso in Farid El Atrash's film, Mā Ta’ūlsh le Ḥad (1952)

I've been reading Margaret Farrell's excellent dissertation ("Aspects of Adaptation in the Egyptian Singing Film", CUNY 2012) and learned this: the operetta " Mā Ta’ūlsh le Ḥad" which concludes the film of the same name (1952) runs consecutively through these styles: Modern Egyptian, Tango, Waltz, Calypso, Arabic traditional, Egyptian traditional, Egyptian samba. I was familiar with Egyptian music adapting all these styles but it was "Calypso" that really stuck out. Fuller doesn't discuss this segment, so I checked out the clip on YouTube. It's amazing. The calypso segment (yes, with calypso beat, starting at 5:19) features a Sudanese singer (I don't know who it is), black dancers, and Samia Gamal dancing in (subdued) blackface. Farid El Atrash joins in the calypso song at the end. Check out the entire operetta, it's great. Samia Gamal dances throughout, she's the best, and the woman singing in the operetta is Nur al-Huda.


A side note on calypso, courtesy Billy Bragg's new book, Roots, Radicals, and Rockers. The mass migration of West Indians to the UK was launched with the arrival on June 21, 1948 of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in Essex. On the boat were two of calypso's finest singers, Lord Beginner and Lord Kitchener. Lord Kitchener was filmed on deck singing his new composition, "London Is the Place for Me." Newsreel footage was shown around Britain and calypso was presented as the music of the new immigrant community. One of the earliest calypso recordings to be released in the UK was Lord Beginner's "Victory Test Match Calypso" (1950) in celebration of the West Indian cricket team's first victory over England. 


It is said that the world craze for calypso was launched in 1956, with the success of Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song." So Egypt -- or maybe it was Sudan -- was ahead of the cultural curve.

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