My best friend is about to travel to Cairo, surely to experience wondrous sights and sounds. I thought I’d send her off with a piece featuring three of the greatest Egyptian virtuoso musicians ever to record during the 78rpm era. Both sides are featured here, as the piece is in two parts.
Syrian violinist Sami al-Shawwa (1887-1960) established a music school in Cairo by 1906, and began his career on record that same decade, both as a soloist, and as an accompanist for many well-known Egyptian singers (Zaki Mourad, Sayed El-Safti, Um Kulthum – you name them, he played with them). His appearance on a recording was clearly considered a stamp of quality very early on, as he was often credited on records side by side with the singer. On this track he is joined by kanun player Ali Rashidi, of which I know very little (though I know he recorded solo kanun performances around the same time). On oud, however, is the legendary Muhammad al-Qasabji, known forever as Um Kulthum’s oud player (and sometime composer for her, as well as for Asmahan). The three masters perform a bachraf, a song type associated with Turkey, here in the hejaz (or hedjaz) maqam, or scale. Listen to how Sami can’t resist having the last word in the piece, fiddling away after the others have stopped, using up the last 10 seconds available to them.
I am not sure about a date on this recording, but I would guess about 1926 or so, as it’s rather early in Columbia’s “X” series. Enjoy….and bon voyage!
Issue Number: 18-X
Matrix Number: E72 (1-A-1)